The (Nick) Marshall plan changed quickly

Nick Marshall decided to switch from quarterback to cornerback shortly before the Senior Bowl practices commenced. Not everyone sounded on board with that decision.

Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota declined his invitation to the Senior Bowl. Brett Hundley apparently didn’t respond, which appeared to irk the Senior Bowl’s executive director, Phil Savage, when announcing a few housekeeping items to the assembled teams and media earlier this week.

And, then, shortly before the Senior Bowl practices were set to begin Tuesday, Nick Marshall further added to the frustrations at the position. Marshall, one of the local Auburn products, made the decision to switch from quarterback to cornerback. It was a choice that surprised some and seemed to confuse his college head coach, Gus Malzahn, who attended the final full practice on Thursday.

“He’s a great athlete and a great competitor. He can play a lot of different positions. I think he could be very successful at the NFL (level) at quarterback especially. You see where that league’s going with all the read zone stuff,” Malzahn said. “What he did at our program is really unbelievable – two years, took us to the National Championship Game that first year. Had a great year this year, broke a lot of records, one of the better quarterbacks to come through Auburn and we’ve had some pretty good ones. Whatever he wants to do, we’re going to support him and he’ll be successful.”

It may take some time, although at 6-foot-1½ and a defined 205 pounds, Marshall has the size NFL defensive coaches desire in this era of NFL passing games.

Marshall certainly could have pursued his path to the NFL as a quarterback, but he apparently decided on his own that cornerback was his best chance. The move was made so quickly that Marshall practiced Tuesday with a plain orange jersey assigned to defensive players that lacked any number or name. He was simply the unnumbered cornerback in the Auburn helmet.

His technique was raw, and he was understandably inconsistent. Eventually, however, he leveled the valleys up to plateaus as the week progressed. Technique gradually improved.

“The transition from quarterback to cornerback, just flipping my hips technique-wise, all that got better today,” Marshall said as he was whisked off the field to a table to sign autographs for a legion of fans seeking signatures from the local Auburn and Alabama players on the final day of practice.

Malzahn posed with his pack of Tigers at the Senior Bowl after practice and lauded the talents of them all. He sure seemed to indicate he didn’t necessarily agree with Marshall’s move to cornerback, but he believes in the makeup of the young man.

“He’s a great competitor. He’s one of the better competitors I’ve ever coached,” Malzahn said. “He’s very tough, very coachable. He’ll do anything you ask him to do, however you ask him to do it. He’ll be successful.

“He’s a great athlete. He did a great job for us at quarterback and felt like he was one of the better quarterbacks in the country. But he’s a great athlete and he could play a lot of different positions.”

It would seem NFL coaches and scouts that talked with Marshall throughout the week want that competitiveness to continue. Any NFL team willing to take a chance on a college quarterback making the conversion to cornerback will need to be patient. Still, most of them encouraged him to keep working at it, he said when asked what kind of feedback he got throughout the week.

“They’re just telling me just keep coming out here competing and keep showing my athleticism and doing what I do best,” he said.

Whether cornerback is what he does best remains to be seen.

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