Why Auburn had to make a QB change

Kevin Connaghan explains why Auburn had no choice but to start Sean White over Jeremy Johnson.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Why Auburn had to make a QB change

It came as no surprise when Auburn decided to bench quarterback Jeremy Johnson and name redshirt freshman Sean White their new starting quarterback ahead of the Mississippi State game this week. Sean White was a prize recruit in Auburns 2014 class, but this promotion has more to do with Johnson’s struggles than White’s talent.

Much was expected from Johnson ahead of this season, and some observers even made comparisons to former Tigers QB Cam Newton. That excitement was partly fuelled by Johnson’s performance when he opened the 2014 season against Arkansas, when starter Nick Marshall was suspended for the first half. Johnson passed for 243 yards and two touchdowns in that half, with an impressive 81.3 accuracy percentage. He was limited to backup duties for the rest of the season, but a seamless transition from Marshall to Johnson was expected. That never materialized.

This season Johnson has thrown for 474 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions through three games, with his accuracy percentage slipping to 63.8. The Auburn passing attack has been more reliant on receivers making plays after the catch, with 50.8 percent of the passing yards coming after the catch, compared to 40.7 percent in 2014.

Johnson graded negatively in all three of his starts this season, including an atrocious -6.7 versus LSU. Among Power 5 QBs, only Michigan’s Jake Rudock has graded worse through three games.

In that sense, it’s fair to wonder whether there’s nowhere to go but up for the Auburn offense. We don’t have any data on which to evaluate White, but even average quarterback play will be an upgrade over what the Tigers have had the first three games.

| Analyst

Kevin has been an analyst at Pro Football Focus since 2014, with a particular focus on college football.

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