AUBURN, Ala. -- The biggest issue one needs to understand when it comes to starting Jeremy Johnson Saturday is that it’s not about Western Carolina.
Johnson will start his first college game against WCU/Todd Van Emst photo
It’s about Texas A&M, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.
Nick Marshall’s knee injury is likely to be an issue through the rest of the season. He may be able to start next weekend against Texas A&M and play the rest of the way, but he may not.
And if he can’t, Auburn’s coaches must have a plan that gives their team the best chance to win in those big SEC games.
And that’s Johnson.
It was Johnson that dueled Marshall for the starting job the final week of fall camp. Even though Jonathan Wallace was named the No. 2 quarterback before the first game, Johnson was always the long-term solution if Marshall was injured.
If Marshall had remained healthy and continued play at a high level, Johnson likely would have redshirted. But that didn’t happen.
And now it’s Johnson who will start and play in his first-career game at Jordan-Hare Stadium later today.
What do we know about Johnson?
We know he’s got all the tools. Johnson became Auburn’s most talented quarterback when he stepped on campus this spring. There’s much more to playing quarterback than physical skills but Johnson can make all the throws and has the look of a future NFL player.
We know he’s a winner. He led one of the state of Alabama’s top Class 6A football teams for the previous two seasons. He helped Carver High School to the 6A basketball championship as a junior. You don’t show up on campus as a true freshman and come close to winning the starting job if you’re not a fierce competitor
We know he can handle the spotlight. Granted, he’ll step on a bigger stage today and the pressure will only increase against SEC teams, but Johnson showed last year, just down the road at Duck Samford Stadium, that he could excel during a big game on national T.V. when he led Carver to a blowout win over Auburn High School.
What we don’t know is what role Johnson will play going forward. That will depend on Marshall’s health and how Johnson performs on the field.
I would say it’s likely, as long as Johnson plays well, that he’ll have some role with the offense the rest of the season.
Giving him the start today and the experience of playing against an FCS opponent like Western Carolina, should serve to give Johnson the confidence and experience he needs moving forward.
And moving forward means games against some of Auburn’s toughest opponents and most heated SEC rivals. Today is not about Western Carolina, it’s about preparing for the second half of the season.
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