Auburn, Ala.--Junior quarterback Jeremy Johnson showed why he is expected to be the man directing the offense this fall as he hit 14-22 passes for 252 yards and two scores in Auburn’s annual A-Day spring football game.
With a crowd liberally estimated at 62,143 watching the action at Jordan-Hare Stadium, the junior just played in the first half of the game that featured 12-minute quarters in the opening two periods. There were a total of 97 plays in the scrimmage with 68 in the first half. The second period featured extended playing time for backups and walk-ons.
Roc Thomas scored two touchdowns, one for each team, and had an impressive day running the football with four carries for 62 yards and an exciting 36-yard touchdown run with the first team for the day’s opening score. He carried the ball three times for eight yards and a three-yard TD run with the second offense.
Johnson’s team, which included the one offense and one defense, won the game 24-14 although there was a lot of mixing on both teams. Auburn’s head coach, Gus Malzahn, said he liked what he saw.
“Looking at the scrimmage I thought our guys played extremely hard on both sides of the ball,” Malzahn said. “We played everybody trying to mix and match. The effort was good, the attitude was good. That was kind of our message throughout spring.
“We came out of this spring with no major injuries,” Malzahn said. “That is always a very positive thing from a head coach’s standpoint after a spring game going into the fall. Overall, I like where we are at. I thought it was a very successful day.”
The head coach said that he expects all of the players who missed practice time in the spring due to injuries to be ready to play this fall.
Malzahn noted the Tigers will have a light workout on Monday to finish their 15 spring practice dates. The session will be focused on correcting mistakes the coaches notice from grading the video of the A-Day game, which was the third major scrimmage of the spring.
Commenting on Johnson’s play, Malzahn said, “I thought Jeremy did some good things. He has real good command of our offense. He probably held the ball too long on a couple of plays, but overall I thought he did a good job.”
Jeremy Johnson connects on a deep pass to Ricardo Louis.
Asked his take on the defense, Malzahn said, “They are flying around. They are playing hard. What is this, this lowest scoring spring game we have had? There were so many punts (11) so I thought they did some really good things.”
Malzahn said he appreciated the good turnout of fans despite a less than good weather forecast. The Tigers caught a break and were able to play the contest without any rain.
“I know our players and coaches really appreciate that,” Malzahn said of the turnout.
Thomas, a true sophomore, said he believes there is a tight battle to be the starting running back with Jovon Robinson and Peyton Barber in the competition. Barber finished with nine carries for 47 yards. Robinson ran the ball four times for 11 yards.
Asked about how spring practice went for him, Thomas said, “I think I made a lot of progress. I feel more comfortable in the offense, just being more patient and more comfortable--just getting back there just knowing I can do what I can do.”
Tray Matthews was named the A-Day MVP on defense. He had an interception plus three solo tackles and two assists. Michael Sherwood, a walk-on cornerback, had six solo tackles and one assist while senior linebacker Kenny Flowers made five solos with two assists. Redshirt freshman safety Markell Boston finished with four solo tackles and three assists.
Daniel Carlson, who made a 50-yard field goal with room to spare, was the special teams MVP.
No. 2 quarterback Sean White hit 15-19 passes for 109 yards in the first half. In the second half he and Johnson sat out. In that period Tyler Queen was 4-6 for 57 yards and a 20-yard TD pass to walk-on Jimmie Stoudemire, who had two catches for 55 yards.
Queen, an early high school graduate, ran the ball four times for 28 yards. Walk-on QB Tucker Tuberville ran three times for 24 yards and completed one pass.
In other news and notes:
*Robert Leff, who has won praise for his coaches with his play this spring, started at left tackle in place of Shon Coleman, who was on the sidelines but not uniform. Malzahn said that Coleman suffered a minor injury in practice this week and was held out. The coach said if it was a real game week that Coleman, the returning starter, could have played.
*Running back Cameron Artis-Payne was honored with the Shug Jordan Award, which is presented each A-Day to the team's top senior from the previous season.
*Cornerback Jonathan Jones received the Zeke Smith Award as the top defensive player from 2014. The rising senior had surgery on his foot this week after being sidelined during spring drills. AU’s coaches are hoping to have him back in action to start the 2015 season vs. Louisville.
*Safety Johnathan Ford received the Mike Kolen Award, which goes to the team's leading tackler.
*All-American center Reese Dismukes was honored with the Ken Rice Award as the top blocker, an award he also won after the 2013 season. He is the first back-to-back winner since Tyronne Green in 2007 and 2008.