After Saturday's practice, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has found his man. The head coach named Nick Marshall as the Tigers' starting quarterback via Twitter on Saturday.
I've named Nick Marshall our starting QB. He's earned that opportunity. Auburn family let's get behind him and the team. #WarEagle— Coach Gus Malzahn (@CoachGusMalzahn) August 17, 2013
Malzahn praised his starter in a statement released Saturday afternoon.
"Nick Marshall has emerged and earned the right to be our starting quarterback," Malzahn said. "As I've said, we wanted to go with the guy that gives us the best opportunity to win football games and Nick is that guy. He has caught on quickly in the short period of time he has been with us. He is a playmaker with a big upside, and once he becomes more comfortable with the offense, he has the chance to improve each week."
The fact that Marshall, a JUCO transfer who wasn't on campus for spring practice, was tabbed as the starter with a couple of weeks to spare before the season likely bodes well. On Monday, Malzahn announced Marshall and Jeremy Johnson as the front-runners, Wallace as No. 3 and that Kiehl Frazier will make the transition to safety. With Saturday's news, it shows that Marshall (6'1, 210 pounds) really is ahead of the rest of Auburn's QBs, and that the only thing holding him back was learning the playbook. He's a natural for Malzahn's offensive system, and as long as he can keep his wits about him on the field, there's no reason he can't excel.
Last season at Garden City (Kan.) CC, Marshall ranked fourth among all JUCO quarterbacks with 3,142 yards, and he completed 57.1 percent of his passes for 18 touchdowns and 20 interceptions (second-most in all of JUCO). On the ground, he carried 171 times for 1,095 yards and 19 scores, averaging 99.5 yards per game and 6.4 yards per rush. Marshall ranked eighth in rushing yards and second in rushing touchdowns.
The number of interceptions he threw last season is alarming, and that completion percentage leaves much to be desired. However, the perception from those familiar with the team is that Marshall was trying to carry it on his shoulders all by himself. With a few more offensive weapons at his disposal, that problem could be avoided at Auburn. Although, considering the Tigers' unproven receiving corps, he might not get a lot of help in the passing game.
As a high school quarterback, Marshall completed 56.0 percent of his passes for 5,087 yards, 72 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, and he rushed 159 times for 858 yards and 13 TDs. He began his college career at Georgia as a cornerback, but he was dismissed from the Bulldogs during his freshman season for a violation of team rules. Hopefully, his off-field issues are a thing of the past. Auburn can't afford to lose its starting QB to a dumb mistake.
Marshall will make his Auburn debut Aug. 31 against Washington State. The game is set for a 6 p.m. CT kickoff from Jordan-Hare Stadium and will be broadcast on ESPNU.
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