5 reasons Jeremy Johnson should start at QB for Auburn in Birmingham Bowl


We’re less than two weeks away from the Birmingham Bowl and we’re still unsure how the quarterback situation will work itself out. Sean White has reportedly looked healthy in practice and could very well be named the starter against Memphis, but here’s five reasons why Jeremy Johnson should get the start at quarterback.

#1 He has the talent

Something nearly every Auburn fan has told themselves throughout the season, Jeremy Johnson has the talent. That’s why he was highly recruited and why we were told coming into this year that he had a chance to win the Heisman. The physical tools are all there, Johnson just has to put them all together in a game.

His biggest problem this year has been making good reads, or reads at all, at the line of scrimmage and after the snap. He’s had plenty of time through the season and over the holiday break to look at film and learn how to dissect coverages. Even though Gus Malzahn limited his throws in the Alabama game, he made much better reads than he did earlier in the year. Maybe with the added time off before the Memphis game Johnson can finally put it all together.

#2 It’s now or never

This might be the biggest and most obvious reason to start Johnson in the bowl game. There are already rumors that he might transfer after the season, even though Malzahn has denied those rumors. Regardless, if you aren’t going to give Johnson the keys to the offense now, then when? He’ll be a senior next year and will have to compete with White and incoming junior college transfer quarterback John Franklin III.

The coaches obviously saw something special in Johnson during the offseason, and even when he was used sparingly during his first two seasons we saw the talent Johnson possesses, so why not give him another chance in a somewhat meaningless bowl game? If you start Johnson and he does poorly, then you know for sure it’s time to move on. However, if he comes out and has his best game of the year then it could give him – and the Auburn fan base – confidence going into next season.

#3 The pressure is off

Yes, every Auburn fan would love to win the Birmingham Bowl, but no one – other than Alabama fans – are really going to care. Johnson can go out there and throw the ball around without all of the added pressure of trying to be perfect. Maybe if the coaching staff shows some confidence in him by letting him start, he’ll actually just go out there and play football.

#4 A good matchup

Memphis’ pass defense is ranked 115th in the nation giving up 269.3 yards a game through the air. That’s a pretty tasty matchup for any quarterback, and it could give Johnson the confidence he needs going forward.

Now just because they have a vulnerable pass defense doesn’t mean just any quarterback can throw all over them. A big reason they have given up so many pass yards is because they score a lot of points on offense, forcing opposing teams to throw the ball. That’s another reason why Johnson should start this game. Memphis is most likely going to put up a lot of points and the Tigers will need to move the ball through the air to keep up. Memphis’ rush defense is ranked 31st in the nation giving up 137.8 yards a game. You would expect them to load up the box to stop Auburn’s talented group of running backs, which should ease up the coverage allowing Johnson to make easy reads in one-on-one coverage.

#5 Open up the playbook

Once the coaches figured out things weren’t going well with Johnson early in the year they really closed up the playbook for both him and White. Now that the regular season is over and they’re playing a game that essentially doesn’t mean anything, the coaches can open the playbook back up. There is no reason to play conservatively in this game the way they have the past two months. It’s time to see what these quarterbacks can really do after a full season of games and practice.

Hopefully the coaching staff will come into the game with that kind of attitude and allow Johnson to try and exploit man coverage and use every bit of the playbook to be successful.