Will Auburn offense sputter using two quarterbacks against Hogs?
We know that Jeremy Johnson is going to start against Arkansas on Saturday. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn reiterated that to AL.com. But how is the rotation between Johnson and Auburn starter Nick Marshall going to work? Is it even a rotation between the two? Will Johnson play a consecutive set of downs, a quarter, a half and not return? Or will he be sprinkled in here and there throughout the game?
As Brandon Marcello of AL.com pointed out, Auburn didn’t have success when Johnson played a couple series against Texas A&M last year. Johnson was initially tabbed the starter because Marshall injured his shoulder the week before against FAU. The game plan was shaped around Johnson. Marshall was cleared to play and he started but Johnson was brought in on two drives against the Aggies. Incomplete passes by Johnson halted two Tiger drives. When Johnson saw ample playing time scheduled well in advance against inferior opponents, Florida Atlantic and Western Carolina, he played well going 27-of-37 for 393 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Against Arkansas this year is much different though. Johnson’s got a year under his belt and had weeks of practice leading up to the game. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee never told Johnson he is starting, but Malzahn told both quarterbacks they need to be ready to play.
The question is how much adjusting will the rest of the Auburn offense have to make when one quarterback leaves the field and another comes on. The passing game shouldn’t change too much. Tiger receivers will, of course, have to adjust to the different type of ball each quarterback throws. The offensive line, in particular, will have to adjust to different cadences coming from the two signal-callers. Perhaps the biggest adjustment, in terms of scheme, will be how Johnson runs the ball verse how Marshall runs the ball. Yes, Johnson can run in addition to having a big-time arm. Johnson is a inside zone runner while Marshall racked up close to 1,100 yards last year running the zone-red mostly to the outside.
There shouldn’t be too much of a hiccup as Marshall and Johnson both get in the game against Arkansas. Malzahn isn’t going to pull a Steve Spurrier and have Marshall and Johnson alternate every possession like Gator quarterbacks Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise did in 1997. Malzahn and Lashlee have a game plan going into the game against the Hogs that will include how much and when each quarterback will play. Barring an injury to Marshall, the offense should sail along smoothly.