Aug. 1, 2014
Auburn's Jeremy Johnson got in work, as did Nick Marshall, during Friday's first fall practice
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn coaches had said all spring that backup quarterback Jeremy Johnson was going to get a chance to play more this season.
He may get the call on opening day.
Coach Gus Malzahn announced Friday that neither starting quarterback Nick Marshall nor defensive back Jonathon Mincy would start the season-opener against Arkansas following off-season incidents. Malzahn said he hasn't ruled out playing the two in the opener, but emphasized they would not start "as part of their punishment."
"I will say this," Malzahn added, "Nick Marshall is still our quarterback. Jonathon Mincy is still our cornerback." Malzahn declined to say what other punishment the two have faced or will face. "The rest is between us," he said
Marshall was ticketed for having marijuana in his car during a Georgia traffic stop. Mincy was arrested for the same in Alabama. They both apologized to their teammates, and worked Friday during the first day of fall practice.
Johnson, the sophomore QB, won two weekly SEC awards last year in limited play. Coaches had worked him harder in the spring to get him ready for an expanded role even before Marshall was punished.
"Jeremy Johnson is going to have a bigger role regardless this year. We've talked about him and his ability and how we feel about him. We feel very good about quarterback position as a whole," Malzahn said.
Defensive back Jermaine Whitehead said the team will rally around Marshall and Mincy.
"They're my brothers. I'm here to fight with them and for them," Whitehead said.
"I know they need to be picked up. For us to have a great season, we're going to need both of those guys to make a lot of plays this year."
But while Marshall and Mincy could be back soon, offensive lineman Alex Kozan won't be. The starter is out for the season following back surgery. Malzahn said he hurt his back while lifting weights at his home in Colorado.
"He tried to rehab and do something different things, but he tweaked it," Malzahn said. "The doctors just felt like the best thing for him and his future was to have surgery.
"That's a big blow for our guys up from with the type of year he had and the type of player he is. With that being said, we do have quality depth up front.
"We'll kind of mix and match the first week or so and see what happens with that."
Chad Slade and Avery Young could each find themselves in the starting lineup because of the injury.
•Malzahn said he took it slow with all the newcomers Friday.
"We like to go fast," Malzahn said. "We like to fly around and move around, and so we just wanted to give them a chance early in practice to watch, and then we put them in there and spent some quality time with them."
•Malzahn said freshman running back Roc Thomas was involved in a minor car accident Thursday, but "he practiced today without limitations."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine