AUBURN, Alabama — Gus Malzahn’s hesitance to allow his quarterbacks to be trained by gurus has been well chronicled.
In fact, the Auburn coach is the only leader in the SEC to bar his quarterbacks from outside training in the offseason. So, why was newcomer John Franklin III, a legitimate threat in Auburn’s quarterback race, allowed to train with NFL star Michael Vick and trainer Oliver Bozeman in Plantation, Florida for a three days last week?
Simply put, Auburn coaches approved because of the short period of time he would spend with the trainer while spending the bulk of his time learning more from an accomplished NFL quarterback, according to sources close to the program. Franklin sought permission from coaches to train with his “hero” for two days in Florida last week before returning to Auburn, and coaches didn’t want to stand in the way of the opportunity, a source said.
Franklin’s gumption to seek advice may have technically fallen outside Malzahn’s rules forbidding outside guidance, but seeking guidance from an NFL player has excited Auburn’s coaches.
“I’m extremely excited to see him, and the biggest thing that stands out to me is that’s a guy that’s working,” said receivers coach Kodi Burns, who played quarterback and receiver for Auburn on the way to a national title in 2010. “He’s constantly working on his craft. It’s not just spring practice. It’s not during the window of spring practice. It’s even on off days. It’s outside of the window of spring practice and he’s a guy that’s hungry. You really really get excited about seeing and hearing things like that.”
Malzahn re-emphasized to reporters Monday his stance on “gurus” coaching his quarterbacks and felt guidance from Vick fell outside that circle.
“He wants to make his weaknesses his strengths,” Bozeman told SEC Country. “That’s what I like about him, as well as Mike. He wants to work on what makes him a better quarterback from a technique standpoint.”
Franklin III is battling veterans Jeremy Johnson and Sean White, who once sought training from a quarterback guru before Malzahn halted the on-the-field training, this summer. White appeared to be the leader exiting spring practices, with Johnson and Franklin III within striking distance.
“He is a talented young man, he’s very fast and he wants to be good,” Malzahn said last week. “I think that’s important. He’s still learning the offense but the fact that he’s very coachable, wants to be good, he’s right in the middle of the thing right now.”
Franklin III enrolled at Auburn in January after a short stint as a scout-team quarterback at Florida State and a role in a two-quarterback system at East Mississippi Community College. His athleticism led to Auburn defensive tackle Montravius Adams calling the junior the fastest quarterback he has ever seen, including former Auburn star Nick Marshall, who ran for 1,866 yards in his two-year career ending in 2014.
“We played him at wide receiver, we played him at running back, we played him at safety,” EMCC coach Buddy Stephens said in November. “We played a little bit of everywhere and when you watch him run, you go, ‘Wow!’ He’s really the second guy I’ve seen in this league in my 14 years that you just go, ‘Wow!’”
Franklin’s persistence to train outside of Auburn and on his own time could be the spark that leads him to the starting job and much more.
Whenever you see anybody from the quarterback position — as a player, that’s your leader,” Burns said. “That’s who you follow. So when you see the type of work ethic that he’s putting in, you only want to follow the exact same thing that he’s doing.”