Marshall Wins Starting Quarterback Spot

A report on Saturday's football practice features an update on the quarterback competition won by newcomer Nick Marshall and other news, notes and quotes.

Auburn, Ala.--Nick Marshall, a junior college transfer who has practiced for just over two weeks as an Auburn football player, will open the 2013 season as the number one quarterback for the Tigers.

The junior with quick feet and a strong arm worked with the first team at Saturday's practice, which was originally scheduled to be Auburn's fourth scrimmage of the preseason. Instead it was a regular practice at the indoor facility.

Head Coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator/quarterback coach Rhett Lashlee met to discuss the quarterback situation after Saturday's practice and then Malzahn announced their choice.

"Nick Marshall has emerged and earned the right to be our starting quarterback," Malzahn said. "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," Malzahn added. "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 quarterback competition began with junior Kiehl Frazier and sophomore Jonathan Wallace in the mix along with true freshman Jeremy Johnson, whose play has been one of the highlights of practice although he was not as sharp throwing the football on Saturday as he had been previously. Frazier, who opened the 2012 season as the starting quarterback, moved to safety earlier in the week.

Wallace finished the 2012 season as the starting quarterback, taking over for the final four games of the season in place of Clint Moseley.

Marshall is an athletic quarterback who can run and throw.

Marshall began his college career at the University of Georgia in 2011 where he played as a defensive back. After being dismissed from the team he transferred to the Garden City Community College in Kansas where he was named Jayhawk Conference Player of the Year for the 2012 season.

As a sophomore Marshall passed for 3,142 yards with with 18 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. He was also an effective runner with 1,095 rushing yards for Garden City and 19 touchdowns.

Tight end/H-back C.J. Uzomah, who was a quarterback in high school, was asked after Saturday's practice what he has seen from Marshall. The junior said, "I kind of knew Nick coming out of high school. We went out together-he is from Georgia.

"I watched his highlights for basketball and knew he was as athletic as anything," Uzomah said. "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 is something you just have to watch. 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."

Jonathan Wallace throws a practice on Saturday.

Commenting on Saturday's practice that ran for more than two hours, Malzahn said, "We did go full pads. We did not scrimmage today. We have just about compiled all the information that we need to as far as scrimmage-type situations.

"We did do some situational things," he said. "We had a couple of two-minute drives. We focused on kickoff and kickoff returns, punt and punt return and I thought that went well. We also focused on some blitz pickup, offensively and defensively."

Jeremy Johnson throws a pass behind the blocking of guard Jordan Diamond (76).

Commenting on senior safety Demetruce McNeal, who was involved in a marijuana arrest around 1 a.m. on Saturday, Malzahn said, "Just found out about the situation this morning. I haven't had chance to talk with him, but I'll find out all the information and we'll decide what we'll do." Later in the day after McNeal with Auburn coaches at the football complex he was dismissed from the team.

McNeal was missing from practice on Saturday like he was at the end of spring training due to what the head coach called personal issues at that time. The senior safety just returned to practice this week after suffering from an infection that kept him out of practice and the three scrimmages.

Demetruce McNeal

Asked if about his policy concerning illegal drugs, the coach said, "I have my own rules, but we will also have our drug policy rules within our school."

The Tigers began organizing special teams on Saturday in the practice at the indoor facility. Malzahn said the decision was made on Friday night to have a regular full pads practice instead of a scrimmage. There was very little contact in the session that was heavy on seven-on-seven passing drills.

"In fall camp when you put a plan together, you have a plan when the last scrimmage is, it always kind of up in the air and you see where you're at," the head coach said. "We have been very physical in fall camp. We have tackled a lot, we have blocked a lot. We felt like as a coaching staff we've learned what we need to learn in live situations. There's still some things we need to found out about that you can without going live."

With McNeal's gone sophomore Josh Holsey will likely stay at safety, the position he moved to in spring training after McNeal was sidelined. Holsey, who played cornerback last season, has been running with the first team all preseason along with Jermaine Whitehead.

"Josh is a very savvy football player," the coach said. "He made the move and he really didn't miss a lick. He has got a lot of natural instincts and he is a guy you can count on."

In other news and notes:

*Commenting on what the coaches wanted to see from the quarterbacks at Saturday's practice, which featured blitz drills, Malzahn said, "There were about three things that we were looking for. After we look at the film, I think we'll have some better answers."

*Junior LaDarius Owens is again practicing at defensive end, a position he played in high school. He began his AU career at linebacker, moved to end and earlier this year switched back to linebacker before heading back to end this week.

Rodney Garner, who coaches the defensive ends and tackles, makes a point at Saturday's practice.

With Keymiya Harrell unable to practice after having ACL surgery in the spring and Dee Ford currently sidelined with a knee problem, the Tigers are in major need of finding an outside speed rusher. Owens could help with that assignment.

Commenting on Ford, a preseason second team All-SEC pick, the head coach said, "He did not practice today, but he knows everything that's going on. That is a good thing. He is a veteran guy. As soon as he gets back 100 percent he will be able to get in there and not miss a beat."

*Malzahn said that Frazier is making progress in his new role at safety. "He has really gotten off to a good start. Coach (Charlie) Harbison is very excited about him and Coach (Ellis) Johnson is, too.

"He understands football and he understands offenses, and what they are trying to do with splits and everything that goes with it. I believe he has been working on the boundary and there is a good chance you'll see him out there in some capacity in the first game."

*Justin Garrett, the first team "star" rover, did not practice on Saturday. He is recovering from a foot injury suffered last Saturday.

*Asked if his football would considering using "alternate jerseys, "No. We like the jerseys we have, and we think that really separates us from a lot of other people. We take great pride in wearing the jerseys we have."

*The Tigers are scheduled to practice again on Sunday evening and will practice again on Monday and Tuesday before taking Wednesday off for the start of fall semester classes.

More Notes & Discussion:

Auburn Football Notes, Part 9

Auburn Football Notes, Part 8

Auburn Football Notes, Part 7

Auburn Football Notes, Part 6

Auburn Football Notes, Part 5

Auburn Football Notes, Part 4

Auburn Football Notes, Part 3

Auburn Football Notes, Part 2

Auburn Football Notes, Part 1

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