The transfer portal loss of Ja'Varrius Johnson represents the "official pass of the baton" from the last Auburn football era of receivers to the current one under Hugh Freeze -- this, at least, according to AL.com's Matt Cohen.
"Be it bad quarterback play or a group of wide receivers that weren’t doing their end of the deal, this was time for a reset," Cohen prefaced before saying, "Johnson’s impending transfer is just the official pass of the baton. The answer for wide receiver improvement wasn’t on Auburn’s roster in 2023. So it took bringing in new faces. "
Johnson was a 2019 commit who didn't see action until the 2021 season. Unfortunately, though, the past three years of Tigers receiving has been defined by the steep drop-off from the 2020 season when Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz were starring on the Plains.
Hugh Freeze wants a 1,000-yard receiver for Auburn football
Back on August 17, Freeze made it clear what one of his major goals was for his tenure leading Auburn: coaching at least one 1,000-yard receiver, which would be the first in the 21st century.
“Yeah, we desperately have got to get to that point,” Freeze said of Auburn having a 1,000-yard receiver. “I mean, I don’t know the last time Auburn had a 1,000-yard receiver. I don’t. It’s been over a decade, I think. That’s shocking to me. I’ve had very few years where I didn’t have one who was at least close to 1,000, if not over 1,000.”
Johnson was the top wideout for the Tigers in 2023 and was No. 2 in receiving yards behind tight end Rivaldo Fairweather, Payton Thorne's favorite target. But even still, he had under 35% of the yardage needed to hit Freeze's lofty goal for his coaching stint on the Plains.