AUBURN, Ala. Jeremy Johnson takes umbrage when people pigeonhole him as a pocket passer.
He may not have had to show off his feet too often last season as Auburns backup quarterback. If called upon to run the Tigers zone-read scheme, he said it would be right in his wheelhouse.
It wasn't anything I never did, said Johnson, a rising sophomore. It's just the simple fact (of improving) with my footwork and how to do it and the right read.
He also doesnt like when people question his speed. At 6-foot-5 and 223 pounds, he may not look the part of a speedster. But hell take yards any way he can get them.
"I can run outside, he said. My velocity is just running downhill and getting yards."
For those who still doubt his speed, one just needs to ask a player whos had to try to take him down.
Hes way faster than you would think, senior safety Jermaine Whitehead said. Hes way smarter with the zone-read because he knows how to get to the edge. He uses his body, his length, to his advantage. He steps around a lot of guys; Ive seen him make some steps around our D-ends that were pretty spectacular.
Johnsons size makes the proposition of tackling him one-on-one even more difficult. Thinking back to last season, one opposing signal-caller reminded Whitehead of Johnson: Mississippi States Dak Prescott. He gives up two inches to Johnson standing 6-foot-3 but packs an extra seven pounds, weighing in at 230.
Regardless, Whitehead said a defender has to try to take both down the same way.
You get a chance to hit him, youre going to hit him in the midsection and try to take everything out of him for the next play, he said. You hit quarterbacks to stop them from being mobile and playing the next play.
Still, for all the talk of Johnsons running ability this spring, its his arm that is the proven commodity. He made the most of his limited opportunities last season, as he finished with 422 passing yards and six touchdowns while completing 70.7 percent (29-for-41) of his attempts.
Johnson doesnt give those numbers a second thought now.
We can't settle for complacency, he said. We preach every day about executing and that's all we're focused on as quarterbacks and receivers. It's execution and just doing it consistently and not just on and off.
In the practices Gus Malzahn has seen thus far, Johnson has done exactly that.
Hes got really good command of the offense, Auburns coach said. He can really do the checks and everything were asking him to do. Jeremy has had a great attitude. Hes approaching every practice trying to get better. (Offensive coordinator) Coach (Rhett) Lashlee has been pleased with him.
The same goes for the Tigers pass-catchers even if Johnsons arm strength, at times, does them no favors.
He's very good. A hundred miles per hour fastball, that's all he knows, sophomore receiver Tony Stevens said. He's been good, though. I can see he's transformed from last year. He knows how to read the coverage now, and knows where to throw it at, so he's gotten very good."
Johnson believes hes far from a finished product. Listed as a sophomore on the teams official roster, he still refers to himself as a freshman. And he readily admits, its easy to get distracted by other non-football aspects of college life.
Dont mistake his candidness as a referendum on his self-confidence. Forget that hes No. 2 on the depth chart.
He doesnt view himself as such.
I've gotten better mentally (and) physically and that comes with Coach Lashlee getting me prepared every day, Johnson said. I'm just approaching it like I'm the starter.