Ben Leard played quarterback at Auburn from 1997-2000. He joined “The Opening Drive” on WJOX radio in Birmingham on Friday morning to discuss Gus Malzahn’s decision to name Sean White as the Tigers’ starting quarterback.
“With the exception of the time he played while he was truly injured, I think Sean is the guy,” Leard said. “I think Sean is the guy that really and truly has the team. There’s a lot to be said for that. (The team is) going to follow ‘the guy.’
“He may not be the most athletic guy, he may not be the guy that’s 6-foot-6 that can throw it through a car wash and it not get wet, but there is a lot to be said for being the quarterback that an entire team will follow into a big game. Sean has been that guy the entire time he’s been on campus.”
Malzahn’s offenses traditionally have had their greatest success with a quarterback who can run. Leard was asked if White is good enough as a runner to operate the offense to its full potential.
“Being able to be a threat is enough,” Leard said. “Does Sean, or John Franklin III, or any quarterback under Gus Malzahn have to be like Nick Marshall or Cam Newton? Absolutely not.
“To be able to keep it on zone read, get 3 to 4 yards, be a guy that puts a fear in a defense on a third-and-short that it’s not only being able to key on the running back, that the quarterback can keep it, get the first and continue the drive.”
White is a sophomore. Leard was asked if having remaining eligibility gave White an advantage over senior Jeremy Johnson.
“I don’t think it plays into it at all,” Leard said. “Gus and (offensive coordinator) Rhett (Lashlee) and the offensive staff -- they have a job to put the player on the field that puts Auburn in the best situation to win games. With that being said, would they likely try to get a guy in and get snaps, get game reps for the next year from a developmental standpoint? Of course they would.
“Under the duress that Gus is right now in regards to needing to win games, there is not a doubt in my mind that he feels most confident in Sean White regardless of the year of eligibility he has.”
Along with White and Johnson, junior college transfer Franklin was battling for the Tigers’ starting job. How does Leard expect Franklin to be used in the opener against Clemson?
“I’d expect him to run maybe a series or two, and I don’t know when,” Leard said. “I don’t know if it’s a scripted situation, but I think they’re going to put JF III in the game.
“I think they’re going to put him in a situation to try and do something athletically and try and make something happen with his feet because that’s really his biggest threat. He’s not much of a threat throwing the football because of some inaccuracy issues, but running the ball, he is definitely a guy that can make something happen.
“They’re going to have a JF III package, I’d assume, and you’ll see him one to two, maybe three drives depending on the feel of the game, depending on the flow, how he’s doing, how the defense is reacting to him.”
(You can follow Chadd Scott on Twitter @ChaddScott)
© 2016, Chadd Scott. All rights reserved.
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