Tigers Do Tune-Up Prior to Saturday Scrimmage

The quarterbacks and other players have another chance to impress the coaches in Saturday's scrimmage.

Auburn, Ala.--Exactly two weeks before their football season opener, the Auburn Tigers will go through their fourth scrimmage of the preseason on Saturday morning at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Establishing who the starting quarterback will be is a major order of business.

Newcomers Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson, who have just two weeks of practice under their belts as Auburn players, are trying to win a starting role as is sophomore Jonathan Wallace, who finished the 2012 season No. 1 one on the depth chart.

Marshall, a 6-1, 210-pound juco transfer from Garden City Community College in Kansas, features a very strong arm and is one of the fastest players the Tigers have ever recruited to play quarterback. He is coming off an outstanding performance as a sophomore that earned him Jayhawk Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors.

Nick Marshall threw 102 touchdown passes as a high school star in the state of Georgia, but played defensive back for the Georgia Bulldogs in 2011 before tranferring to junior college last season.

Johnson earned Alabama Mr. Football honors last season as a senior at Carver High in Montgomery, where he was an outstanding passer and runner. At 6-5, 219 pounds, Johnson has made a strong push for a starting job with his on-the-field poise that helped make him a football and basketball star in high school. In other news and notes:

Wallace, who is 6-2, 206 pounds, completed 46-80 passes for 720 yards while playing in nine games for the Tigers as a true freshman with four starts. He threw four touchdowns and was intercepted twice. He rushed for 152 yards on 51 carries during the Tigers' train wreck of a season in 2012.

So far turnovers from the quarterback position have not been a big issue in the scrimmages, even from Marshall, who threw more interceptions (20) than touchdown passes (18) as a junior college sophomore when he threw for 3,142 yards while rushing for 1,095 yards and 19 touchdowns.

"For the most part all of the guys have done a good job," Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee said when asked about turnovers. "Nick has done well. I think he's been very conscious of it. We only had him live for that one scrimmage. I don't think we had any turnover issues there with him.

"Of course in the other scrimmages and team situations you've got the orange jersey (no contact allowed) on so you're not being hit as much," Lashlee pointed out. "We haven't thrown a lot of interceptions then either, which is a positive."

The Tigers practiced for less than two hours on Friday evening in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets. Tailback Corey Grant said the session was focused on getting the team ready for Saturday's scrimmage.

"The coaches told it is going to be a regular scrimmage and just to go out there, make plays and execute and then try to make big plays when it is time," Grant said.

"It was more of a mental day just to go over the plays and let everyone know what we are doing," Grant added.

The running back noted that he believes the Tigers have made progress two weeks into preseason drills. "Personally, I believe we have improved a lot," he said. "We still have our ups and downs throughout the day, but overall we are coming together as an offense, defense and a team period."

Grant has had a busy preseason working at tailback and playing the speed back role offensively. He is also one of the deep return men on kickoffs and plays on the kickoff coverage and kickoff return teams.

The former two-time state champion in the 100 meters would like to get a chance to return kickoffs as a junior. "We have a great competition back there--Tre (Mason), me, Robenson Therezie and Ricardo Louis." "We are just rotating in and out during practice," said Grant, who noted that he isn't sure who the starting two deep returners will be.

In other news and notes:

*A trio of freshmen defensive linemen are trying to break into the playing rotation. Ends Elijah Daniel and Carl Lawson plus tackle Montravius Adams still need to make a significant amount of progress prior to the opener vs. Washington State, according to Rodney Garner, who coaches the front four.

*Saturday's scrimmage will be the first of the preseason for Demetruce McNeal, who has played in 38 games for the Tigers with 20 starts going into his senior season. McNeal missed the later part of spring drills with an off-the-field issue and missed the first three scrimmages of the preseason recovering from an infection he got after having his tonsils removed. McNeal made 53 solo tackles with 37 assists last season.

*The coaches will have the players' undivided attention for just three more days. Practices are planned for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before the players get Wednesday off, which is the first day of fall semester classes. The 20-hour rule kicks in after classes begin tha limits the practice and meeting time.

Ricardo Louis

*Louis said after Friday's practice he has been impressed with the new quarterbacks as they head into Saturday's scrimmage. "From what I see they both have strong arms--NFL type arms in my eyes and they both can run," the sophomore receiver said. "They both have a lot of the same qualities."

Louis, who said he has been moving around between the wide receiver positions, seems confident he can handle whatever role comes his way. "I can pretty much do anything you want me to do. I can go deep, do short routes, screens, reverses--whatever they want me to do I will do it the best I can."

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