Gus Malzahn has found a quarterback, he hopes. The Auburn head coach Thursday evening announced that redshirt sophomore Sean White would be get the start in the Tigers opener against 2015 national runner-up Clemson.
Sean White will be Auburn's starting quarterback on Sept. 3 vs. Clemson.— Josh Vitale (@AUBlog) August 25, 2016
Last season, White appeared in seven games, starting in six. White threw for 1,166 yards with four interceptions and only one touchdown. Despite his pedestrian numbers, White was 3-3 as a starter.
Brandon Marcello of Auburn Undercover reported last week that Auburn was close to naming a starter, hinting that signs were pointing to White being named the guy. Whether White is the long term starter or not the Auburn quarterback situation still is not on firm footing.
The nicest way to sum up the quarterback situation at Auburn in 2015 was foggy, but in reality 2015 was a complete dumpster fire for Malzahn and his vaunted offense without a reliable signal-caller. Last offseason, former Mr. Football in the state of Alabama, Jeremy Johnson was lauded as being a Heisman trophy candidate and the key to leading Auburn to it’s first national championship since 2010. Johnson struggled mightily in the first three games throwing six interceptions and almost leading Auburn to an embarrassing defeat to FCS Jacksonville State. Johnson, coincidentally, lost all confidence and was replaced by Sean White. White wasn’t much better numbers wise, but added some stability as far as not being turnover prone like Johnson.
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The talk this offseason was all about John Franklin III, the former Florida State quarterback turned documentary star in Netflix’s Last Chance U. The former would excite anyone on the Plains believing that they were getting a quarterback capable of making big plays and bringing the Tigers back to the top of the SEC West. Unfortunately, the latter would not generate that type of confidence in Franklin.
Documentaries, like any film, only tell part of the story. In Last Chance U, they told a story of a Franklin who had mountains of potential but struggled to take over the starting job from counterpart Wyatt Roberts. Roberts started the majority of the season with cameos of Franklin sprinkled from game to game. In those appearances, Franklin was undoubtedly brilliant and showed off his athleticism. The only issue was that those were just appearances, not full games under-center. By either luck or divine intervention Franklin found himself on the field after a Roberts injury with none other than Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee in attendance. Franklin shined in that game and earned himself another opportunity at a top-notch Power Five program.
It’s been interesting to see the public reaction from before the documentary and after. Before, Franklin was only questioned for his arm strength and size (6’1”, 186), but overall was seen as a better option that the two incumbents. Now, Franklin is questioned for those same things, along with why he wasn’t able to beat out a quarterback who just recently was asked to walk-on at Mississippi State. I suspect that there will be packages for Franklin and that he will see time throughout the season because of his athleticism.
Overall, I believe that Malzahn made the right decision. White may not have the superior arm strength of Johnson or the sheer athleticism of Franklin. What he does have is a keen sense of how to run the offense and protect the ball. At this point, Malzahn is looking for a quarterback who won’t allow Auburn to beat themselves.
Given the state of the Auburn program and questions about Malzahn’s job security, the safest option was to have White lead the Tigers out against Clemson on a Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium. I’m interested to see how a healthy White can perform in his second season with starting experience.