By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Gus Malzahn wasted no time testing the Tigers in Auburn's first full-pads spring practice Saturday, with 30 minutes of 11-on-11 work featuring the first teams.
"Very pleased. A lot of energy. A lot of enthusiasm," Malzahn said. "Guys were flying around. It was a real physical practice. Gave everybody a chance to show what they can do."
Auburn's defense, in year two under coordinator Kevin Steele, has a head start on the offense.
"Defense was really flying around," Malzahn said. "We've got a lot of experience back."
Auburn's offense, under first-year coordinator Chip Lindsey, gave more players opportunities to work with the first unit.
"It was good to see how they reacted in pads," Malzahn said. "When you're in helmets, you can see attitude, coachability, effort, things like that. But when you get in pads, everything changes. From a coaches' standpoint, you can really learn a lot.
"I loved our attitude. I loved our effort, our approach. It will be good for the coaches to see some things, to clean things up. Overall, I thought it was a very successful day."
John Franklin III practiced at quarterback and receiver, Malzahn said.
"He's got a skill set," Malzahn said. "Everybody knows he's a great athlete. We'll give him an opportunity. His attitude is great. He wants to help the team any way he can. He's wanting to compete for the starting quarterback job first."
About that competition, Malzahn said it's too early in the race to determine a clear order.
"I think Chip tried to rotate as many as he could," Malzahn said. "They all got a chance to get out there. I think all of our quarterbacks did a solid job and looked good."
With returning starter Sean White recovering from a broken arm sustained in the Sugar Bowl, transfer Jarrett Stidham is competing with a group that includes redshirt freshman Woody Barrett.
"You can tell Woody's more confident than he was," Malzahn said. "Starting to settle in. He's got a real strong arm."
Running back Kerryon Johnson elaborated on Barrett's confidence level.
"Woody literally believes he can score every play," Johnson said. "That's what you've got to love. That's the same mentality I go in with every play. He has so much confidence that it can get scary sometimes."
Johnson said Stidham, the sophomore who started as a freshman at Baylor in 2015, is asserting himself.
"I think he really wants to become a team leader," Johnson said. "Obviously, that comes with time. When you've got guys who have been in the program for years, it takes time to really get that role.
"But he's striving for it. It shows on the field. Obviously, he's got a good arm. It's just going to come in practice and getting timing down with the receivers."
While the offense searches for new starters on the line and at quarterback, the more experienced defense will lead the way, Malzahn said.
"Any time you've got guys who have been successful and they have quality experience, that usually equates into leadership," Malzahn said. "You can tell there's a handful of guys on that side of the ball who really have that leadership ability where the rest of the teammates respond. You could tell that today."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer