Leadership is one of the biggest attributes that separates good and great players at the position, something Coach Gus Malzahn said he has seen more of out of his junior since taking the reins after last season.
“He started doing that towards the end of spring,” Malzahn said of Johnson taking on the leadership role. “He's one of our leaders. He's one of our team leaders. He's got to lead us in the right way and we've got a lot of confidence in him right now.”
That confidence comes from two years of watching Johnson in practice and in game opportunities. Included in that are a pair of starts under his belt with the most impressive coming in the 2014 season opener against Arkansas.
Playing just a half against the Razorbacks while Nick Marshall served a suspension, Johnson was nearly flawless as he completed 12-16 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. That performance reinforced his teammates' beliefs in his ability, but it was how he worked the rest of the year that Avery Young said showed the Tigers that Johnson is a team-first football player.
“When he first got here he was just a regular freshman, to me anyway,” Young said. “You’ve got to earn your stripes when you try to lead and things like that. Playing behind Nick Marshall, knowing he had the ability to play and start, but he took his role like a man. His time has come and he took it well.”
Named the starter following spring practice this year, Johnson immediately set out to become a more vocal presence for the Tigers in the locker room and on the field. Not a natural rah rah guy, Johnson has worked on that part of his job as the leader and wide receiver Melvin Ray said it’s amazing how far he’s come in a short time.
“He went from basically being my little brother when he got here to now I follow his lead, because he has taken over that role,” Ray said. “Since the summer workouts and everything, I’ve seen him take over the team as a whole--offense, defense, just being a leader, regardless of everything he does.
“He’s still very humble, very quiet, but vocally he takes over,” the senior receiver added. “He’s not shy at all. He doesn’t shy away from taking that role, whether he’s a defensive guy or offensive guy, he takes over when it’s time to do that.”
To order the 2015 Inside the Auburn Tigers Football Guide, use the link below or call (334) 887-7100 or 1-800-234-1716.