Starting one game during the 2013 season against Western Carolina when Marshall was out with an injury and playing snaps in five others, Johnson said his role was an opportunity to see what it takes to be the best.
"It has been great for me," Johnson said. "Everybody has a role on the team and I play my role. Whenever my number was called I was ready and I did what I had to do as a backup quarterback. I really enjoyed my freshman year."
Completing 29-41 passes for 422 yards and six touchdowns with just two interceptions, Johnson showed in his little time that he has the skills to be a serious player for the Tigers down the road. Much of that came against the Catamounts when he hit 17-21 passes for 201 yards and four touchdowns and an interception, but he also made big throws in two SEC wins as well.
Johnson and Ricardo Louis celebrate a touchdown connection
On the first drive of the third quarter at Arkansas with the Tigers leading just 14-3, Johnson entered the game on a second and six at the Razorback 31-yard line. Bothered by a sore shoulder that game and unable to throw the ball well, Marshall was limited. With a certain play they wanted to call and in the right situation, Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee turned to Johnson and he delivered with a 15-yard strike to Sammie Coates for a first down.
Two weeks later Johnson was in the middle of a big game once again. Leading 10-0 after one quarter against Georgia, the true freshman took the first snap of the second quarter and drilled a 14-yard strike to Melvin Ray. That led to a field goal for the Tigers, but it was the last attempt of the season as Marshall handled the duties exclusively in wins over Alabama and Missouri and in the loss to Florida State.
Getting the opportunity to see how a team preps for both the SEC and BCS national championship games, Johnson said there is no doubt in his mind that the experience will help him down the road.
"It's just a great experience," the quarterback said. "To come it straight out of high school and play for a national championship, it's the best feeling ever. That's not just for the freshmen, but also for our whole team. From last year to this year has been amazing. The Lord has blessed us."
Building a strong bond throughout the recruiting process with both Malzahn and Lashlee, Johnson said he really enjoyed his first chance to work with both of them and the rest of the staff during the 2013 season. Getting ready for spring practice with a chance to improve his game dramatically, the big quarterback said the staff is a big reason why he's excited about the next three years.
"They stay on us and make sure we practice hard," Johnson said. "They make everyone prepare like they are the starter because you never know when your time is going to be called. They are great coaches and I enjoy being around them.
"It was a great experience," he added. "I got my feet went playing on the college level. I was in the Georgia game and played a couple of snaps against some good teams. I just feel like the future is going to be kind of bright for me."