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Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson plans on ‘coming back’ to win starting job

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson runs the ball in the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. (Zach Bland | Auburn Athletics)
Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson runs the ball in the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. (Zach Bland | Auburn Athletics)

Jeremy Johnson directly addressed his future in a postgame session with reporters after 31-10 win over Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl.

“Yeah, I’m coming back,” Johnson said.

It was the first time Johnson addressed speculation he would consider transferring in the offseason.

Auburn is bringing in a pair of quarterbacks as part of its 2016 recruiting class — junior college transfer John Franklin III and West Orange senior Woody Barrett — but Johnson dismissed concerns over facing another quarterback competition.

“What quarterbacks?” Johnson said. “I’m not worrying about that. All I can do is work on myself. I’m a competitor and I’m going to compete. I got faith in myself to be the starting quarterback.”

Johnson’s thoughts echoed what his high school coach Billy Gresham said earlier in the month.

Following Auburn’s regular season finale against Alabama, the Carver Montgomery coach had a conversation with his former player about his future plans.

“He’s willing to fight,” Gresham said. “He wants to see how it plays out in the spring and go from there. “

Johnson was regulated to a backup role Wednesday, but effectively deployed in key game situations.

On his first snap, he threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jason Smith in the third quarter. He scored again early in the fourth quarter on a read-option run play up through the middle of the offensive line.

The limited number of snaps wasn’t an issue for Johnson, who credited coach Gus Malzahn for laying out the game plan for him before kickoff.

“I have faith and trust in him,” Johnson said.

Malzahn’s relationship with Johnson goes back to when he started recruiting the quarterback in ninth grade. The coach called the quick hug they shared following the win “a special moment.”

Auburn’s third-year coach expressed confidence throughout the month of December Johnson would remain with the school.

Outside of backup offensive lineman Will Adams, who announced plans to play for Boise State in the fall, Malzahn expects everyone back.

Johnson is already thinking about the areas where he needs to improve for the spring.

“I want to study film and work on my fundamentals, being on balance when I throw and making better decisions,” Johnson said. “I got better at end of the year making better decisions because it was my first year. I feel like I improved in that area, but I’m going to keep improving in that area.”

Johnson said the challenges the offense faced this season will help them moving forward into 2016.

“We just have to work hard in the offseason, keep sticking together and handling adversity the way we did this year,” Johnson said.

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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