War Eagle Extra

Nick Marshall surprised Jeremy Johnson didn’t succeed as heir apparent at quarterback

Auburn quarterbacks Jeremy Johnson, left, and Nick Marshall walk off the field after a 41-38 loss to Texas A&M Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014 at Jordan Hare Stadium.
Auburn quarterbacks Jeremy Johnson, left, and Nick Marshall walk off the field after a 41-38 loss to Texas A&M Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014 at Jordan Hare Stadium. rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com

No one is more surprised at Jeremy Johnson’s lack of success than his predecessor.

Former Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall thought Johnson would thrive under center after spending two years as the program’s backup.

Marshall’s heir apparent lost his hold on the starting job three games into the 2015 season following a 1-2 start and seven turnovers.

“I ain’t going to say he took a step back, but a little bit,” Marshall said choosing his words carefully.

Marshall was in Auburn Sunday afternoon hosting a youth football camp at the Wire Road Sports Complex. The quarterback turned defensive back spent four hours working with campers, but took a short break to talk with the Ledger-Enquirer.

While Marshall hasn’t spoken with former Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee much since leaving the Plains, the two quarterbacks remain close.

“We still communicate very well, he’s still a nice guy,” Marshall said.

Without being in the locker room, Marshall was reluctant to assign blame for Johnson’s failures.

Marshall echoed what other former players have — most recently Cleveland Browns receiver Ricardo Louis — that Johnson’s early success contributed to the issues he had later in his career.

“I sat the Arkansas game that I got in trouble and he started the first half, he really jumped out to a fast start and ever since than they were looking at Jeremy like he was going to be that guy,” Marshall said.

Johnson was 12 of 16 for 243 yards with two touchdowns in the 45-21 win starting for Marshall, who was suspended for first half.

The former Alabama Mr. Football award winner also made an impression as a true freshman in a record-setting offensive performance against Western Carolina. Marshall missed the game with an injury, but Johnson made sure the offense didn’t skip a beat.

“I think the pressure was a lot,” Louis said last week. “It was all the pressure, and I don’t think he really knew how to handle the pressure and the adversity — the people who gave him a lot of backlash and hating on him for not being as great as they expected him to be.”

Marshall hopes Johnson gets a fresh start as he sets his sights on the NFL. After Auburn’s loss in the Sugar Bowl, Johnson said he’s looking forward to getting “coached up” preparing for the NFL draft.

“I’m looking forward to him making a big step to the league,” Marshall said.

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

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