Auburn, Ala.--Named Auburn’s starting quarterback following spring practice, junior Jeremy Johnson is excited about his opportunity to lead the Tigers in 2015. After sitting behind Nick Marshall the last two seasons with two starts under his belt, Johnson’s time to shine is now and he is not taking anything for granted.
“It was a humbling experience,” Johnson said of his first two years on the Plains. “I cherish that moment when I was able to start the first game. I enjoyed every moment of it. Sitting back as the backup was a great experience for me. It just made me just learn. I feel very comfortable about going into this year.”
Putting up big numbers in his six quarters as a starter, Johnson has shown the ability to throw the ball down the field with precision while also making good decisions. That experience has helped shape his development as a player, but Coach Gus Malzahn said it also makes the rest of the team have immediate confidence in what he can do now that the job is his.
“I think Jeremy is in a good spot because of the fact that he’s been a backup for two years,” Malzahn said. “He got a chance to experience a lot of different things. He also has started two games and has played extremely well. He is in a good spot. His teammates believe in him. This will be his team.”
While his talent has never been in question, Johnson’s quiet demeanor has made it a challenge at times to take on the leadership role necessary to play the quarterback position. It’s something he said he is working on daily and he contends that part of his game is much better than it’s ever been.
“I have really worked on being a more vocal leader,” Johnson said. “I really just try to lead by example, but this summer, I was a more vocal leader.
“I know my teammates are looking at me when things go good and bad. I've got to handle myself the right way.”
Handling adversity is one of the main points of emphasis for a quarterback, but in Auburn’s offense it’s just one of the things on Johnson’s plate. Called on to not only throw the football, but also use his legs to make plays for the Tigers, the talented Johnson is someone that can handle everything said Malzahn.
“We recruited him specifically for this offense,” Malzahn said of Johnson. “He has been kind of the No. 2 guy the last two years, but he has also got two starts, one SEC start to open up the year. He has performed extremely well in those. He has got everything it takes, I believe, to be a very successful quarterback. He is in a very good spot. We have got the chance to run the entire offense.”
While Johnson won’t take the bait when people try to compare or contrast his game to Marshall or Cam Newton, he is very comfortable when and if he is called on to run the ball this season for the Tigers. Even though he is prolific out of the pocket as a passer, Malzahn said the former two-sport standout at Carver High in Montgomery can get the job done on the ground as well.
“I think they will be very impressed,” Malzahn said of Johnson’s running ability. “You’re talking about a guy that we didn’t ask to run because we had Nick, but he’s a very good runner in his own right. He is a big guy and he can really run, North-South he can really get it done. We’ll take what the defense gives us and he will run it when he has to run it and throw it when he has to throw it. The good thing is that we have confidence he can make all the throws.”
Confidence is the key for Johnson as he prepares to take the reins this season. Capable of being a dynamic quarterback that puts up big numbers, he said for him the key isn’t in the numbers, but in the end it’s about winning games. With his name already being mentioned among the elite players in the country, Johnson noted for him that is not even a concern.
“I'm not caught up in all of the right now,” he said. “I can only control what I can control, and that's getting better each and every game, and let all the individual accolades come with winning.”
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