Auburn quarterback John Franklin III could possibly find himself playing a new position this season.
Tigers coach Gus Malzahn told reporters after practice Saturday that Franklin took reps at wide receiver.
“He’s got a skill set, everybody knows he’s a great athlete,” Malzahn said. “It’s kind a hard to tell. He hasn’t gotten much, but we’ll give him an opportunity and his attitude is great. He’s wanting to help the team any way he can.”
Running back Kerryon Johnson said Franklin has seen time at wide receiver since spring practice began last Tuesday and that he’s impressed so far with what he’s seen.
“I think he’s going to be very good,” Johnson said. “Just for him, like you said, to have the limited time, the things that he’s done the past two or three days, I mean, it just makes you realize how good of an athlete he can be and how good of an athlete he already is. Obviously, you can’t just go to receiver and be an expert.
“He still has to learn things. He still has to perfect it, but with that flexibility, the options are endless.”
Still, Malzahn maintained that Franklin’s still “primarily” working with the quarterbacks and in competition for the starting job this season.
In December, Malzahn said he believed Franklin would return to Auburn for his senior season and play quarterback.
But in January, Malzahn and Auburn also were expressing some concerns about a cramping issue Franklin has had periodically in his throwing hand since his high school days. During the Tigers’ Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma, the problem forced him out of the game.
Franklin transferred to Auburn ahead of last season from East Mississippi Community College. He played in all 13 games but was used largely as a runner from the quarterback position as opposed to a passer.
Franklin went 14 of 26 for 204 yards and one touchdown through the air and carried the ball 46 times for 430 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in 2016. He also had one reception, which went for a 3-yard loss.
Franklin, along with Jarrett Stidham, Woody Barrett, Tyler Queen and Malik Willis are competing for the starting quarterback job this spring. Returning starter Sean White also is in the running but has some limitations this spring because of injury.
During practice last Tuesday, Franklin also worked as a gunner on punt returns.
Saturday’s practice marked the third of the spring for the Auburn, including its first in full pads.
(You can follow Kevin Connell on Twitter @_KevinConnell)
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