Arriving at Auburn last summer from junior college in Kansas, Marshall is a talented athlete who Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee predicted would be a good for their offense. Marshall has worked hard to develop his skills and is playing some of his best football as the Tigers prepare to face Samford this weekend on Senior Day at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
To put his numbers into perspective it makes sense to start with Marshall’s rushing stats. Carrying the ball 122 times for 739 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, he currently has 1,807 yards on the ground in two seasons with 23 touchdowns. The total is good enough for 20th in school history and is second for a quarterback, trailing only Phil Gargis by 77 yards.
While he’s been given some grief for his passing the last two seasons, when you stack him up against the top quarterbacks in Auburn history Marshall's number are solid. Completing 125-210 passes this season for 1,688 yards and 14 touchdowns with five interceptions, he has 3,664 career passing yards (10th in Auburn history) for 28 touchdowns (tie for 8th) with only 11 interceptions. His interception percentage of just .0244 is good enough to tie Patrick Nix for second behind Randy Campbell in school history.
Completing 267-449 passes is good enough for a 59.4 percent completion percentage. That is fifth in Auburn history and ahead of names such as Brandon Cox, Reggie Slack, Patrick Nix, Pat Sullivan and Dameyune Craig. His career passer rating of 143.69 at the moment would place him second in school history behind Jason Campbell.
Not too bad for a guy that people still question his ability to throw the football.
While he still misses a throw from time to time, Marshall’s improvement has been obvious in the way he approaches the game. That’s the mental side of things like finding secondary receivers and pre-snap reads. Those are the things Marshall is most proud of when talking about with the Tigers.
“Compared to a year ago I'm way better than I was last year,” the senior said. “I'm making all the correct reads in the offense and I'm really not putting myself in a bind or a negative play.
“When I first got in the offense last year I was learning as the season went on during the weeks in practice and during the game, but this year I'm very familiar with the offense and I don't have time to think about anything. I can just go out there and play ball.”
Marshall celebrates with fans after Auburn's victory at Ole Miss this season.
Even last week Marshall’s play was one of the few bright spots for the Tigers in a loss at Georgia. While he completed just 11-23 passes for 112 yards and an interception, the senior made some good throws that came up empty due to dropped passes. Dealing with the pressure of going back to Athens for the first time, the place where he played as a freshman defensive back, and competing in a challenging situation, Marshall handled things very well, something Rhett Lashlee has come to expect.
“I was really proud of Nick,” Lashlee said. “That’s a tough environment. It’s a tough situation that everybody made a big deal about going into. He competed as hard as he ever has. He was Nick. He fought, he competed, he made plays. A lot of them got called back or a lot of them didn’t get finished. He’ll be the first to tell you he should have played better and made more plays and done this and done that.“Obviously, we didn’t give him as many opportunities as we’d like," Lashlee added. "I was proud of the way he competed in a bad situation. Obviously, in the second half it wasn’t looking great and he kept fighting and competing. But the teammate he was, the way he handled himself, the class he had after the game, I’m really proud of not only how he played but of that young man.”
Facing Samford this weekend and Alabama in the Iron Bowl before finishing his time at Auburn in a still to be determined bowl game, Marshall has a chance to guide the Tigers to back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time since 1988-89 when Pat Dye was head coach. That is something that should earn him a shot to play quarterback in the NFL next year, Malzahn said. It may not pan out, but Marshall’s athleticism could give him a chance to play wide receiver or defensive back if if quarterback is not in his future.
Malzahn said he’s not betting against Marshall to do anything he sets his mind, including playing quarterback in the NFL. With a competitive streak a mile long and nerves of steel, the Auburn senior just may be a steal for some pro team down the road.