Auburn, Ala.--With just two starts under his belt junior Jeremy Johnson enters the 2015 season an unknown to some, but for the Auburn coaches they know exactly what they’ve got in the Montgomery native.
Working for two years in Gus Malzahn’s system under the guidance of position coach Rhett Lashlee, Johnson knows the offense extremely well. That’s a comforting thought heading into Saturday’s season opener against Louisville, Malzahn said, because it means they are on the same page as far as calling plays and that’s an important part of the process.
“I think that’s big because a lot of times it’s not what a coach knows or yeah, this is there, it’s what a player feels comfortable with and what he is comfortable doing,” Malzahn said. “Now he can do a lot of different things, but it’s good that he knows our offense good enough, he knows our personnel around him good enough that he can have ownership in the game plans. That’s probably the biggest difference from a guy that maybe is a first-year starter.”
It’s something that Lashlee said he’s seen Johnson take ownership of since he took over the job in the spring. Becoming more vocal on the field was just one of the parts of that leadership role and Lashlee said having the ability to sit down and talk about the offense with him makes everything run smoother.
Lashlee, who is Johnson's position coach, said, “You would much rather have a quarterback say, 'Coach, this is what I like' than 'whatever.' You want to do what they feel good about. You're going to have the best chance to succeed when the guys feel good about something. We may have a play that we think is just great for a certain situation, and another play that is pretty good.
“As a coach, we may go with this is the best play for this situation, but 'hey, my guy feels really good about this one.' I'm going to go with the one he feels good about if I can because he's confident in it. Jeremy has the ability to tell us 'this is what I like. This is what I don't like. This is the way I'm more comfortable doing things.' Do we always do it his way? No, but as a coach, it's your job to try to put him in a position to be successful."
“I think the fact he's played is huge," Lashlee said. "This isn't his first season opener. It's maybe the first time he's been the 'guy.' There is still a lot of growing to do and experiences he hasn't experienced, but he's started the first game before, and at least that part is out of the way.”
Having a quarterback the Tigers can count on to talk about individual plays and sequences is big for the coaches, but for Johnson it’s something that gives him a great amount of confidence heading into his first season as the full-time starter. Knowing what he feels best about and what fits with his backs and receivers is something Johnson said he can relate to the coaches and make sure everyone is on the same page when the game kicks off.
“It feels great,” Johnson said. “You always want to run what your quarterback wants to run, what he likes. Coach always comes and asks me what I like and what I don't like. That's how we pretty much work around the game plan. Whatever I like, we get that timing down with the receivers and the line and the running backs. Being in the system for two years and just watching, I feel pretty good about where we're at.”
Auburn will face Louisville in Saturday’s season opener at 2:30 CDT in the Georgia Dome. The game can be seen nationally on CBS.