Can Auburn win with Jeremy Johnson at quarterback?
Jeremy Johnson entered the season as a Heisman candidate. Cam Newton was a popular comparison for the junior quarterback.
After two games Johnson is not a Heisman candidate, he is not Cam Newton and his play over the first two games dictates that he should not be Auburn’s starting quarterback.
During Auburn’s upset scare against Jacksonville State on Saturday, Johnson became the first SEC quarterback since 2009 to throw five interceptions in his first two games of the season, according to ESPN.
The problem is not that Johnson is throwing interceptions, but that he is throwing the ball directly to the opposing team. Johnson’s two picks on Saturday were so bad that SEC Network analyst Matt Stinchcomb wondered aloud if Johnson could even see during the game.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn cannot be happy with his quarterback, but he is not making that known publicly.
“I need to help Jeremy too,” Malzahn told reporters. “But at the end of the game when we needed him, he made plays to help us win.”
By help he meant put Johnson in situations to succeed. For the majority of the game Malzahn called short passes that didn’t force Johnson to make difficult reads. He still ended up with two interceptions.
To Johnson’s credit he made a nice throw on a 51-yard touchdown pass to Roc Thomas in the third quarter, and another on the game-tying touchdown to Melvin Ray with 39 seconds left in the game.
Johnson got chances to redeem himself, but if he is struggling to execute against an FCS team can you expect him to significantly improve against an SEC team?
It is not likely, but Johnson will definitely be under center again for Auburn next Saturday against LSU. That is only because Auburn does not have better options.
The backup is redshirt freshman Sean White, who has never played, and the third string quarterback Tyler Queen is out after getting surgery on his elbow.
Asked if he considered making a change during Saturday’s game Gus Malzahn said about Johnson, “He’s our quarterback.”
Unfortunately, he’s just not a very good one. If Malzahn had other viable options Johnson would probably be on the bench.
Auburn's Jeremy Johnson is the first SEC QB to throw 5 INT in first 2 games since 2009. pic.twitter.com/GmhdH7ffhP
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) September 12, 2015