Jeremy Johnson started strong for Auburn against Arkansas
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Jeremy Johnson wants to make one thing perfectly clear about Nick Marshall.
"Nick is our starting quarterback and that's it," Johnson says.
But Jeremy Johnson, team guy, is on call, like he was Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"Whenever I'm called upon to come in to do what I have to do, I'm going to make it happen."
Johnson did just that in Saturday's 45-21 win over Arkansas. He hit his first eight passes and finished the day connecting on 12-of-16 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half after starting for, but not replacing he insisted, Marshall, who was being penalized for an off-season incident.
All along, even back in the spring, coach Gus Malzahn said Auburn would pass more this year, and that Johnson would play more in support of Marshall. The off-the-field incident made sure that happened in the opener.
"That was the plan from the beginning to expand my role more and get more experience on the field," Johnson said.
Malzahn had to take notice of Johnson's sharp passes.
"He said, 'You're a stud.' I just took that for a good thing."
Good indeed, but Malzahn said Marshall has served his penalty. "He did what he had to do."
"We wanted to let Jeremy play regardless. We scripted plays for him, and he got off to an outstanding start. Jeremy did an outstanding job. The way he handled himself was really nice. We put Nick in the second half and he did some really good things, both running and passing. Overall I am just proud of our team."
"Nick is still the quarterback, but Jeremy will have a role. We talked in the off-season about giving him more of different situations and packages."
"If there's a buzz about it," Johnson said, "he's the starter and he's going to start the rest of this season."
Johnson led Auburn to touchdowns on his first three series.
"My teammates made me feel comfortable. They just built more confidence in me," Johnson said.
The coaches found his best plays. "The coaching staff put me in a great positon and it was a clear path for me to make the throws I made," Johnson said. "We've got playmakers, and they did what they had to do when they made the catch."
Johnson played the entire first half. He said he didn't know that would be the case. Neither did Malzahn, who said he had no timetable to hold Marshall out, and stuck with Johnson to make sure he got experience.
Johnson played in six games last year, starting one. He was named the SEC offensive freshman of the week in the only two games in which he received extensive work.
Year Two started with promise as Johnson completed seven passes to newcomer Duke Williams, who finished with nine catches, the most ever by an Auburn player in his debut.
Williams' presence, Johnson said, "helped a lot. It spread the field and gave us more opportunities to throw the ball deep or across the middle.
"The play-calling was to go toward him...based on the defense they were playing."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine