Nick Marshall, a transfer from Garden City Community College in Kansas, won a four-player competition to be the starting QB even though he didn't join the team until July and has had only four weeks of practice as a Tiger.
"He is learning every day," the coach said. "We named him the starter because we feel like when he was comfortable, that he definitely earned that position. We feel like he will get more comfortable and better each game.
"From a coaching standpoint we have got to protect him and ask him to do things that we feel like he is comfortable (doing) and don't ask him to do things he's not. I will be curious to see how he responds."
Malzahn noted that it doesn't matter how much preparation work there is in practice there will still be a question of how a player will perform when he is put into a game situation for the first time. "That is when everything becomes very clear," Malzahn said.
Nick Marshall signs an autograph at Auburn's fan day.
Since he began coaching at the college level as a coordinator at Arkansas in 2006, Malzahn has yet to start the have the same quarterback as a starter for consecutive seasons. With Marshall there is an added twist. "This will really be the first quarterback that we have had that didn't get a chance to go through spring and be familiar," the coach pointed out.
Marshall's teammates have been impressed with the quarterback's arm strength and his quick feet. The juco transfer is considered one of the best athletes on the 2013 roster.
Malzahn, who despises turnovers, said he likes what he has seen so far on the quarterback's ability to throw the ball to the right spots.
"He is very accurate," the head coach said. "He really is. He has shown that he is accurate, not just in the vertical game, but intermediate and short also."
Malzahn said the game plan for the opener is to not put too much on his quarterback, whose job is not to get his team beat. The coach also noted that he wants to see his offense "protect the football, not beat ourselves and to play extremely hard and play together."
The head coach added, "Our theme this season is going to be ‘together' so that's my expectations for our team."