John Franklin III is not the only quarterback going above and beyond expectations this summer to win the starting job at Auburn.
Franklin III grabbed headlines when he was spotted training in Florida with NFL star Michael Vick last week, and though Sean White and Jeremy Johnson have not trained with NFL stars this summer, they are doing other things to garner praise from their coaches.
“Leadership is a huge part of playing quarterback and I think some of that was taken out of context a little bit in the fact that why, yes, John has worked extremely hard and has done a great job trying to do everything he can to win over his team and win the job, but I don’t think he’s done any more than Sean or Jeremy have done,” Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Thursday before an appearance at a booster club event in Nashville. “Sometimes the way things are perceived when something like the Michael Vick thing comes out is that it can be taken that way.”
Auburn teammates can back that stance up. Incoming receiver Nate Craig-Myers told SEC Country in April the only quarterbacks he had talked to about workouts and plans were Johnson and White. He said at the time Johnson was the most hands-on quarterback of the bunch.
“Sean White, he goes out and rallies up the guys to throw as much as anybody and has really earned the respect of his teammates,” Lashlee said.
Auburn is coming off a dismal season for its quarterbacks in which Johnson lost his starting job three weeks into the season. White, a redshirt freshman, stepped in but threw only one touchdown pass as the duo alternated as starters due to injuries in the latter half of the season. They combined to throw 11 touchdowns with 11 interceptions in Auburn’s 7-6 season.
“Jeremy Johnson has worked probably harder this spring and offseason than he has the whole time he’s been here and he’s been a good worker the whole time he’s been here,” Lashlee said. “If there’s one thing I’ve been real proud of all three of those guys is their ability to work, to try lead and that’s something we said we were going to focus on going into spring with those guys. They are all continually trying to press the issue with their leadership and make those around them better. Yeah, I’m happy with John, but I’m really happy with all of them because I think they’re all doing a nice job.”
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has a loose time table for when he will name a starting quarterback: the first two weeks of preseason camp in August. It’s a similar timeline he used when Nick Marshall won the job in 2013.
“Summer is going to be big for all three of them and I think they’re all there working extremely hard,” Lashlee said. “It’s going to be big for them to try to build on the positive team chemistry we have. At the end of the day, like I’ve said before, the guy who can protect the football and make those other 10 guys around the field better and lead his team and the guy that makes plays for us, that’s who we’re going to put out there Sept. 3.”
Auburn opens the season Sept. 3 against national runner-up Clemson at Jordan-Hare Stadium.