Oct. 29, 2013
Auburn's Jeremy Johnson is on the go against Florida Atlantic (AP photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Maybe Nick Marshall would have been more prudent to simply step out of bounds instead of, you know, driving into a defensive back at the end of the play to pick up that extra yard or two in a blowout game.
But playing hard comes naturally to Auburn's starting quarterback, says his offensive coordinator, and so it was that Auburn took a precautionary tact after Marshall hurt his shoulder in last week's 45-10 win over Florida Atlantic. He made an early exit.
"I think when you’re a competitor, you’re a competitor," said offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. "Sometimes, it doesn’t matter, the score or where you’re at or anything, but, ‘Hey, you’ve got nine yards, step out of bounds. Know the situation.’ If it’s a big third down where I’ve got to get it or the game's on the line or it’s to score a touchdown, then maybe try to run somebody over. I think it’s a good lesson of protecting yourself when you can."
Marshall, who only played the first quarter, plus a play into the second against the Owls, was on the practice field Sunday and could be ready to go when the Tigers visit Arkansas at 5 p.m. Saturday. Marshall has been a spark when on the field. But he's been off the field twice: Missing the Western Carolina game with a sore knee and the last three quarters against Florida Atlantic.
Likely, he wouldn't have seen extensive action in either, considering Auburn's big lead in both. But not to worry. Jeremy Johnson stepped in as a capable replacement, earning SEC freshman of the week honors both times.
Johnson and Marshall have won an SEC weekly award each of the last three weeks: Two freshman honors for Johnson, offensive player of the week for Marshall. Johnson has hit 27-of-39 passes for 393 yards and six touchdowns and has 47 yards rushing — and that's not playing until the sixth game of the season. Marshall is 83-of-144 passing for 1,148 yards and six touchdowns, and has rushed for 461 more. He's played against tougher competition than Johnson.
Johnson threw a long touchdown pass on his first play against Florida Atlantic, and followed it up with an even longer one.
Auburn mostly ran with Marshall in the game. It went deep with Johnson.
But, Lashlee said, "Jeremy is deceptive, he can run. It’s a different style. He’s more of a downhill guy and Nick is more out in space. They can both throw the deep ball well, but Jeremy is a pure passer. He’s good on rhythm and timing throws and going from progression to progression. Nick is really good when things break down.
"They both can run our system without a lot of limitations. We know when one gets in there over the other, there’s maybe one thing here or there than one does better than the other, so you try to accentuate those things. As far as in certain situations, if you had to call certain things, you don’t feel like you’re limited."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine