Aug 18, 2013
Sophomore Jonathan Wallace didn't go quietly in race to be starting quarterback (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Jonathan Wallace didn't win the race, but first-year Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said Sunday night he never lost the confidence of his coaches and teammates.
Wallace, a sophomore who started the last four games of last season, fought to the end in the race to be the starting quarterback against Washington State on Aug. 31. The nod went to junior college transfer Nick Marshall. Wallace will be the backup, next in line should something happen to Marshall.
"He fought hard," Malzahn said. "The thing about Jonathan is he is a great competitor. He is one of the more class, high-character young men on our team. His teammates respect him. It was hard telling him he wasn't going to be the starter. He's a class young man and handled it like a champ. I know he's probably hurting, but you wouldn't know that. He's very supportive of Nick, and that's good for our team."
Last season, Wallace completed 46-of-80 passes for 720 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions.
Wallace, Malzahn said, "had a really good camp." And he said true freshman Jeremy Johnson did, too.
"Jeremy Johnson is a close - I'm not going to say a 3, maybe a 2A," Malzahn said. "He really impressed us. He has a lot of physical tools. He understands how to run a fast-paced offense because he did it in high school. He really impressed us and did a solid job."
Johnson, from Carver High School in Montgomery, will not play on the scout team. He will prepare to play each week, but he could end up being redshirted.
"Right now, obviously, it wouldn't be a bad thing if he redshirts," Malzahn said. "That would mean the other guys stayed healthy. We're still bringing him along. He's going to get reps in practice. He's going to understand what's happening. He made it interesting, and it's very hard for a true freshman to make it interesting. That says a lot about him."
More from Malzahn:
Working on Washington State
Malzahn said Sunday's practice was devoted almost entirely to preparation for Washington State. He said it was a "solid practice."
"We just about have all the pieces in place as far as our personnel is concerned," Malzahn said. "There's still a couple of things that could change, but for the most part, we have our answers to our questions going into this season. Now it's just a matter of getting to the first game and let's see how our guys respond."
Wishing McNeal the best
Malzahn would not elaborate on his decision Saturday to dismiss senior safety Demetruce McNeal from the team. McNeal was arrested early Saturday morning and charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana.
"He got dismissed for a violation of team rules," Malzahn said. "I wish him nothing but the best. It's unfortunate, but that's the way it is."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: