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First snaps: Jeremy Johnson gets call in Auburn spring
March 10, 2015

Gus Malzahn kicks off spring practice at Tuesday's press conference

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. -- Quarterback Jeremy Johnson is taking the first snaps in Auburn spring ball. He earned it.

He was the backup to departed starter Nick Marshall the last two seasons, is the only quarterback who returns with experience and will give it a go as Auburn began spring practice Tuesday.

Johnson's experience, says coach Gus Malzahn, is "very valuable."

"He ran a very similar offense in high school, and so he understands everything that goes with it," Malzahn said. "He got a lot of practice reps the last two seasons, and obviously started against Arkansas and just did an outstanding job with that. He got to play some throughout the last two years. We have a lot of confidence in Jeremy. He's going to have to go out there and win the starting job, but he's in a very good spot and we have a lot of confidence in him."

Johnson has a two-year passing total includes hitting 57-of-78 passes for 858 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions.

He sits atop a depth chart that also has redshirt freshman Sean White, transfer Jason Smith and early freshman early enrollee Tyler Queen.

Marshall impressed with his arm, and his ability to run in Malzahn's zone-read offense. Malzahn said the run element will remain, no matter who plays quarterback.

"Our plan today is all four guys will get snaps. It could be fairly equal, at least the first few days when we're installing our base offense," Malzahn said.

The race to replace SEC leading rusher Cameron Artis-Peyton will be an open competition between junior college transfer Jovon Robinson, sophomore Peyton Barber and Roc Thomas.

"We'll try to put those guys in equal situations," Malzahn said. "All three of those guys, we feel like, have a chance to be really good in our system. We're going to give them an opportunity to show what they can do. We're going to go live, and those guys are going to get tackled. We're going to have a really good evaluation by the end of the spring on all three of the guys."

Malzahn said Braden Smith will start out at guard and Avery Young at tackle. He also said Alex Kozan, who missed last season with a back injury, will be limited in the spring.

"Kozan, two years ago, was one of our leaders. There's no doubt his absence last year was definitely felt, not just from a playing standpoint, but from leadership," Malzahn said. "He's a great worker, his teammates have a lot of respect for him, so just by him being out there is going to be a breath of fresh air."

Jordan Diamond, who had a shoulder issues among his many injuries last year, will be in a limited role as well.

Austin Golson, Xavier Dampeer and Deon Mix will be in competition to replace Rimington Trophy winner Reese Dismukes.


• Malzahn confirmed linebacker Anthony Swain will not play his senior season. He's graduating this spring. Punter Jimmy Hutchinson has left the team as well.

• Malzahn said Auburn will try to "get our edge back."

"That's that physical and mental, that toughness, that hard-nosed edge that we kind of lost toward the end of last year.

"We're going to be very physical in spring, and we're going to get that back."

He also said a theme will be to "develop trust and trust between players and coaches. We have some new coaches on our staff.

"Our theme is really, 'Count on Me.'"

• Malzahn has hired former Auburn defensive lineman Kenneth Carter in an off-the-field operations role. Malzahn also has hired Jeff Norrid as an offensive analyst. He was Malzahn's offensive graduate assistant at Arkansas in 2006.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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