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Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson could face same tough choice as teammate Jonathan Wallace did two years ago

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson celebrates Auburn's 56-34 victory over Idaho in an NCAA football game, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, in Auburn, Ala.
Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson celebrates Auburn's 56-34 victory over Idaho in an NCAA football game, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, in Auburn, Ala. AP Photo

Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson’s wants his job back.

In a conversation with his former high school coach Bill Gresham Saturday night, Johnson expressed a desire to return to Auburn for his senior season and win the starting spot.

An unanswered question in that scenario is will Auburn’s coaching staff give him the chance?

With the way the Tigers’ 2016 recruiting class currently stands, they could have many as four quarterbacks ready to compete for the job in the spring.

While Auburn coaches aren’t allowed to talk about specific recruits before they sign a National Letter of Intent, the staff has declined to even generally talk about its plans for the position next year and how Johnson fits into them.  

Coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee might see Johnson’s experience as an asset and hope another spring can unlock the potential they saw in him last year.

Alternatively, they could decide they want a clean slate to give more reps to quarterbacks with more than one year of eligibility left.

Johnson could be faced with a choice to come back to Auburn solely as a backup or have the chance to start somewhere else.

It was the same situation Jonathan Wallace went through two years ago after starting four games as a freshman at quarterback for coach Gene Chizik. When the new coaching staff came in, he lost a competition for the starting job to Nick Marshall.

Wallace had a meeting with Lashlee to discuss his future between his sophomore and junior seasons.

The Central Alum didn’t want to transfer, but the coaching staff wanted to be up front about their plans and help Wallace if he wanted to seek an opportunity with a different school.

The meetings are commonplace in the offseason as coaches make decisions for the following year.

“We really want what’s best for all our players,” Lashlee said.

The jury's still out on what that will be for Johnson.

Before the end of the season, Wallace had no problem envisioning Johnson coming back as a leader for Auburn next year.

“He’s a fighter,” Wallace said.

Wallace was impressed with the way Johnson handled himself after losing his starting spot to Sean White and continuing to mentor the redshirt freshman.

The key for Johnson will be mentally turning the page on a disappointing 2015.

 “I was just telling Jeremy the other day, don’t let it (your struggles) define you,” Wallace said. ‘Whether you like it or not, you have to live with it. You have to prove that throughout practice into the next game, I’m not going to let a bad game define me. You have to push forward.”

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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