photo: Julie Bennett al.com
“Nick Marshall is the kind of quarterback you need to sign when you’re trying to turn a program around.” Those words were spoken last February by Garden City (Kansas) College Football Coach, Jeff Tatum when Marshall signed with Auburn University. Now nine months later, the Tigers are sitting at 10-1, looking at a chance at a Divisional Championship and Tatum’s testimony has proven prophetic.
This despite how some pundits and even some Auburn fans opined on message boards during the season that Nick might not be the better of two quarterbacks on campus.
Yet with Nick at the helm, the Tigers have returned to the national college football discussion. There are a lot of reasons for the Renaissance, beginning with Gus Malzahn and his excellent staff. However, from a personnel standpoint no player has had a bigger impact on Auburn’s turn around than Marshall.
Being an impact player has been what Nick has done at all levels. He holds the Georgia High School Association record for career touchdown passes (103). And during his one year at Garden City, Nick scored 37 touchdowns (19 passing and 18 running) accounting for more than 4,000 yards in 11 games.
With a proven eye for quarterback talent, Malzahn knew he had a diamond all along. When Marshall inked his commitment papers, Gus said, “He’s a great athlete … one of those impact players. We feel like he could come in here and give us a chance right off the bat.”
And what an impact he has had. Averaging 37 points a game, Auburn has the No. 3-ranked rushing offense in the nation. With Nick’s league leading 823 yards rushing (6.7 avg.) for a quarterback, he is currently outrunning last year’s Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. In addition, he has passed for 1530 yards and nine scores with five picks.
He thrust himself in to the Heisman top 10 (at No.9) after he completed 11-of-23 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers 45-41 win over Manziel and Texas A&M.
When some starting talking about his lack of passing in the two games before Georgia, Nick responded by completing 15 of 26 passes for 230 yards and one 73 yard game-winning touchdown pass to go with 88 yards rushing and two TD’s against the Bulldogs.
While not in the top tier of Heisman candidates this year, he could start next year off in the top three if he has good games against Alabama and in the postseason. Yet, no matter what happens next week in the Iron Bowl – to have come out of no where this season to make the top 10 Heisman list is nothing short of phenomenal.
He’s definitely what folks call a playmaker. His ability to simply make plays at the quarterback position has been the difference this year for the Tigers. After engineering Auburn’s third comeback win last Saturday, Malzahn told reporters that his quarterback has the “It” factor; or that intrinsic something that sets special players apart from the crowd.”You start talking about the best player in the country,”Gus said, “I think he should be in the conversation.”
That “It” factor has been responsible as much as anything for the epic turn around season the Tigers have experienced. Marshall’s ability to run the read option and pass when necessary has the Tigers currently as the No.2 team in the SEC and poised to face the No.1 team in an Iron Bowl showdown.
Many don’t give the Tigers much of a chance against the defending national champions. But that’s okay, no one gave the Tigers much of a chance to win 10 games at the beginning of the season either.
No doubt the assignment is a tall mountain to climb, but if we’ve learned anything about this Auburn season, it’s been that when the game is on the line …
Nick Marshall delivers!
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