AUBURN — Gus Malzahn is not concerned his refusal to acknowledge the obvious — Jeremy Johnson will be Auburn's starting quarterback against Arkansas in less than nine days — is affecting the sophomore's psyche as he heads into the biggest game of his life.
The Auburn coach remains steadfast that Nick Marshall will not start as he serves a punishment for his July citation for possession of marijuana.
Yet Malzahn still refuses to name Johnson the starter, as if there is even a remote possibility of an alternative, and has no fear of any potential affects the lack of public backing might have on the sophomore's thought process.
"If I worried about anything about that, we'd have already done it, but we don't worry at all," Malzahn said Thursday. "We'll have a good plan. Our guys will respond well. We know our guys pretty well."
Malzahn could not, or would not, recall who was the first quarterback on the field at Thursday's practice.
"That's a good question," he said. "I couldn't tell you, they (Marshall and Johnson) both got reps with the ones."
Only three other SEC teams — Alabama, LSU and Vanderbilt — have not named a starting quarterback for their opening games, and all had legitimate competitions. Vanderbilt will name its starter by Friday.
SENIOR RUNNERS SPLITTING TIME: Auburn center Reese Dismukes may see Cameron Artis-Payne as the lead dog in the Tigers’ crowded backfield, but Malzahn says it’s still an even race.
“(Artis-Payne) and Corey (Grant) have been splitting it,” Malzahn said. “They're veteran guys. They know every bit of our offense, which is very important. The first game will be about our adjustments, and those guys are capable of doing that. Now, Peyton Barber and Roc (Thomas) have both gotten a lot of reps, also. You've got to have your running backs ready.”
During a radio interview Monday, Dismukes the starter will “probably be maybe Cameron Artis-Payne that'll probably start off with that (starting) role.”
Though the quarterback situation is ambiguous, at best, Malzahn said that doesn’t mean the Tigers will rely on their running game until Marshall takes the field.
“We’ll run our offense regardless,” Malzahn said.
PRESEASON HONORS: Nick Marshall, Sammie Coates and Reese Dismukes were named first team All-SEC by the conference's coaches.
All three were also named first team All-SEC by reporters at SEC Media Days.
Tight end C.J. Uzomah, guard Alex Kozan, defensive lineman Gabe Wright and cornerback Jonathon Mincy were named second team. Wright was a first team pick by the media.
Chad Slade, Montravius Adams and Robenson Therezie were third-team selections.