AUBURN, Ala. – With talk surrounding the recent decision to name Auburn quarterback Sean White as the team’s starter, Tigers offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee had nothing but positives to say defending the staff’s decision.
Lashlee said Sunday that White, a redshirt sophomore, has been underrated, starting back in his beginnings as a player in high school.
“When you look at his journey coming through high school, he was always an undersized guy,” Lashlee said. “People said he didn’t have a strong enough arm. He’s the last guy invited to the elite eleven - goes out there and wins it. He’s been an alternate in the Under Armor game - wins MVP, and so he’s kind of always played with that chip on his shoulder.”
Lashlee said White’s injury near the end of last season made it difficult to play to his full potential, so people couldn’t truly see the strength of his passing and running game.
“Sean can make every throw on the field and he takes it pretty personal when you question can he make the throw,” Lashlee said. “Before the injury really took effect, you saw he could make all the throws and he was a pretty good athlete. He’s a better runner than people will give him credit for, but when he hurt his knee and particularly his foot, that just changed a lot of things.”
“He’s a better runner than most people give him credit for,” Lashlee said. “You know, being the foot you’re playing on makes it tough too, so his arm has been able to make all the throws we’ve asked any of the guys to make.”
His abilities weren’t the main reason for coach Gus Malzahn and the offensive staff’s choice, though. White’s reliability on the field also factored into the decision.
“He’s very consistent – pretty steady guy and I think last year, he got his feet wet and so he’s played and his teammates believe in him,” Lashlee said. “They’ve seen him go out there and show great toughness. He’s a great competitor, and so over the course of the competition, he was just extremely consistent, so that was probably the overarching theme.”
Toughness also was a shining trait emphasized when it came to White leading the offense.
“You know sometimes, you’d like for him to try and avoid these crazy hits that he takes in the pocket,” Lashlee said. “But the big thing is he’s got the toughness to stand in there and take it, and I think that (his) teammates respect that.”
As for senior Jeremy Johnson and junior John Franklin III, the other two quarterbacks competing for the starting job, Lashlee was not ready to name a backup between the two.
Lashlee also made it clear that if Franklin, a junior college transfer, is to see playing time this season, it will be exclusively in the quarterback position.
Regardless of personal gain, Lashlee said the two are dealing with the decision to name White the starting quarterback well and are ready to take the field if needed. Malzahn announced the move last Thursday.
“(Johnson and Franklin have) handled it great,” Lashlee said. “If people weren’t somewhat disappointed, you’d worry about if they were competitive or not, so they’ve been great. They’ve both been very supportive of Sean, and I think they both know they still have a really important role on our team.”
As of Sunday night, the Tigers will begin practicing inside Jordan-Hare Stadium to prepare for the gameday atmosphere come Saturday. They host No. 2 Clemson that day in their season opener at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN.
“That jumbotron is bright,” Lashlee said. “The lights are bright and playing at 8 – we haven’t practiced at 8 much, so just the way the sun’s setting, when it gets dark, how the light’s catching kicks, catching balls, throwing balls. Just getting used to the element as much as you can, so the first time we do it’s not Saturday night.”
(Lauren Christopher covers Auburn for GN. You can follow him on Twitter @laurchristopher)
© 2016, Lauren Christopher. All rights reserved.
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