Malzahn commits to Johnson having a role in Auburn's offense
When Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said earlier this year that the Tigers are going to develop their passing game in 2014 so they are more balanced, did anyone really think it might occur at the expense of Nick Marshall?
As it turns out Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee are planning to use Jeremy Johnson, a big-armed pocket passer this season. Interestingly enough, Malzahn and Lashlee reached the decision to incorporated the 6-foot-5, 230 pound sophomore into the Tigers offensive game plan before Marshall was issued a citation for possession of a small amount of marijuana.
Initial speculation was that Johnson’s playing time would come in the season opener against Arkansas by default. Malzahn would sit Marshall as a form of punishment for his off-the-field incident. Yet, according to an ESPN.com report on Wednesday, Malzahn and Lashlee plan to use Johnson the entire season; not just one game.
“Even before (Marshall’s citation on July 11), at the end of spring practice, (offensive coordinator Rhett) Lashlee and I made a commitment that Jeremy was going to have a role,” Malzahn told ESPN.com.
During SEC Media Days in Hoover, when asked about Marshall, Malzahn discretely praised Johnson on the back end of one of his answers saying that Johnson would be a starter for most teams in the country. In the aforementioned ESPN.com article, Malzahn took it one step further saying that Johnson has the skills to play at the next level.
“He’s an NFL quarterback, no doubt,” Malzahn told ESPN.com. “He’s got a lot of talent and he’s a good one.”
Johnson started one game for the Tigers in 2013. Albeit it was against Western Carolina, he showed his precise passing skills completing 17-of-21 passes for 201 yards and four touchdowns. In addition, Johnson also played three quarters against Florida Atlantic. He was named Alabama’s Mr. Football in 2012 while under center at Carver High School in Montgomery, Alabama.
Make no mistake, there is not a quarterback controversy on the Plains. Incorporating Johnson into the offense is a win for the Tigers. His skill set as a passer makes Auburn’s offense more versatile.
Last year no one knew what to expect out from Auburn. They surprised a lot of teams with their quick strike, zone-read offense. Depending on how much Johnson is used this season, opposing defenses might have to game plan for two quarterbacks. Defensive coordinators will have their hands full while Malzahn and Lashlee get to pick their offensive poison. It is a nice problem to have.