Head coach Gus Malzahn announced on Twitter Friday evening that starter Nick Marshall is not fully recovered from a knee injury sustained against Mississippi. So he’s turning to Johnson to face struggling Football Conference Subdivision team Western Carolina on Saturday.
Johnson hasn’t played this season, but Malzahn posted on Twitter that the Tigers “have a lot of confidence in him and he is well prepared.”
Next up for Auburn (4-1) is a visit to No. 9 Texas A&M.
Auburn’s passing game has been inconsistent but Marshall, a junior college transfer, rushed for 140 yards against the Rebels despite being limited late in the game after hurting the knee.
Johnson was Alabama’s Mr. Football last season and a highly rated prospect. He got the nod over Jonathan Wallace, who started the final four games last season.
As a team, Auburn defensive tackle Gabe Wright said last season keeps games like this in perspective for Auburn.
“Coming off a 3-9 season, there’s not much you can do but work on yourself so worrying about the opponent, that’s one of the least things we’ve been worrying about all year,” Wright said. “We’re going to treat this next opponent as a chance to build ourselves.”
Western Carolina (1-5) hasn’t beaten an FCS or FBS team since defeating The Citadel in 2010, a span of 31 games, three years and 10 days as of Saturday.
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Auburn isn’t to the point where it can spend a big portion of the week prepping for the Aggies.
“I think there’s a lot of different philosophies,” Lahslee said. “Some people want to spend the week and just work on the next opponent and some people don’t. We’re more of the mind-set that we want to keep things consistent for our guys.”