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Auburn coach Gus Malzahn opens door for Jeremy Johnson comeback at quarterback

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

AP

Auburn is adding intrigue to its bye week by opening up competition at quarterback with Sean White and Jeremy Johnson.

The Tigers turned to White the past two weeks, but the coaching staff has maintained they are taking a week-by-week approach at the position.

On Tuesday night, coach Gus Malzahn went a step further.

“Right now this week, we decided all positions have opened up with competition,” Malzahn said. “We really think that’s good, especially in an off week. We’re just letting them play.”

White’s steadied the offense in his first start against Mississippi State, but failed to get the ball into the end zone. Auburn managed to put together four lengthy drives in the loss, a stat the coaching staff pointed to as progress.

Last week against San Jose State, the Tigers relied heavily on their ground game in a 35-21 win. White attempted only 10 passes, two in the second half, and made few throws down field.

White is 26 of 38 for 296 yards with an interception in first two career starts. He has run the ball 15 times for 47 yards.

“Sean has done, in the two games he's played, a very nice job,” Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. “I think he's protecting the ball well through the air for the most part, he's making good decisions, he's making accurate throws and I think our guys are responding to him.”

Quarterback Jeremy Johnson moved to a backup role the past two weeks, and earned praise from both Malzahn and Lashlee with the way the junior handled the demotion.

“He's very engaged,” Lashlee said. “He reps everything Sean does every week and he's ready to play.”

When Malzahn discussed his decision to go with White two weeks ago, the coaching staff was worried about Johnson’s confidence level.

Johnson’s three starts culminated in a disastrous performance against LSU. He scored three touchdowns, but threw his sixth interception of the season, was sacked five times and looked rattled in front of a hostile sold-out crowd on the road.

Malzahn said the time on the bench has helped Johnson reestablish his confidence.

“He looks more comfortable and like I said, he had two good weeks of practice, so hopefully that will be a good thing for the rest of the year,” Malzahn said.

Auburn doesn’t play until Oct. 15 when it heads north to take on Kentucky. Malzahn didn’t offer any timeline for a decision on which quarterback will get the start. The player who proves himself will be under center in Lexington.

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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