Announcing earlier in preseason camp that returning starter Nick Marshall would not start vs. the Razorbacks due to a discipline issue, neither Malzahn nor offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has yet named sophomore Jeremy Johnson as the guy to get the starting nod. That might be a difficult thing to handle for a player in just his second season, but Johnson said for him it doesn’t change anything about the way he approaches things.
“If he calls upon me to start the first game, I'm very confident and I know team's confidence in me and I know they have my back so if I'm called upon I'll be ready," he said.
“I still approach practice every day as a starter,” he added. “I'm getting reps with both orange and blue, first team and second team. If I'm called upon to start the first game, I'll be ready.”
Being ready for Johnson means continuing to improve on several parts of his game, including the short passing attack and the zone read in the running game. Just getting his feet wet as a true freshman last fall, Johnson played in six games with one start and completed 70.7 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and two interceptions.
While his natural skills are important to continue developing, Johnson said just as big for him was taking on a more vocal role in practice, something very new to him
“I feel better,” he said of being a leader. “It's just something I never was really doing growing up, being vocal. I just lead by showing an example. Being vocal helps the team a lot because people are kinda dragging through practice and they hear the quarterback's voice. They start picking it up. That's really what I've been working on.”
No matter what happens in the opener there is no doubt in Johnson’s mind who the No. 1 quarterback is for the Tigers in 2014. A dynamic player and one of the leaders for Auburn this season, Marshall has continued to develop his skills and his backup said there are big things ahead.
“He led us to the national championship (game) and we were 13 seconds away,” Johnson said. “And this year he got better at passing, better at running, better at making reads. He’s become a leader on this team and I’ve never seen him so amped at practice every day the way he is, the way he comes out so I know for a fact he’ll win the Heisman.”