It’s no secret that the Auburn Tigers (4-4) have had some issues under center this season as they have tried to find a replacement for former two-year starter Nick Marshall. Junior Jeremy Johnson was slated as the starter when the season started, but his struggles forced the team to turn to redshirt freshman Sean White who has done little better. Head coach Gus Malzahn has already started planning for the 2016 season, it seems, after recruiting and securing the commitment of former Florida State Seminoles quarterback John Franklin III and seemingly locking up the quarterback position for the next few seasons.
Franklin signed with FSU out of high school as the No. 27 rated dual-threat quarterback in the 2013 recruiting class. His athleticism actually helped the Noles prepare for their matchup with Auburn in the 2014 BCS National Championship when he led the scout team emulating Marshall (to a somewhat convincing degree if the results of the game were any indication). But Franklin decided to leave Tallahassee shortly after Everett Golson announced that he would be transferring there for the 2015 season, leading the former Seminole to spend this season at East Mississippi Community College, where he completed 64-of-110 pass attempts for 733 yards and seven touchdowns with two interceptions while rushing for 451 yards on 43 attempts with nine more touchdowns on the ground.
His ability to make plays with his arm and his legs provides an element that has been missing in the Auburn offense this season; a quarterback that can run. Malzahn and company were confident that the team would be able to transition to the more stationary Johnson and utilize his arm strength to stretch the field in the passing game but that plan was derailed by Johnson’s propensity for picks. After six interceptions thrown in the first three games (while averaging just 157.7 yards per game through the air), Auburn made a change to White. But the freshman has not been much better, completing just 59 percent of his throws while averaging 212.6 yards per game with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Meanwhile, the formerly-prolific Auburn offense has been spinning its wheels, ranking No. 11 in the SEC in total offense this season (371.1 yards per game) and No. 10 in scoring offense. Malzahn’s offense needs to have a dual-threat quarterback at the helm to be at its best and John Franklin III can be the man to get the Tigers back on track in 2016.