Did Malzahn Make a Mistake Pulling the Redshirt off Johnson?
Not much has gone wrong for Gus Malzahn this season. That might change after Saturday. Stepping in for the injured Nick Marshall, freshman Jeremy Johnson showed why he was one of the top recruited quarterbacks in the land against Western Carolina.
With the meat of the SEC schedule starting Saturday at Texas A&M, Johnson may quickly become the most popular player on the team. You know, they say that about backup quarterbacks.
Johnson played so well against the overmatched Catamounts that Malzahn had to reiterate three times during his post-game press conference that there would be no quarterback controversy.
“I want to make this clear,” Malzahn said. “Nick Marshall is our starting quarterback. When Nick is 100 percent, he will be back. We feel very good about Jeremy and it was great to get him some in-game experience.”
The Montgomery native completed 17 of 21 passes for 201 yards and four touchdowns in a little more than two quarters of play Saturday.
Despite the showing, Marshall is still clearly the better option for Auburn. But should things go south Saturday at College Station or later in the season at Knoxville or Fayetteville, will there be a temptation to make a change at quarterback knowing you’ve got another viable option sitting there?
Will Auburn fans start to howl for Johnson if Marshall struggles even for a half?
That’s the danger Malzahn has opened himself up to by removing the redshirt off the heralded freshman. Many have been critical this week of that decision, arguing that Jonathan Wallace was more than ample to beat a very bad Western Carolina team.
With Auburn’s quarterback of the future starting his career now, what does Malzahn have in store for Johnson going forward? Talk to five people and you’ll hear that many theories.
Despite being given every indication by Malzahn that Marshall will be ready to go this week, some have speculated that he may not be and that’s why Auburn was quick to burn the redshirt.
Others suggest that Malzahn wants to get Johnson involved in the offense now, taking a cue from Urban Meyer and how he handled Tim Tebow with Chris Leak as the starter for the Gators.
The only problem with that move is that Marshall has another year of eligibility. Might Malzahn open the race up again in the spring? It sounds far-fetched, but you have to wonder why he would burn a year just to beat a bad football team.
There has to be more to the story. Count me among those who are scratching their heads a little today.
At this point, you have to trust Malzahn. He’s arguably doing the best coaching job in the SEC and maybe the country. You can bet he’s put more thought into it than the rest of us. We may not understand it completely, but we also don’t watch practice every day.
Time will tell whether the move was good or bad. One thing’s for certain, we’ll know quickly. The SEC schedule is coming fast and furious from this point forward. I suppose two quarterbacks are better than one – or none.
Let’s not forget last year.