The most memorable moment of Jeremy Johnson’s junior year was an improbable backwards pass in Baton Rouge.
It was the beginning of the end for Johnson’s time at the top of the depth chart. The quarterback’s confidence vanished by the time Auburn headed home from the 45-21 loss at LSU.
Two days later coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee decided to make a change.
Johnson worked through what Lashlee calls a “storm” of adversity to earn back the coaching staff’s trust.
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The Montgomery native played the role of mentor for his replacement Sean White until an injury forced the freshman out of the lineup.
Johnson rotated in and out of the lineup, but closed out the season as one of the heroes of a 31-10 win over Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl.
“He had a lot of adversity,” Lashlee said Saturday night. “It was a rough year for him and others. But the very impressive thing a lot of times young men that age they transfer, they quit, they leave, they whatever. He pushed through it. You've got to be extremely proud of him for that.”
How much will Johnson’s disappointing overall performance last season factor into the Auburn’s current quarterback competition?
It’s a clean slate according to Lashlee.
“He's come out of the storm, and now it's about a fresh start, a new year and, to me, nothing from last year matters anymore for him or anyone else,” Lashlee said.
The battle between Johnson, White and junior college transfer John Franklin III heats up Sunday when Auburn gets back in full pads then have a live scrimmage early next week.
Lashlee is adamant that Johnson’s previous inconsistency won’t be held against him.
“There's no kind of past baggage that will factor in,” Lashlee said. “The best guy is going to play. I am proud he's pushed through that and been a great teammate and Auburn man and said I'm going to graduate from Auburn. I love Auburn. I want to help this team win in whatever capacity that is.”