The days leading up to national signing day in the college football world can best be described as a sports fan's soap opera. Both founded and unfounded rumors surrounding the decision of an 18-year-old kid percolate the college football landscape and can determine the emotions of grown men and women.
To put it bluntly, things get a little crazy. But, hey, isn't that what makes being a fan great? The ability to be fanatical about college football in the month of February is nothing short of awesome.
Auburn fans experienced one of those crazy days on Monday when the expected de-commitment of 5-star DE Dee Liner came to fruition. The emotional roller coaster turned upward shortly after with the commitment of dynamic JUCO QB Nick Marshall.
I will be taking my talents bac to the SEC at the University of Auburn— June Marshall (@NicMarshall7) January 14, 2013
(Psst, Nick, we need to work on the whole "University of Auburn" thing, but we're cool.)
Marshall's journey to the Plains has a very familiar feel to Auburn fans.
Marshall, as many people already know by now, is a former University of Georgia DB. He was dismissed by head coach Mark Richt in February of 2012 for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution indicates that the incident involved the theft of money.
He then went the JUCO route and played QB at Garden City Community College in Kansas, where he put up Nintendo-like numbers. He caught the eye of Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn when Malzahn was the head coach at Arkansas State.
His path to Auburn is very similar to Auburn's third Heisman Trophy winner, Cam Newton. Newton went to Florida, had a run-in with the law surrounding the purchase of a stolen computer and found himself at Blinn College (a junior college) in Texas before leading the Tigers to the 2010 BCS National Championship.
Can Marshall's and Newton's paths continue to run parallel after the former's arrival at Auburn in May? We will find out, because Marshall is expected to get a shot at the QB position.
@canyouc_venus QB— June Marshall (@NicMarshall7) January 14, 2013
Auburn will have its annual QB race once again in 2013. Although rising sophomore QB Jonathan Wallace, who started the final four games for the Tigers, is returning, the QB race is wide open, according to Malzahn in his introductory press conference. "No, I have no idea [who will be starting QB]. All positions will be open. I do know that we have some guys that can execute our offense and that are familiar with our offense."
Auburn has not had a solidified QB entering spring practice since 2007, when Brandon Cox was under center for the Tigers.
For Malzahn, this will be his eighth starting QB in his eight years at the collegiate level.
Marshall's addition to the QB race is good for Auburn. His presence will certainly breed a healthy level of competition among the participants.
Along with Marshall, the QB race will feature rising junior Kiehl Frazier, Wallace, Jeremy Johnson and Jason Smith.
Marshall will have the opportunity to go through summer workouts when he arrives on the Plains in May, and that will give him an upper hand on Johnson and Smith, who will arrive later in the summer before fall camp.
All five participants are dual-threat QBs that Malzahn will be able to choose from. Malzahn is able to open up his playbook much more with a dual-threat QB that can both run and pass, as Auburn fans saw with Newton in 2010. In 2009, Auburn QB Chris Todd was not a threat to run.
Marshall brings an ability to escape pressure similar to that of Newton. Evading the rush is something both Wallace and Frazier did not show a lot of last year under offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.
The concern with Marshall is his decision-making in the pocket. Along with those gaudy passing numbers that he put up in the JUCO ranks were a 20-18 ratio of INTs to TDs.
Watching his film, it is hard to find evidence of him consistently making the type of throw that will need to be made into tight windows of opportunity against SEC defenses. It also appears that he has trouble letting the play develop before deciding to tuck the ball and run.
Those two issues are definitely fixable. Remember that some analysts had concerns with Newton's passing ability coming out of junior college as well.
What makes Marshall so valuable is that he is a dynamic playmaker at multiple positions. He can play defensive back, as he did at UGA, or even play WR if he does not win the starting QB job.
Regardless of whether or not he wins the QB job, his addition to the QB race can do nothing but help the Tigers QB situation.