Jeremy Johnson at ease in the SEC Media Days spotlight
By Charles Goldberg
HOOVER, Ala. ― Jeremy Johnson wore an orange, white and blue bow tie and bright smile, coolly handling the many demands, the many interviews, the many cameras pointed his way at SEC Media Days.
But even a cool customer had to look twice Monday.
"I've never seen this many cameras in my life," he marveled.
Auburn's new starting quarterback still seemed to be ready for the big time.
"It's fun," he said. "I'm blessed to be here, not only me but I'm blessed for my family. This is a great opportunity. I appreciate everything I'm doing right now. I'm happy. I really am."
Johnson is sporting a positive attitude after patiently waiting his turn the last two years as Nick Marshall's understudy. Marshall's gone now. Johnson, the quarterback with the big arm, is ready to take over.
He's already scoring points, calling coach Gus Malzahn "a genius."
Preseason projections have Johnson on Heisman Trophy lists, though he's started only two games; that have Auburn in the national playoffs, after missing out last season; have Johnson needing to take a leadership role.
He says he's ready.
"I know my teammates are looking at me when things go good and bad. I've got to handle myself the right way," he says
He says he's improved on doing just that.
"I really just try to lead by example, but this summer, I was a more vocal leader."
Now, he wants to show his stuff on the field, and can when Auburn opens the season against Louisville on Sept. 5 in Atlanta. But he says he's not looking for individual honors.
"I'm not caught up in all of the right now. I can only control what I can control, and that's getting better each and every game, and let all the individual accolades come with winning," he said.
But he said he's comfortable with the talk that Auburn will be in national title talk.
"I'm not surprised at all because we're at Auburn to win championships. We're going to take one game at a time, and that's going to cause us to win tough games at the end. We know we have to win a lot of tough games," he said.
Malzahn said Monday that Johnson could have started for many college teams the last two years. He saw enough action to complete 57 of 78 passes for 858 yards and nine touchdowns over that time, but Marshall was clearly the starter while Johnson mostly watched after playing the entire first half in the season opener against Arkansas last year.
"It was a humbling experience," Johnson said. "I cherish that moment when I was able to start the first game. I enjoyed every moment of it. Sitting back as the backup was a great experience for me. It just made me just learn. I feel very comfortable about going into this year."
No one questions Johnson's arm. Auburn hasn't asked him to run, though, not like it did with Marshall, or it did when Cam Newton was running free.
Not to worry, Johnson said. He remembers how to do it from his high school days in Montgomery.
"I've been running my whole life. I'm a north and south runner," he said.
"The offense won't change at all. Cam and Nick were great runners, but they could also throw the ball well. I feel like I can do both, too."
But, Johnson said, "Cam is Cam, and I'm me. I don't too much compare myself to Cam. We're different people. We've got different talents."
Johnson said he grew in spring practice, thanks, in part, to Will Muschamp, the new defensive coordinator who brought "a lot of energy."
"He made practice, and the defense made practice, fun because they were loud, they all flock to the football, they try to strip the ball, they try to hit the ball. It's been fun playing against them, not only making me better, but making our team better," Johnson said.
Jeremy Johnson says he's ready to take his confidence to the field.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine