Page 1

APRIL 8, 2017

AUBURN A-DAY GAME, 1 p.m.

The Auburn Plainsman

A-DAY 2017 PAGE

3

PAGE

Davis missing spring

4

Numerical Roster

PAGE

11

Franklin III ready for new role


2

The Auburn Plainsman: A-Day

Thursday, April 6, 2017

TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S PAGE 3 Davis missing Spring

PAGE 8 Larry Porter ready to win another national championship

PAGE 4 Full numerical roster

PAGE 10 Malik Willis turning heads

PAGE 6 New faces on The Plains

PAGE 11 JF111 on to new role

Cover photo by Matthew Bishop / Staff Photographer


Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Auburn Plainsman: A-Day

3

Star receiver could miss remainder of spring Jack Winchester SPORTS EDITOR

CATHERINE WOFFORD/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Kyle Davis (11) leaps for the ball during the Auburn vs. LSU football game on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016.

Auburn wide receiver Kyle Davis could miss the remainder of the Tigers spring practices, head coach Gus Malzahn said on March 18, 2017. “I’m not sure if he’s going to be back before the end of the spring,” Malzahn said. “He will be back for the fall. It’s just taking a little bit longer than we initially thought.” Davis missed last spring in its entirety due to a shoulder injury. The rising sophomore wide receiver did not return to practice after spring break as expected and is still dealing with “personal business.” Davis is one of Auburn’s most experienced returning receivers, despite only being a sophomore. Last season, Davis played in all 13 games and caught 12 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns. With no Davis, Auburn started spring practice with Eli Stove, Nate Craig-Myers and Jason Smith running with the first-team offense and Ryan Davis, Marquis McClain and Griffin King on the second. “It’s a loss. It’s a loss to all the receivers,” Stove said. “We all love KD. He’s a great person. But he can come back and be strong and get better. We’ll be all right.” Auburn will take the field in Jordan-Hare Stadium this Saturday to compete in the spring’s first scrimmage.


4

The Auburn Plainsman: A-Day

Thursday, April 6, 2017

ROSTER

2017 A-Day Game Numerical Roster 1 Woody Barett QB 6-2 231 RS FR Winter Park, Fla. 3 Nate Craig-Myers WR 6-2 SO Dade City, Fla. 3 Marlon Davidson DL 6-3 281 SO Greenville, Ala. 4 Jeff Holland DL 6-2 240 JR Jacksonville, Fla. 4 Jason Smith WR 6-1 180 SR Mobile, Ala. 5 Derrick Brown DL 6-5 317 SO Sugar Hill, Ga. 5 John Franklin III QB 6-1 174 SR Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 6 Carlton Davis DB 6-1 190 JR Miami, Fla. 8 Marlon Character DB 6-0 186 RS FR Atlanta, Ga. 8 Jarrett Stidham QB 6-2 210 SO Stephenville, Tx. 9 Byron Cowart DE 6-3 277 JR Seffner, Fla. 9 Kam Martin RB 5-10 182 SO Port Arthur, Tx. 10 Paul James III DL 6-4 258 SR Miami, Fla. 11 Kyle Davis WR 6-2 208 SO Loganville, Ga. 12 Jamel Dean DB 6-2 205 SO Cocoa, Fla. 12 Eli Stove WR 6-0 179 SO Niceville, Fla. 13 Javaris Davis DB 5-10 184 SO Jacksonville, Fla. 13 Sean White QB 6-0 200 JR Boca Raton, Fla. 14 Stephen Roberts DB 5-11 187 SR Opelika, Ala. 14 Malik Willis QB 6-1 185 FR Atlanta, Ga. 16 Devin Adams QB 6-2 247 SR Mobile, Ala. 16 Malcom Askew DB 5-11 185 FR McCalla, Ala. 17 Marquis McClain WR 6-2 218 RS FR Crestview, Fla. 17 Chandler Wooten LB 6-2 225 SO Acworth Ga. 18 Javaughn Myers DB 6-1 188 RS FR Dade City, Fla. 19 Nick Ruffin DB 6-0 191 SR Duluth, Ga. 20 Jeremiah Dinson DB 5-11 172 RS SO Miami, Fla. 21 Kerryon Johnson RB 6-0 195 JR Madison, Ala. 22 John Broussard Jr. DB 5-11 168 SO Phenix City, Ala. 24 Daniel Thomas DB 5-11 202 SO Montgomery, Ala. 27 Chandler Cox FB 6-1 232 JR Apopka, Fla. 28 TrayMatthews DB 6-1 213 SR Newnan, Ga. 29 Tyler Stovall WR/H 6-1 207 SR Hokes Bluff, Ala. 30 Tre’ Williams LB 6-2 238 SR Mobile, Ala. 31 Sage Ledbetter K/P 6-0 177 RS FR Auburn, Ala. 32 Malik Miller RB 5-11 218 SO Huntsville, Ala. 32 Sam Sherrod LB 5-11 192 RS FR Birmingham, Ala. 33 Will Hastings K 5-10 165 JR Little Rock, Ark. 33 KJ Brit LB 6-0 235 FR Oxford, Ala. 35 James Owens Moss WR 5-9 180 RS FR Opelika, Ala, 36 Kamryn Pettway RB 6-0 242 JR Prattville, Ala. 36 Michael Sherwood DB 5-9 168 SR Fairburn, Ga. 37 Logan Rice WR 6-0 208 JR Rome, Ga. 38 Daniel Carlson K 6-4 213 SR Colorado Springs, Colo. 39 Robert Muschamp FB 6-1 236 SO Rome, Ga. 39 Conner Sibley LB 5-10 201 SOAthens, Ga. 40 Eugene Govan RB 5-7 185 SO Grovetown, Ga. 41 Josh French LB 5-11 203 FR Birmingham, Ala. 42 Keenan Sweeney FB 6-0 238 JR Snellville, Ga. 42 Tre’ Threat LB 6-0 246 SO Geneva, Ala. 43 Cedric Chambers RB 5-7 190 SO Valley, Ala. 43 Ian Shannon K/P 6-3 209 SO Marietta, Ga. 44 Raymond Lester DB 5-11 156 SO Marietta, Ga.

45 Chase Cramer FB 5-10 171 SO Orlando, Fla. 45 Jacob Rogers DB 5-11 206 RS FR Goodwater, Ala. 46 Caleb King LB 6-3 214 SR Huntsville, Ala. 48 Montavious Atkinson DB 6-1 183 JR Fairburn, Ga. 48 CJ Tolbert RB 5-7 187 JR Dadeville, Ala. 49 Darrell Williams LB 6-2 234 JR Hoover, Ala. 50 Chase Ritter LB 5-10 189 SR Wetumpka, Ala. 51 Richard McBryde LB 6-1 227 RS SO Troy, Ala. 52 Nick Brahms OL 6-4 280 FR Navarre, Fla. 52 Antwaun Jackson Jr. DL 6-2 308 RS FR Ellenwood, Ga. 53 Clarke Smith LS 6-3 224 RS FR Leeds, Ala. 54 Kaleb Kim OL 6-4 284 RS SO Buford, Ga. 56 Tashawn Manning DL 6-3 315 FR Apopka Fla. 57 Deshaun Davis LB 5-11 236 JR Mobile, Ala. 58 Josh Shockley LB 5-10 215 JR McDonough, Ga. 59 Brodarious Hamm OL 6-5 FR Griffin, Ga. 60 Drew Spivey LS 6-2 235 RS FR Louisville, Ala. 61 Ryan Meneely OL 6-1 310 SO McDonough, Ga. 62 Jaunta’vius Johnson DT 6-2 322 SO Lincoln, Ala. 64 Mike Horton OL 6-4 312 SO Atlanta, Ga. 65 Tucker Brown OL 6-3 265 JR Trussville, Ala. 66 Bailey Sharp OL 6-5 293 SO Marietta, Ga. 67 Tyler Carr OL 6-5 313 SO Southside, Ala. 68 Zach Wade LS 5-10 205 JR Bremen, Ga. 69 Ike Powell LS 6-3 244 SR Tifton, Ga. 70 Robert Leff OL 6-6 288 SR Fairhope, Ala. 71 Braden Smith OL 6-6 286 SR Olathe, Kan. 72 Prince Micheal Sammons 6-7 296 Clarksville, Ohio 73 Austin Golson OL 6-5 304 SR Prattville, Ala. 76 Prince Tega Wanogho 6-8 300 Elmore, Ala. 77 Marquel Harrell OL 6-3 325 SO Fairburn, Ga. 78 Darius James OL 6-4 332 SR Killeen, Tex. 79 Andrew Williams DL 6-4 270 JR McDonough, Ga. 80 Sal Canella TE 6-5 230 SO Arlington Heights, Ill 81 Darius Slayton WR 6-2 182 SO Norcross, Ga. 82 Pete Berryman WR 6-5 214 JR Birmingham, Ala. 83 Ryan Davis WR 5-9 164 JR St. Petersburg, Fla. 84 Jaylen McCgriff WR 6-0 211 SR Brentwood, Tenn. 85 Jalen Harris TE 6-4 250 JR Montgomery, Ala. 86 Carson Griffs WR 5-10 169 RS FR Homewood, Ala. 87 Pace Ozmint WR 6-1 181 RS FR Glencoe Ala. 89 Griffin King WR 5-10 173 SO Atlanta, Ga. 91 Nick Coe DL 6-6 270 RS FR Asheboro, NC 93 Tyler Carter DL 6-1 243 SO Decatur, Ala. 95 Dontavius Russell DL 6-3 295 JR Carrollton, Ga. 96 Sidney Mims DL 6-4 250 RS FR Montgomery Ala. 97 Gary Walker DL 5-11 247 SO Toccoa, Ga. 99 Spencer Nigh FB 6-0 269 SO Magnolia, Texas

Information courtesy of Auburn Athletics


Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Auburn Plainsman: A-Day

5


6

The Auburn Plainsman: A -Day

Thursday, April 6, 2017

National Signing Day: Player-by-player breakdown Will Sahlie

ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

National Signing Day 2017 has come and gone on The Plains with Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and his staff adding 23 players to the program. “We are very excited about this class,” Malzahn said. “When you look at the overall class, it is very well-rounded. There wasn’t a whole lot of drama today, and I think that says a lot about the signees’ loyalty. I think it also says a lot about our staff, who did an awesome job of building relationships. Everything went as planned today, which is a blessing.” Here is a player-by-player breakdown on who Auburn has added to its program: Jarrett Stidham: Stidham is the prize of this class as the former Baylor quarterback will likely be counted on to rescue the sometimes dismal Auburn offense. Stidham was ranked the No. 1 JUCO prospect in the country. The former five-star recruit completed 75-of-109 passes for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns as a true freshman at Baylor. “I think (Stidham) has a chance to be a very good football player,” Malzahn said. “He is coming in to compete for the starting job at quarterback.” Calvin Ashley: Ashley is also a huge part of this recruiting class for Auburn, as the Washington, D.C. native remained committed to Auburn for nearly two years. The five-star offensive tackle is ranked the No. 6 offensive tackle in the country and No. 27 overall by 247 Sports. The 6-foot-7, 330-pound lineman will compete for early playing time this fall. “He is a guy that we feel like can come in immediately and have a chance to compete,” Malzahn said. “He really reminds me of Greg Robinson when Greg was this age.” T.D. Moultry: Moultry, of Jackson-Olin High School in Birmingham, Alabama, was named to the Class 6A all-state first team his senior season. The four-star linebacker was ranked the No. 3 linebacker in the country by 247 Sports. Rivals ranked him the No. 3 player in the state of Alabama. Malzahn: “I think he’s one of the best players, if not the best player, in the state. He’s a five-star guy. He took no other visits. He was extremely loyal to us. He helped us recruit. He’s got a unique skillset. He’s got an explosiveness that very few have playing inside linebacker. He’s got the ability to rush the passer. He played in some of these all-star games and really was the best player on the field in the all-star games.” K.J. Britt: Britt joins Moultry as the most important defensive signees by the Tigers this year. Britt, of Oxford, Alabama, recorded 124 tackles in his senior season to go along with 17 tackles for loss, five sacks and one interception. He was ranked the No. 5 player in Alabama by Rivals. The four-star linebacker will compete for early playing time along with fellow freshman T.D. Moultry. “K.J. Britt is a true inside linebacker that plays downhill,” Malzahn said. “He really provides a physical presence, and he has the ability to make everyone around him better.”

Malcolm Askew: Askew was one of Auburn’s early enrollees who is already taking classes at Auburn. The four-star athlete was also 2016 first team all-state. Askew threw for 1,536 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior at McAdory High School. He ranked as the No. 7 prospect in Alabama by Rivals. “Malcolm Askew is a defensive back and very talented young man that can run,” Malzahn said. “He has a very good skill set and played offense in high school, with very good ball skills.” Devan Barrett: The four-star running back is another key piece of the offensive class. The Tampa, Florida native ran for 1,271 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior. He accounted for 44 career touchdowns to go along with more than 4,000 total career yards. Malzahn: “He was the No. 1 running back on our board from the get-go. He was the one that we wanted. He’s got great vision. He’s got great speed. He’s got the ability to take it 80 yards on any play. He can stretch the field down the field as far as catching the football. I really think he’s a got a chance to come in here and compete right off the bat.” Nick Brahms: The four-star offensive guard also enrolled at Auburn in January. Brahms missed his entire senior season due to a broken leg. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound guard will look to continue to rebuild his strength in his first semester at Auburn. “Nick Brahms is a lineman, a center or a guard,” Malzahn said. “He is a very tough guy that brings a physical presence. I think he has a chance to be a very good player.” Big Cat Bryant: The 6-foot-4, four-star defensive end of Crisp County High School in Cordele, Georiga, won Georgia Class 3A defensive player of the year. He recorded 102 tackles, 36.5 for a loss and 15.5 sacks as a senior. He is a consensus top 15 player from Georgia. He is the cousin of former Auburn defensive lineman Montravious Adams. “Big Cat is a guy that we circled in,” Malzahn said. “We’ve recruited him for a long time. He is a pass-rushing machine. He’s an Auburn-type kid with a great family and great support system. We are just excited for him.” Sal Cannella: Cannella ranked as a three-star JUCO tight end who is more of a pass catcher than run blocker. He had 29 receptions for 449 yards and seven touchdowns at Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College. He was ranked as the No. 1 JUCO tight end by ESPN. “Sal Cannella is another guy that we really felt has great ball skills and can stretch the field,” Malzahn said. “We needed some depth at tight end and he fills that need.” Anders Carlson: If you think the name looks familiar, then you are not wrong. Carlson is the younger brother of Auburn senior kicker Daniel Carlson. He is rated as the nation’s best prep kicker. The Colorado Springs, Colorado native will likely take over kicking duties after his brother’s graduation after next season. “Anders Carlson is Daniel’s brother and the number one kicker in the country,” Malzahn said. “I think there are so many similarities. We are very excited to have him, and I know he’s ex-

cited to play with his brother. Daniel is the best kicker in college football. I think that everyone knows that, and we think that Anders has a chance to follow in his footsteps and be one of the best, too.” Carlito Gonzalez: The three-star defensive back ranked in the top 50 players in Georgia. The Decatur, Georgia native is known as a physical, hard-hitter. Malzahn: “Carlito Gonzalez is your prototypical safety. He’s very physical. He can run and has a nose for the ball. He plays fearless. He’s been very loyal to us, too. He’s been through three different defensive back coaches and he didn’t flinch. He stayed with us. I’m very excited about Carlito.” Noah Igbinoghene: The Trussville, Alabama native had more than 1,700 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior. He was named to the Class 7A all-state first team. He is a consensus top 15 player in Alabama. Both of his parents were Olympic track athletes. Malzahn: “He played wide receiver and running back at his high school. He is a dynamic guy that we think has an unbelievable upside and he is extremely fast. Both of his parents actually ran track in the Olympics. He is also a young guy, as far as age goes. We think his upside is really big.” Alec Jackson: The Montgomery, Alabama native and Jeff Davis High School graduate recorded 60 tackles, nine for a loss and six sacks during his senior season. The three-star defensive tackle finished his career with 138 tackles, 13.5 sacks and three fumble recoveries. He was rated as a top 75 defensive lineman by 247 Sports. “Alec Jackson, a defensive lineman from Jeff Davis, is very athletic,” Malzahn said. “He’s got a frame where he is even going to grow and get bigger. He’s a very smart young man. We think he’s got a chance to really help us.” Travion Leonard: Leonard ranks as just a two-star defensive back out of West Palm Beach, Florida. However, he snagged 10 career interceptions at Oxbridge Academy. He finished second team all-state his senior season. Jordyn Peters: Peters ranks as a three-star defensive back from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. He earned Class 6A all-state second team honors in his senior season. Scout ranked him as the No. 4 safety in Alabama. Malzahn: “Jordyn Peters, a defensive back, has the ability to play safety or corner. He’s long. I think he is going to grow and get bigger. He’s a very good tackler and a very physical guy. I’m very excited about Jordyn and think he’s got a chance to be an outstanding player.” John Samuel Shenker: Shenker comes to Auburn from Colqiutt County High School in Moultrie, Georgia. The threestar tight end snagged 30 catches for 451 yards and two touchdowns during his final high school season. He also earned first team all-state honors during his senior season. Scout ranked him as the No. 3 tight end in Georgia. “Shenker is a tight end that reminds me of Philip Lutzenkirchen,” Malzahn said. “He is about the same size, his ball


Thursday, April 6, 2017 skills are very good, he can put his hand down, he can block and he does a lot of H-back stuff that we do in our offense.” Bill Taylor: The 6-foot-4, Tuscaloosa, Alabama native ranked as the No. 2 long snapper in the country. His father played long snapper and linebacker at Alabama. Malzahn: “Bill Taylor, our long snapper, is a big, physical guy that can tackle. When you can find a guy that can snap it consistently and accurately, and tackle – those are hard to find. We’re excited about Bill.” Austin Troxell: The four-star offensive lineman earned first team all-state honors at Madison Academy his senior season. The 6-foot-7, 315-pound lineman was a consensus top 25 offensive tackle in the country. ESPN and Rivals ranked him as a top 15 player in Alabama. He is the third Madison Academy player to sign with Auburn in the last three years, joining Kerryon Johnson and Malik Miller. “Austin Troxell is a guy that we identified for a long time ago as being one of the top offensive tackles in the country,” Malzahn said. “We have recruited him for almost three years, and he has a great family. We think he has a chance to be a very good player.” Tyrone Truesdell: The three-star defensive tackle recorded 39 tackles, seven for a loss and 2.5 sacks in his senior season at Lucy Laney High School in Augusta, Georgia. He was ranked in the top 40 at his position by 247 Sports, Rivals and ESPN. “Tyrone Truesdell is a big, athletic guy,” Malzahn said. “He

The Auburn Plainsman: A-Day came to our Big Cat Weekend over the summer, and we kept up with him. We brought him in this last weekend, and we feel like he has great upside. He can really run and has good instincts. I think he’s going to be a very good player.” JaTarvious Whitlow: Whitlow was Auburn’s final commitment and came as a bit of a surprise on National Signing Day. He won Class 2A back of the year at LaFayette High School as he threw for 2,292 yards and 29 touchdowns in his senior season. He also ran for 2,147 yards and 30 touchdowns. 247 Sports ranked him as a top 25 prospect in Alabama. He was also all-state in basketball and a finalist for 2A player of the year in his junior season. “JaTarvious Whitlow is a guy that really has been on my mind for a while,” Malzahn said. “He came to camp this summer and just had an outstanding camp. The defensive coaches were kind of looking at him as a safety and the offensive coaches were looking at him as an athlete, receiver-type, and when Chip (Lindsey) got here, we pulled up the film again, not just his game film, but the one from the summer camp. We just felt like we needed him to be a part of our offense. He’s got very good ball skills and we’re going to play him at wide receiver starting out.” Alaric Williams: The four-star athlete is also a big get for the Tigers offense. Williams played just four games his senior season but gained 550 yards and seven touchdowns. He was named to the 6A second team all-state. He is ranked as a top 10 player

7 from Alabama by Rivals. Malzahn: “Alaric Williams is another guy that has been very loyal to us for a long time. He’s a running back and slot receiver and gives us a lot of flexibility and versatility to utilize him.” Malik Willis: Willis was an early enrollee, joining the Auburn program in January.The three-star athlete threw for 2,562 yards and ran for 1,033, accounting for 37 touchdowns as a senior at Roswell High School in Roswell, Georgia. He was named Class 7A offensive player of the year by the Atlanta Journal Constitution along with being named first team all-state.His uncle James Anderson played 11 seasons in the NFL. Malzahn: “Malik Willis is a guy that has only played quarterback for a little over a year. As a staff, we really felt that if this guy had been playing quarterback for two or three years, he would be one of the top guys in the country. He reminds me a little bit of Nick Marshall in the way he runs and the way he throws the football.” Chandler Wooten: Wooten, a three-star linebacker from Acworth, Georgia, registered 124 tackles, 15 for a loss in his senior season at North Cobb High School. He was named Class 7A all-state in Georgia. “Chandler Wooten is a guy that we identified a little over a year ago as one of the better linebackers in the country,” Malzahn said. “He is a long guy that can run and he gives us a lot of versatility.”


8

The Auburn Plainsman: A -Day

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Larry Porter ready to win at Auburn

Jake Wright SPORTS WRITER

Larry Porter was hired as Auburn’s tight end and H-back coach this offseason. This is a new territory for Porter as he has mainly coached running backs throughout his career. Porter is also going to serve as Auburn’s recruiting coordinator. “Here’s the deal, as a coach, you should always pursue or seek to learn every position,” Porter said. “I want to learn the details of every position and the fundamentals of every position. I coached running backs for a while, but I’ve also had to coach what was going on up front. I teach my players what goes on up front on the line so they understand every aspect of the game. I feel like this makes them better and grows them as players. So although I have never coached tight ends, I’ve always known what was going on up there. It’s new, but its been good for me.” Porter brings a wealth of experience to Auburn. He won a national championship on LSU’s 2008 staff, and that is one reason he came to Auburn.

“I want an opportunity to win another national championship,” Porter said. “I couldn’t get enough beyond that. I wanted another opportunity. I feel like here at Auburn, all the pieces are in place to do that.” Porter, along with new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, plan to incorporate the tight ends into Auburn’s offense more so than in the past. Last year at Arizona State, three of Lindsey’s tight ends caught a touchdown pass. Tight end Jalen Harris and H-back Chandler Cox return for Auburn next season as upperclassmen. Newcomer Sal Cannella was an early enrollee, junior college transfer. The past two seasons, Auburn has not utilized tight ends or H-backs much in the passing game. Harris caught only one pass last season, and it was a touchdown against Ole Miss. “Playing tight end starts with your mindset, attitude and purpose,” Porter said. “They understand how to approach each day to grow and get better. They have a winning attitude. Jalen Harris is a re-

ally good player. He is physical and has the right mindset. Sal is a guy that we are growing into that position. His skill set will give us an opportunity to do a lot of different things.” Cannella is 6-foot-6 and the coaching staff hopes to utilize him as a red-zone threat. He caught 29 passes for 443 yards and seven touchdowns last season in junior college. “The thing that stands out to me about Sal is he has good hands,” head coach Gus Malzahn said. “We knew that. Obviously he played wide receiver in high school, so he’s got a wide-receiver ability with his hands.” Auburn is going to build its offense around their playmakers this fall. Harris, Cannella and Cox can bring mismatches to the field and especially in the red-zone. The versatility of this group is going to benefit Auburn greatly. As for Porter, this was an opportunity for him to get out of his comfort zone. He knows that this is the next step to evolve and better himself as a coach.

VIA LSU ATHLETICS


Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Auburn Plainsman: A-Day

9


10

The Auburn Plainsman: A-Day

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Freshman quarterback drawing rave reviews Will Sahlie

ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

MATTHEW BISHOP / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

On Dec. 30, 2016, Auburn picked up an under-the-radar commitment from three-star quarterback Malik Willis. To this point in the spring, Willis has been one of the more impressive Auburn newcomers. Willis, who de-committed from Virginia Tech one day before his pledge to Auburn, racked up 2,562 passing yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior at Roswell (Ga.) High School. The dual-threat quarterback also ran for 1,033 yards and 10 scores, leading Roswell to a berth in the 7A Georgia State championship. He was named the Class 7A Region 4 Player of the Year by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Willis, who was one of Auburn’s eight early enrollees, is unlikely to crack the first-team unit this fall, but his teammates and coaches are already raving about the star athlete. He is even drawing comparisons to former Auburn star quarterback Nick Marshall. “He reminds me a little bit of Nick Marshall with the way he runs and the way he throws the football,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. “Malik’s got a very strong arm, and that’s really what stands out to me right now.” During Auburn’s first spring scrimmage, Willis threw touchdown passes to Darius Slayton and John Franklin III. Willis is competing with redshirt freshman Woody Barrett for a backup role this

fall. “(Willis) is a stud, there’s no doubt about it,” senior center Austin Golson said. “He’s going to be really good. He kind of reminds me a lot of Nick. He can run and make plays whenever plays might not be there. I’m really excited about his future.” The similarities between Willis and Marshall extend further than just their playmaking ability. Willis also wears No. 14, the number that Marshall donned during his days at Auburn. “I think Malik is going to be a really good player,” Auburn junior quarterback Sean White said. “He has a lot of potential to him. He’s really athletic and has a really good attitude. I really like him a lot. He’s come to learn, and he’s a good player.” “He wears 14 out there so everybody is comparing him to Nick. He has a lot of similarities playing-wise to how Nick used to play.” Also like Marshall, Willis spent the majority of his high school career playing defensive back. He did not make the full-time move to quarterback until his senior season. With just one year under center under his belt, Malzahn and new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey have a sensational athlete that they can mold how they want. “We really felt like, as a staff, if this guy had been playing quarterback for two to three years, he’d been one of the tops in the country,” Malzahn said.

Now Hiring!

Malik Willis warms up in practice on April 4, 2017.

ThePlainsman.com


Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Auburn Plainsman: A-Day

11

MATTHEW BISHOP/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

John Franklin III (5) runs the ball in for a touchdown during the second half of a NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in Auburn,Ala.

John Franklin III ‘comfortable’ in fellow ex-QB Kodi Burns’ system

Nathan King

SPORTS REPORTER

As a senior at Northside High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas, quarterback Kodi Burns accounted for 36 touchdowns en route to placement as the No. 8 Dual-Threat QB in the 2007 class. Burns chose to join Tommy Tuberville’s offense at Auburn, despite being heavily recruited by his future coach Gus Malzahn, who served as Arkansas’ offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at the time. Burns was the hero of Auburn’s 2007 Chick-fil-a Bowl win over Clemson, scoring the game-winning touchdown run in overtime. He couldn’t quite find the success at the quarterback position in the 2008 season that many expected of him, and transitioned to wide receiver during the season. As a sophomore at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, Mississippi, quarterback John Franklin III accounted for 1,184 total yards and 16 touchdowns. His performance at “Last Chance U” pinned the Fort Lauderdale, Florida native as one of the top JUCO prospects heading into last season. Franklin chose to join Gus Malzahn’s offense at Auburn. Franklin couldn’t quite find the success at the quarterback position in the 2016 season that many expected of him, therefore Malzahn saw a transition to wide receiver as the most viable option for the mega-athlete. On March 21, Malzahn announced in a press conference, “John Franklin will work primarily at wide receiver for the rest of the team. He has a great attitude and wants to help the team,”

Malzahn said. Prior to this announcement, Franklin had been rotating between snaps at wide receiver, quarterback and even roles on special teams. The move pushed the rising senior out of the log-jam under center, where Jarrett Stidham, Malik Willis, Woody Barrett and Sean White still linger. Burns, who was named Auburn’s wide receivers coach back in February 2016, now fittingly serves as a teacher to Franklin. “I think it’s just a really good situation for myself and John to just see eye-to-eye and come into this thing like ‘dude I get it’” Burns said. I can really mentor him and coach him up and understand that he’s a big-time athlete.” Franklin turned in his most impressive effort of the season in game five against Louisiana-Monroe. The quarterback tossed a 39-yard touchdown to Nate Craig-Myers and galloped 80 yards for a score. The touchdown run was the longest run by an SEC QB last year, in addition to being the second-longest run of alltime by an Auburn signal caller. Despite his rushing success in RPO packages, Franklin struggled mightily in the passing game, throwing for only 204 yards and a single touchdown. At times, Franklin looked completely inept in the pocket and extremely inaccurate passing the ball downfield. However, Franklin is handling the transition to wide-out efficiently, as the speedster snared a touchdown grab in the Tigers’ first scrimmage of the spring. Over spring break, Franklin seemed to be enthusiastically embracing his new role in the of-

fense, creating a series of workout videos showcasing his athleticism. “He’s always asking questions, he’s trying to come to my office constantly and meet with me,” Burns said. “He gets it. He’s hungry. He wants to learn. He wants us to be great. He’s going to help us in a multitude of different things in terms of special teams and receiver. I think he’s going to be one of those guys that is going to do multiple things.” With rising sophomore Kyle Davis’ future on The Plains up in the air, the depth that Franklin provides will serve as a valuable asset to Burns’ receiving corps. If he is to remain a pass-catcher, Franklin will round out the already talented squad of Nate Craig Myers, Darius Slayton, Eli Stove, Ryan Davis, Jason Smith, redshirt-freshman Marquis McClain and true freshman Noah Igbinoghene. Burns had the privilege of catching passes from Heisman trophy winner, No. 1 overall pick and NFL MVP Cam Newton during Auburn’s 2010 National Championship run. While the quarterback battle continues to rage on for the Tigers, one thing will be certain for the 2017 starting QB: John Franklin can “flatout run.” “We’re just trying to get the ball in his hands,” Malzahn said. “He can flat-out run. The fact that he played quarterback, he understands the splits and the depth and the timing and everything that goes with that. I thought he did some good things. Each practice, you see him getting more and more comfortable.”


A-Day Special Section 2017  
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you