Marshall Making A Difference For Tigers

Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn said quarterback Nick Marshall should be in the mix for the Heisman Trophy because of what he's meant to the Tigers this season.

Auburn, Ala.--There is no question that Nick Marshall has made a major impact at Auburn in just a few short months on the job as the quarterback for the Tigers. Known as a great athlete, but somewhat of an unknown commodity at quarterback when he arrived at Auburn in July, Marshall won the job early in preseason camp and since that time he and the offense have taken off.

Following a 34-28 win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl, Coach Gus Malzahn's team finds itself No. 3 in the BCS standings and getting ready to face 11-1 Missouri in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

With many of the same players on the field, but in a system that fits their abilities much better, Malzahn said the impact that Marshall has made on this season with his play and leadership has been difficult to measure, but one impact has been an improvement in the won/loss record from 3-9 to 11-1.

"What he has done to lead our team and put us where we are at is really unbelievable," Malzahn said. "He has gotten more comfortable, but that is to be expected. He was learning the offense the first four weeks and each week he is getting more comfortable. His teammates are playing hard for him.

"You are talking about the best players in America and I think at this point in the season you have to start mentioning his name with a bunch of these other guys," Malzahn said.

While his stats won't wow you throwing the football, 1,627 yards and 11 touchdowns with five interceptions, Marshall has been a dominant figure for the offense because of what he brings to the SEC's leading ground attack. Carrying the ball 140 times for 922 yards and 10 touchdowns, he has brought a different dimension to the running game and ignited the Auburn offense in the process.

"He's a great quarterback and has made plays all over the field for us throughout the season," junior running back Corey Grant said. "Without some of those plays he's made I don't think we would be in the position we are now."

With Tre Mason plowing through defenses for 1,317 yards and 18 touchdowns, and Grant adding 585 yards and five scores as well, the Tigers are running for 318.2 yards per game with 39 scores on the ground.

Nick Marshall has had plenty to smile about this year.

Despite the fact that Marshall is only averaging 147.9 passing yards per contest, the Tigers have made plays in the passing game as well while limiting the mistakes. That is the part where Malzahn said he has seen the most improvement in his quarterback since he arrived on campus.

"He is starting to protect the football in the passing game," Malzahn said. "He is making good decisions on when to not throw it, when to throw it away and when to take off. That is a sign of experience and a sign of a good quarterback."

That experience has helped Marshall throughout the season and really since making plays at the end of the game to beat Mississippi State. Doing the same thing at Texas A&M just continued to build confidence in Marshall and his teammates, something that is abundantly clear when the Tigers take the field now.

"I feel way more comfortable now," Marshall said. "There were some things that we used to do that I wasn't comfortable with, but it just took more practice time and more effort at practice. Then I just took my time I had available, not in class or anything, just watching more film and just watching what I mess up on, and just going out in practice and correcting it. I just feel more comfortable with the offense right now."

Fullback Jay Prosch knows all too well how difficult it can be to come into a new situation and hit the ground running because he did the same thing in 2012. Trying to get familiar with teammates and coaches is always difficult, but throw in the extra difficulty of playing quarterback and it's even more impressive what Marshall has been able to accomplish this fall.

"When he first got here he was probably kind of like I was when I first got here," Prosch said. "Not really knowing what to expect and maybe a little out of his element.

"Obviously throughout the season, he's part of our team now. At first he was kind of just a new guy," the fullback added. "He is more comfortable within the offense. I think that he is really just like I am now, just enjoying it, and he feels comfortable."

That comfort level has blossomed into a confident quarterback who has taken on a leadership role for his team. A talented high school player who has always been a leader for his team whether it was playing quarterback or point guard in basketball, Marshall pointed out that's one of the requirements at the position and he is finally settling into that role with the Tigers.

"It's something that comes natural," Marshall said. "Being a quarterback, you've got to be a leader. You have ups and downs, but you've got to be able to pick your team up and let them know everything will be alright and go to the next play and don't worry. Put that one behind you and overcome adversity.

"It (leadership role) means a lot to me because if they coaches believe in you and I believe in them also, they put their trust and belief in me," he added. "I believe in everybody on our staff and our football team. It's a great feeling to have that."

Handing the keys to his offense to Marshall before the season started, Malzahn has seen his talented newcomer take off and have the Tigers in the mix to win the SEC Championship and possibly much more. Having already coached one Heisman Trophy winner at Auburn in Cam Newton, Malzahn said he's not sure where Marshall stacks up against this year's candidates, but he knows he belongs in the discussion.

"He should be in the mix, no doubt," Malzahn said. "I don't get to watch other teams like all of you do, but he should be in the mix. He is one of the better players in college football. He is leading our team."

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