BY RYAN BLACK | firstname.lastname@example.org
AUBURN, Ala. — With little fanfare, Auburn’s starting quarterback battle ended Saturday night as Nick Marshall was named the Tigers’ starter.
Gus Malzahn took to his personal Twitter account to make the announcement.
“I’ve named Nick Marshall our starting QB,” Auburn’s head coach tweeted. “He’s earned that opportunity. Auburn family let’s get behind him and the team.”
A few minutes after his tweet, an official release was sent out by the Tigers’ athletic department. In it, Malzahn said Marshall had “earned the right” to become the Tigers’ starting signal-caller heading into the fall.
“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,” Malzahn said in the release. “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 news should come as little to surprise to those who have followed the quarterback competition. Marshall was the favorite in many people’s minds the moment he announced he would transfer to Auburn. And he’s backed it up from the start, fullback Jay Prosch said, who picked up on Marshall’s natural ability immediately.
“This summer I noticed he had a great arm and could really throw the ball and move really well at workouts,” he said. “When camp started it was kind of the same stuff really. It took a while for me to figure out and see differences. It was definitely hard on Nick coming in and not knowing much about the offense and not having the spring. Now I can see a big difference. (He has) adapted and is doing very well.”
C.J. Uzomah knew about Marshall well before he came to Auburn. The Georgia natives hung out together during their high school careers, making Uzomah well-aware of the quarterback’s gifts on the gridiron.
Marshall has used fall camp to showcase that to the rest of the team.
“Him coming here and showing how athletic he is and how fast he is and his ability to extend the play and make things happen with his legs … it’s something you just have to watch,” the junior tight end said. “You can’t really say, ‘Alright, the defensive end would have tackled him.’ Probably not. He probably would have run out. He’s a blazing guy. It’s something kind of special.”
Earlier in the week, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee was asked about Marshall’s experience at the junior college level. Lashlee acknowledged that while it might not be the SEC, it’s still a step up from high school.
Now, Marshall will see if he can translate his success to the toughest conference in college football.
“I would think it would be good,” Lashlee said. “He’s an older guy, and when you come from junior college, he’s played (college football) for three years, so he understands that. And he’s also two years older than your average young man coming out of high school, so there’s a natural maturity level that should exist.”
One thing never in doubt was Marshall’s arm strength. Many have claimed that Marshall could throw the ball nearly 80 yards. Malzahn didn’t want to speculate on the distance; he was more focused on how much zip Marshall could put on the ball.
“And not just the long throws, but he throws the short throws real hard, too,” Malzahn said early in fall camp. “It’s just going to be a matter of him learning the offense, (and) at times, when to put touch on the ball. But he’s got an outstanding opportunity.”
On Saturday, Marshall proved he had made the most of it.