AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn is sorting out a quarterback situation that appeared oddly chaotic in Auburn’s opening game.
The Tigers played all three QBs, at times on the same series, in a 19-13 loss to No. 2 Clemson. The frequent switch-ups led to an offense that appeared disjointed at times and struggled to get into the end zone. Now, it’s on to Plan B.
Sean White will remain the starter, John Franklin III is now No. 2 and Jeremy Johnson will be the third-teamer after seeing considerable action.
“Offensively, our plan going in was to be aggressive,” Malzahn said Tuesday. “Our plan was to play all three quarterbacks. We thought it would be successful. Obviously it wasn’t.”
Auburn (0-1), which hosts Arkansas State on Saturday, produced just 38 yards and three points in the first half.
That led Malzahn to scrap that plan going forward. The offense struggled to get into a rhythm or build up a consistently fast tempo with the revolving door of quarterbacks. White led the final drive across midfield.
White was 10-of-21 passing for 140 yards and the only two offensive plays of 20-plus yards. Johnson attempted only six passes, completing four for 38 yards. Both threw an interception, while Franklin’s only attempt went for negative yardage.
Franklin is the biggest running threat of the three but didn’t have a carry while handing off on a few of the zone read plays that have been staples of Malzahn’s offenses with mobile quarterbacks.
“He’s very coachable, he’s got a good attitude and he moved the football when he was out there,” Malzahn said.
The offense had new pieces all over the place.
They included a new center in Xavier Dampeer with Austin Golson moving from center to left tackle and Robert Leff taking over at right tackle. Plus, Kerryon Johnson made his first turn as the featured tailback and freshman receivers Nate Craig-Myers and Kyle Davis played for the first time.
“When you can’t get that pace going, you can’t get a rhythm going, you can’t get first downs, you can’t gain yards,” Johnson said. “As an offense, you just look around, you’re so stagnant. You’ve just got to keep hoping the defense gives you chances. They did. But, I mean, we couldn’t put together drives in the first half.”
NOTE: Defensive back Stephen Roberts is back for the Arkansas State game after serving a one-game suspension. Roberts was contending for a starting job at free safety before his arrest on misdemeanor charges of attempting to elude a police officer and possession of a firearm without a license. “We’re going to bring him along,” Malzahn said. “I’m not ready to say where and how many reps and all that, but we reinstated him.”
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