AUBURN, Ala. — Following Auburn’s 29-16 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday, it seemed like head coach Gus Malzahn was preparing to make yet another strategic switch at quarterback.
Ultimately, however, Malzahn announced there would be no change. Sophomore Sean White would remain Auburn’s starting quarterback.
“As far as our team is concerned, Sean White is going to be our starter,” Malzahn said on Tuesday afternoon. “John Franklin will be available, if needed, but we’re going to go with Sean and we’re confident with that.”
Malzahn wasn’t as sure during his team’s SEC opener. He pulled White in the thid quarter and replaced him with Franklin, giving his team the “shot in the arm” Malzahn thought they needed.
After the loss Malzahn said he would evaluate game film, assess the situation and discuss options with his coaching staff. Then he would make a final decision about who his starter would be against No. 18 LSU.
White — who amassed 510 passing yards and threw three touchdowns (one interception) through the Tiger’s first three games — was Malzahn’s final answer for the week. The adjustments, it turned out, needed to be made on the coaching side.
“We feel like he gives us the best chance of winning,” Malzahn said. “We’ve got to be better around him. We’ve got to put him in better situations from a coaching standpoint to help him. That’s the reason.”
Malzahn said he recognized his offense needed a jolt as the game unfolded and the offense idled on Saturday.
Franklin came in and provided some needed yards on the ground, but missed a few opportunities as well. On one play he ran out of bounds just about five yards short of a first down marker.
“You know, he’ll learn from it. He won’t do it again,” Malzahn said. “That’s probably the best way to answer that. He’s (Franklin) learning the offense. Every time that he goes out there, we learn more about him. He is explosive, like everybody can see. He just needs to feel more comfortable. But, no, we won’t be running out of bounds anymore on fourth down.”
White — who was unexpectedly announced the starter after four games last year and then erratically rotated in Auburn’s home opener against No. 2 Clemson — again handled the change with poise.
“I think he handled it really well,” wide reciver Darius Slayton said. “He didn’t get down. He didn’t go mope or anything. He was right there on the sideline cheering John on, and I feel like he’ll handle it well from this point forward.”
With a better idea of what adjustments need to be made Malzahn’s confidence in White has been somewhat restored. The 6-foot White will have the chance to get into a flow against Louisiana State.
“It’s very important. We’ve got confidence in him to do that,” Malzahn said. “We had a couple of negative plays trying to throw the ball on first down because of the mesh charge, trying to get him in a rhythm. But there’s no doubt that when he gets in a rhythm, he’s a solid quarterback.”
Each game unfolds differently and there’s no guarantee Malzahn won’t feel the need to put his team’s fate in Franklin’s hands this weekend. but for right now, Sean White is again his best option.