Jeremy Johnson is the first to take snaps as Auburn begins spring practice
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Jeremy Johnson is the only one of four quarterbacks who has ever taken a college snap, but the Auburn junior says he'll still have to prove himself worthy of being the guy who succeeds Nick Marshall as the Tigers' starter this fall.
The Tigers began spring practice Tuesday with Johnson taking the first snap ahead of redshirt freshman Sean White, junior college transfer Jason Smith and true freshman Tyler Queen.
"All of them," Johnson said, "make the same throws I can make and some are more athletic than me, but I'm just going to compete and try to win the starting job."
Johnson's big arm is not questioned. But he wants to bring more to the game.
"My specific goal this spring is to win the starting job first and then become a leader and build team chemistry," he said. "This is a new team, new players, new coaching staff. I'm looking forward to bringing everybody in to where if I say we're going to move right, the whole team moves right. That's the type of leader I'm trying to become for this team."
Johnson says he can run, too, though maybe a little differently than Marshall, saying he is more of "power read instead of the read option" quarterback.
"The ones who haven't seen me run will probably be surprised. The ones who did see me run before wouldn't be surprised," Johnson said.
"Nick and I could do the same things. There's really no difference. We both have our strengths and our weaknesses."
Johnson knows people wonder about his running... because people wondered about Marshall's passing.
"People tried to doubt his throwing, but against Alabama he threw for 456 yards. That should tell you a lot."
One reason Johnson took the first snap Tuesday: He has hit 57-of-78 passes for 858 yards and nine touchdowns in the last two years. He started against Arkansas in the opener last year while Marshall served a half-game suspension.
"We have a lot of confidence in Jeremy," coach Gus Malzahn saidin this story.
Passing in the pocket, Johnson said, "is my strength and the offense is going to pretty much stay the same: balanced running and throwing. I feel really good about sitting back and making throws, but I'll run if I have to."
Johnson is 6-foot-5 and now bigger, he says, after gaining 10 pounds to 240.
"I feel much stronger and faster and I had a great offseason."
And ready to go. Johnson came to Auburn as a prized recruit, but mostly watched Marshall play the last two years. Johnson said he turned into "the biggest cheerleader for him and my teammates. It really didn't affect me."
Overall, he said, "I look at it as a humbling experience and it made me grow and mature over the past two years. I supported Nick and I enjoyed watching him play every snap here. Now that my time is here, I'm looking to win the starting job and be the man."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter:Follow @AUGoldMine