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Lashlee: Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson 'starter right now,' evaluating everything

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

AP

Auburn is still standing behind starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson, but the coaches are leaving themselves some wiggle room.

Johnson struggled for the third straight week in a 45-21 loss to LSU. He threw another interception, and only managed 100 yards on 11 of 19 passing.

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee addressed the media Sunday night calling Johnson “our starter right now.”

“We spent the whole day doing that,” Lashlee said, of evaluating the offense. “We'll continue to spend the week evaluating everybody, everything, to do everything we can to put the best guys on the field to give us the best chance to win on Saturday.”

Lashlee didn’t shy away from criticizing the offense’s performance, striking a similar tone to coach Gus Malzahn’s post-game comments Saturday.

“We got whipped yesterday,” Lashlee said. “I think everybody could see that -- in all facets and all areas of the game. We got our tail kicked. That happens. Give them credit, they whipped us.”

With much of the negativity focused on Johnson, Lashlee admitted the problems go far behind the quarterback position. He said the “whole collective offense” needs to get better for the Tigers to get on a role.

“There’s 10 other guys on the field with him, and there’s a bunch of other guys on the sidelines and coaches, so we all have ownership in what happened yesterday and it’s on all of us to get it fixed—whatever that takes,” Lashlee said.

Lashlee likes some of the production Auburn has received from its running backs. On Saturday, he pointed to Kerryon Johnson and Roc Thomas as two guys that played well.

Kerryon Johnson had three catches in the first half for 17 yards, and carried the ball four times for 14 yards. Thomas received most of his touches in the fourth quarter. He caught a pair of passes for 36 yards, and had eight carries for 37 yards. Thomas is the team’s second leading receiver with 109 yards.

As Lashlee pointed out the positives, he made sure to add that the group still wasn’t consistently executing at a high level.

“If you’re looking statistically, we don’t look good in any area,” Lashlee said.

Auburn is ranked 113 out of 127 FBS teams in total offense. It’s in the bottom third in rushing offense (78), passing offense (112), scoring offense (T-88), first downs (73) and time of possession (110).

It’s a far cry from the offense that Tigers’ fans have grown accustomed to during Malzahn’s tenure.

“Hey, life, things happen where you get your tail kicked and there's one or two ways you go afterward: how are you going to respond?” Lashlee said. “That's our job this week as coaches: to get our guys ready to respond on Saturday and that's the only thing we can do something about right now.”

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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