Johnson Or Wallace Start At QB This Week

Auburn's No. 1 quarterback, Nick Marshall, is questionable for Saturday's Homecoming game vs. Western Carolina.

Auburn, Ala.--First team quarterback Nick Marshall is questionable for Saturday's Homecoming game vs. Western Carolina, according to Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn.

Marshall, who hurt a knee in the closing minutes of last Saturday night's victory over Ole Miss, is still recovering although he was able to practice on both Tuesday and Wednesday evening.

Asked if he will hold out Marshall if the junior is not 100 percent healthy on Saturday, Malzahn said, "We will make that decision probably tomorrow (Thursday) or Friday on how he is doing and what his plan is.

"He is getting, in fact, a quite a bit better," the coach added.

Asked if there is a chance that Marshall won't play vs. Western Carolina, Malzahn said, "I would say there is a chance, probably not a very good chance, but there is a chance."

If Marshall is a no-go on Saturday the starter will be either sophomore Jonathan Wallace, who finished the 2012 season as the starter, or true freshman Jeremy Johnson, who has yet to play. Asked who that would be, Malzahn said, "I don't know yet. We are still working through that."

Jonathan Wallace is a sophomore from Phenix City.

During the preseason competition to be the starter that was won by Marshall, both Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee had high praise for Johnson. The coaches bracketed the backup quarterbacks as No. 2 and 2A.

"Jonathan and Jeremy have gotten a lot of reps in practice since fall camp and even during the season," Malzahn said. "We would be confident in both of those guys being able to execute our offense."

Wallace has played briefly in two games this season and has thrown two passes with one completion for 20 yards. Last season, starting the final four games of the season as a true freshman, he completed 46-80 passes with four interceptions and two touchdowns for 753 yards. He carried the football 51 times for 153 yards, an average of 4.6 yards per carry.

Marshall has completed 71-120 passes for four TDs with four interceptions. He became Auburn's fourth player to rush for 100 yards in a game with 140 on 14 carries vs. Ole Miss. For the season the juco transfer has run the football 55 times for 288 yards and two touchdowns at an average of 5.2 yards per carry.

Jeremy Johnson is shown in an AU practice.

Johnson was a two-sport star in high school who was offered scholarships by Auburn in both football and basketball. His last football live game action was in the Class 6A state playoffs last December for Carver High School.

The only other player on the team who has worked at quarterback this season is junior Kiehl Frazier. He started preseason drills at QB, moved to safety and then in September moved to receiver, where he continues to train this week during practices.

The Tigers worked out for two-plus hours on Wednesday evening in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets on a cool fall evening.

"I felt like we had a solid practice," Malzahn said. "We focused on our third downs. We focused on the red zone. I thought our guys had pretty good energy. Overall, I was pretty well pleased."

Nick Marshall has started all five of Auburn's games.

Auburn will be the third FBS (Division I-A) opponent for Western Carolina. The Catamounts play in the Southern Conference, a FCS (Division I-AA) league. Western Carolina fell 45-24 to Middle Tennessee in week one and 45-3 to Virginia Tech in game two.

"We took some real positive things out of those first two games," WCU head coach Mark Speir said of the previous two matchups with Division I-A competition. "Looking at the Virginia Tech game, it is just 21-0 at halftime. We had actually out-rushed Virginia Tech in the first half. We threw a pick-six on offense, but our defense had only given up 14 points at the half.

"We moved the ball pretty well against Middle Tennessee State--did some good things in the kicking game that created some momentum for us so even from a loss you can always take some positives and it can create some confidence," he added.

"I know coming out of the Virginia Tech game our defense had some confidence just because at times, for about two and a half quarters, we stood toe-to-toe with Virginia Tech. Their size and strength just overwhelmed us in the fourth quarter."

In other news and notes:

*Linebacker Cassanova McKinzy, who was hurt on Saturday, is practicing well this week, Malzahn said. The sophomore is expected to be back in the starting lineup this week.

*Tickets are available for Saturday's game that will kick off at 1 p.m. CDT at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The only television coverage is pay per view. The Auburn Radio Network's coverage is available on Sirius Channel 93 and XM Channel 199.

The Tigers have won their Homecoming game for 21 consecutive seasons and are a huge favorite to keep that streak alive. Auburn has an all-time record of 74-8-4 on Homecoming Day. The last Homecoming loss came in 1991 as Mississippi State edged the Tigers 24-17.

*Auburn is ranked third in scoring defense among SEC teams at 22.0 points per game. Florida and Alabama are tied for No. 1 at 12.2 points allowed per contest. Last season the Tigers were giving up 28.3 points per contest through five games.

*Auburn's defense produced a season-high 14 tackles for lost yardage vs. Ole Miss. That is the most since making 16 vs. Kentucky in 2004.

*The Tigers are fourth in the SEC in fewest penalty yards per game with 38.6. Tennessee leads the league at 32.0. Of Auburn's 22 penalties this season, nine were called in the Arkansas State game.

*Auburn is the only team in the top three in both red zone offense and red zone defense in this week's SEC stats. The Tigers are converting 89.5 percent of their trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line into points, trailing only LSU (90.0 percent). Defensively, Florida is ranked No. 1 in the league allowing opponents to score on 66.7 percent of their trips into the red zone. Auburn and Alabama are tied for second at 70 percent.

*A player the Tigers have been hoping would have a breakout season is sophomore wide receiver Ricardo Louis. He has caught 12 passes and is averaging just 5.3 yards per reception with no touchdowns. Louis has four rushes for 15 net yards.

"Ricardo is going to keep coming," offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. "Ricardo has still got loads of ability. You can see flashes of it. We are going to keep bringing Ricardo along, keep trying to find ways to get him more involved, get him the ball. I have got a lot of confidence Ricardo is going to reach his full potential before it is all said and done and you are going to continue to see him involved each week."

*Auburn announced on Wednesday that fans attending Saturday's game can come on the field after the game. "There are countless Auburn fans young and old that would like to have the opportunity to walk the field that Auburn players and coaches past and present have played on," Athletic Director Jay Jacobs said. "We felt that this was a great time to do this. We're very appreciative of the Southeastern Conference and Commissioner (Mike) Slive for granting us a waiver and allowing this to happen for our fans."

Once the field has been cleared of players and coaches, fans will be granted the opportunity to come to field level approximately 15 minutes after the game and will be allowed to remain on the field for 45 minutes.


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