One younger player who the Tigers' coaching staff is keeping a close eye on is backup quarterback Jeremy Johnson, who saw action in six games last season and started against Western Carolina when starter Nick Marshall was held out with a knee injury. The then true freshman had a standout performance that day, completing 17 of 21 passes for 201 yards and four touchdowns.
Johnson wasn't pleased with the offense's performance Saturday, though, which he said was more of a regular practice than a scrimmage.
"We could have done better," said the 6-5, 223-pounder from Montgomery, who took reps with the first team. "We weren't satisfied with our performance.
"We can't settle for complacency, and we preach every day about executing, and that's all we're focused on as quarterbacks and receivers--just execution and just keep doing it consistently, not just on and off."
The former Alabama Mr. Football said he thinks he has progressed both physically and mentally this spring, and that he has gained more confidence in himself, which he attributes to Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee getting him prepared every day.
"I'm just approaching it like I'm the starter," Johnson said. "I'm still a freshman, and I'm still learning and becoming more vocal and (more of a) leader, and just taking more responsibility--being a man. That's about it.
"I've learned a lot (from Marshall)--leadership because he's a great person on and off the field. He's gotten better as an overall player. And we all just come together and we learn from each other, teaching each other. So far, Nick's had a good spring."
The Tigers have lot of experienced players coming back at the wide receiver positions with Sammie Coates, Ricardo Louis and Quan Bray returning, among others, which Johnson said is great as he continues developing relationships with those players
"We've got more depth, and we've got a lot of experience coming back," he said. "I've got a lot of confidence in those guys and they've got a lot of confidence in me. We're still learning each other, and we're still trying to get on the same page."
Johnson throws a pass during spring drills.
Johnson has been impressed with newcomer D'haquille Williams, whose play-making ability has turned heads during spring practice. "Duke is a great receiver," Johnson said. "All you've got to do is just give him a chance and he can make a lot of plays. He's physical enough, and he's got strong hands and a big body. He's a phenomenal player."
One area that Johnson has been working extremely hard on this spring is the zone read, which was the bread-and-butter of the Tigers' running game last season with Marshall under center.
"Really, I do it before practice, after practice, sometimes I have to go down the whole field and do it, and I'm getting better every day," the quarterback said. "I'm practicing on carrying out my fake, and I've gotten good at it."
The sophomore's performance during spring practice has caught the attention of Head Coach Gus Malzahn, who noted that Johnson is doing a "solid job."
"He's right there with Nick, and Coach Lashlee has done a good job of kind of mixing and matching--putting Jeremy in the first group, too," Malzahn said. "He's a very confident young man and he's continuing to work hard. I've been very proud of him and his approach. He's a competitor."