Auburn people are confident that their new signal caller can throw. But can he run well enough to succeed in Malzahn's offense? Yes, and Jeremy Johnson is tired of you asking.
Johnson says he feels some people will be "surprised" by how well he runs. Maybe first time he's answered a Q with a bit of an edge.— Jerry Hinnen (@JerryHinnen) July 13, 2015
We know Johnson has the tools to run. He's listed on the roster at 6'5" 240. He reportedly ran the 40 in 4.5 last spring. That makes him as fast as Cameron Artis-Payne and significantly bigger. These numbers are almost identical to Cam when he committed who was 6'6", 247, and ran a 4.5 40 yard dash. (Note that Johnson is a different quarterback than Cam in terms of personality and tendencies but their measurables are strikingly similar.)
Fast and strong in shorts is one thing. Fast on the field is another. How well does Jeremy run? If we just wanted to look at JJ against college competition, this would be a very short article. Jeremy hasn't been asked to run much at Auburn. In his first two seasons, Jeremy has 11 carries for 40 yards (which includes a sack or two). But if we hop in the way back machine, we see that in high school Jeremy was a very good runner when he needed to be.
Here's a highlight reel of Jeremy facing off against the Baby Tigers of Auburn High back in 2012. Auburn High's defense was very good, highlighted that year by two five star linebackers, Reuben Foster and Rashaan Evans. They also had a three star safety Antreal Allen who is now playing with Georgia State. Here's how Johnson did.
Third and eight from the AHS 17. Johnson realizes that his options are covered.
This looks like a first and ten from around midfield. Carver calls a play out of Malzahn's playbook. Johnson does the rest.
Did that play look familiar? It should.
The play so nice, they ran it twice.
That night, Johnson had ten carries for 114 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 248 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
Here's Jeremy Johnson against Prattville scrambling on a bootleg.
In that run, Johnson looked like another Auburn legend, Tecmo Bowl Bo.
Here, Johnson eludes the defensive end and slips free into the space so wide open the Dixie Chicks wrote a song about it.
Prattville was so tired of Johnson bombing them through the air, they decided to rush three and play man underneath a three deep zone. Johnson recognized that Prattville was selling out and waited for the secondary to clear out before running.
Taking all the film of Johnson together a few things stand out. First, like Nick Marshall, he has amazing field vision. He knows how many players are rushing him and where he can slip out of the pocket. More importantly, he knows where the defenders are in the secondary. He keeps his eyes on them until he crosses the line of scrimmage. If they peel off their man to quickly, he pulls up and passes.
Second, he's both fast and quick. He has good lateral movement. His straight line speed is deceptive like former Arkansas great Matt Jones because he has ridiculously long strides. He doesn't have Nick Marshall's breakaway speed, but it's good enough for a quarterback at this level.
Third, unlike Nick and Cam, he's not a particularly physical runner. Like Onterio McCalebb, he knows where the sideline is and doesn't take a lot of unnecessary hits. This isn't a knock on him. He's going to make a lot more money down the road with his arm than his leg so there's not need to take needless risks.
Fourth, someone had better tell him how to carry a football properly or that thing is going to get knocked loose 2-3 times this year.
Yes, Jeremy Johnson can run. And yes, he's tired of answering questions about it. But the questions will persist until he slips free in the Louisville secondary on September 5.