In just three games, Jeremy Johnson went on a roller coaster ride as Auburn’s starting quarterback. Johnson was considered a Heisman candidate in the preseason, but his three interceptions against Louisville quieted that talk.
There was hope among Auburn’s coaching staff that Johnson would improve, but he didn’t, and coach Gus Malzahn announced Tuesday that Johnson would be benched in favor of redshirt freshman Sean White.
Just like that, Johnson’s ride appears to be over.
He could not find a consistent rhythm in the offense, and as the turnovers piled up you could see his confidence deteriorating.
“No doubt,” Gus Malzahn said Wednesday when asked if Johnson’s confidence played a factor in his benching. “I think it was a little bit of a lot of things. We felt like it was time to make a change.”
Johnson’s stat line outside of his six interceptions does not look terrible, completing just under 60 percent of his passes for 473 yards and five touchdowns while adding two rushing scores. But you could feel him losing the grip on the starting job with each underthrown ball and each bad read.
Fans and media members began to wonder if a change was needed, and it finally came on Tuesday.
The fact that Malzahn chose to make the change to White, who has yet to take a snap for Auburn, ahead of a critical game against Mississippi State may indicate that Johnson was not improving quickly enough.
On Wednesday, Malzahn said that Johnson is now taking reps in practice with the second team and that he supports White as the new starter.
Still, it has to be difficult for Johnson to absorb what has happened given the expectations of this team and his personal journey. Johnson waited behind Nick Marshall for two years to be the full-time starter, won the job in the spring and it lasted just a few games.
“I expect (Jeremy) to keep working hard,” Malzahn said. “He’s got a lot of champion in him.”
Unfortunately, that never materialized for the Tigers on the field.
For the time being, Johnson will be watching the games from the sidelines — the same place he waited two years for a chance that now seems to be gone.