A Quarterback Battle for the Ages?
If you like quarterback battles, this is your year. Last Wednesday only added to the intrigue over who will line up under center for Auburn this fall.
The race is the most wide open in recent history, and that’ saying lot considering Auburn goes through quarterbacks like Don Draper goes through cigarettes.
Gus Malzahn is keeping any thoughts about the position close to the vest, but he did make it clear that JUCO signee Nick Marshall will have a shot.
“He’s one of those impact players who throws the ball extremely well and has a very strong arm,” Malzahn said on Signing Day. “We feel like he could come in here and give us a chance right off the bat.”
Malzahn began chasing the three-star dual-threat quarterback last year while still at Arkansas St. After leading Wilcox County (Ga) to a state championship, Marshall signed with Georgia as a defensive back in 2011.
Despite playing 13 games as a freshman for Mark Richt, things went south fast, when he was caught up in an off-field incident involving theft of another student. He was quickly released by Georgia and spent this past year in junior college in Garden City, Kansas.
Marshall’s coach this past year, Jeff Tatum, strongly defends his former player.
“What the Georgia coaches told me was he was a kid in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they had to do something, but they didn’t want him to have a bad name,” Tatum told al.com. “That’s one of the reasons Coach Ledford (Marshall’s high school coach) brought him to me, a chance to clear his name without somebody always bringing it up.”
Of course, Marshall will have to compete with incumbent Jonathan Wallace and Malzahn disciple, Kiehl Frazier. Throw in four-star signees Jason Smith and Jeremy Johnson, and suddenly A-Day becomes damn interesting.
Before we discount Smith and Johnson because they don’t arrive until summer, let’s not forget that a red-shirt freshman won this year’s Heisman. The days of sitting are over for those who are ready.
It was widely assumed that Smith would play wide receiver, but Malzahn’s signing day tweet that called him a quarterback changed all of that.
“We are going to give all three of those guys a shot at quarterback,” Malzahn said. “They are all very talented at that position. The dual threat kind of guys that do a lot of different things and keep plays alive can be very successful in what we do.”
It seems Marshall has the best shot of unseating Wallace. Talking with Pat Dye last weekend, he says the coaching staff is high on the Georgia native.
Then again, hearing and reading about Wallace’s solid work ethic, it’s hard to imagine him getting beat out this spring. Let’s not forget, he ran the spread while in high school. Malzahn’s offense is not exactly foreign to the Phenix City native.
We know one thing. It certainly has to get better. Nobody is expecting Cam Newton to come through the doors again, but fans are looking for a leader.
Something tells me we’ve found him. Now he just has to step up.