AU Coaches Still Determining Backup QB's Role

Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson are both in the quarterback plans for the Auburn Tigers heading into the 2014 football season.

Auburn, Ala.--With less than two weeks until the Auburn Tigers take the field against Arkansas, the quarterback depth chart is taking shape with Sean White being named the number three quarterback on Saturday by Coach Gus Malzahn. While neither Malzahn nor Rhett Lashlee is willing to go ahead and name Jeremy Johnson as the starter against the Razorbacks with Nick Marshall not starting following his summer citation for marijuana, the plan will take shape this week, Lashlee said.

“Talking to Coach I think probably here in the next couple of days we’ll go ahead and decide how we want to handle that,” Lashlee said about reps between Johnson and returning starter Nick Marshall. “We have not made a decision yet, both those guys have repped and had a good fall camp so I think probably pretty soon, at least internally, we’ll know how we’re going to handle it and then coach will address that when he’s ready and we’ll have a good plan.”

Even though he won’t get the first snap against Arkansas, Marshall has continued to prepare to be the man for the Tigers this season. That has included a strong preseason camp, both on and off the Tigers. Showing strong leadership and an improved knowledge of the offense and passing techniques, Marshall’s development hasn’t gone unnoticed said Lashlee.

“We all go through things in life, we face adversity, it’s how you handle it is what matters," said Lashlee, Auburn's offensive coordinator and quarterback coach.

“You can’t do anything about it," he added. "I think he’s handled it extremely well to this point. I fully expect him to continue to do that. That’s what he’s going to have to do--he’s going to have to handle himself well. I’ve been really proud of him. I think what his teammates say should probably speak volumes of kind of how he’s handled everything.”

The plan for Auburn has always been to incorporate Johnson into the mix each week going back to spring training. That was the case last season as well when he played in six games for the Tigers, including one start when Marshall was injured. A player who has also improved every part of his game and is now more confident in his role in the offense, Johnson is expected to be a bigger part of the 2014 offense and not just in the season opener.

Jeremy Johnson has worked hard to improve his running skills since last season.

Last season it was in the plans for Johnson to play more extensively, but Lashlee noted that sometimes the flow of the game dictates how much and when you can incorporate another quarterback into the mix. That was the case last season on the road at Texas A&M.

“We weren’t quite sure if Nick was going to be able to go,” Lashlee said. “Nick didn’t practice until Thursday. Jeremy got all the reps so we kind of already had made a commitment when we knew Nick was going to be able to give it a go, well Jeremy’s going to take these plays just because Nick didn’t get to rep them and it was still only like game six for Nick. Well you get in the game, and Nick’s playing really well, and we’re trying to force feed some things and it’s really tough on both guys.

“The guy who’s in the game, you’re taking him out of rhythm, and then the guy running in the game to run a play or two. I think you’ve got to take that into consideration: try to put him in a position that he can be successful, even if he’s only in for a little bit. But we’ll see. It’s week-to-week. We have no preconceived plan that this is exactly what’s going to happen. It’s a game-plan deal based on our opponent and kind of what we think will help us win.”

While Johnson is expected to be part of the offense, there is no question that Marshall is the man for the Tigers moving forward. Expected to be one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC and with the natural ability to put up big numbers this year, Lashlee is ready to see what’s in store this season from Marshall.

“He's been very sharp,” the coach said. “I think that just comes with reps. He worked very hard over the summer. He just knows his guys. Even the guys who are second team he's repped with a lot the last year and a half.

"Our passing game, at least in practice, has developed the way you'd hope it would when guys get more and more time together," Lashlee added. "Now, it's just the matter of doing it when it matters on game day.”

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