AUBURN — There will be Marshall law on the Plains this fall.
Nick Marshall, the junior college transfer and former Georgia cornerback, was named the starting quarterback on Saturday, earning the job over former G.W. Carver star Jeremy Johnson after 18 fall camp practices.
“I’ve named Nick Marshall our starting QB,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn tweeted Saturday afternoon following Saturday’s morning practice. “He’s earned that opportunity. Auburn family let’s get behind him and the team. “
The 6-foot-1 201-pound Marshall won what was initially a four-way race for the starting job involving returnees Jonathan Wallace and Kiehl Frazier and was trimmed to a head-to-head battle with Johnson on Monday. The Georgia High School Association career record-holder for touchdown passes (103) who passed for 3,142 yards with 18 touchdowns and added 1,095 rushing yards with 19 touchdowns at Garden City (Kan.) C.C. last season becomes the first starting quarterback of the Malzahn head coaching era at Auburn.
“Nick Marshall has emerged and earned the right to be our starting quarterback,” Malzahn said in a statement. “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.”
Marshall set his goals high for his time at Auburn, saying before signing day he wanted to “try to bring a national championship here, win the Heisman…and that’s about it.” The Rochelle, Ga. native will have a chance to match the legendary accomplishments of Cam Newton beginning Aug. 31 when the Tigers kick off the 2013 season against Washington State at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Marshall’s throwing ability became that of legend before fall camp even began. Former Georgia teammate Aaron Murray said Marshall, who played cornerback for the Bulldogs in 2011, “can throw a football farther than anyone I’ve ever seen in my life.” Even Malzahn fueled the fire surrounding Marshall, telling an audience in Birmingham he could throw the ball 80 yards.
Marshall’s running ability has also caught the eye of his teammates.
“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,” tight end C.J. Uzomah said of Marshall. “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.”
Ball security was a concern with Marshall, who threw 20 interceptions at Garden City last year. He had some growing pains in fall camp including a mishandled exchange with running back Cameron Artis-Payne in a non-contact drill, but also had a long touchdown pass to Brandon Fulse during the second scrimmage of camp.
Johnson, a true freshman, impressed the coaches during fall camp with his throwing strength and speed. The 6-foot-5 219-pound reigning Alabama Mr. Football passed for 3,193 yards with 31 touchdowns and ran for 705 yards with seven scores as a senior last year.
Whether Johnson will redshirt this year remains to be seen as sophomore Jonathan Wallace could also serve as the backup to Marshall. Wallace started the final four games of the season for the Tigers in 2012, setting the Auburn freshman record for passing efficiency at 139.6 while going 46-for-80 for 720 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions and had 51 rushes for 152 yards.
Frazier, who started the first five games of the disastrous 2012 season made a stunning position change to safety earlier this week. The former top quarterback prospect went 62-for-116 for 753 yards with just two touchdowns and eight interceptions in nine games played and dealt with a shoulder injury last season.