First-year head coach Gus Malzahn's motto heading into the 2013 season is that it's "a new day" at Auburn.
That new day features two returning quarterbacks—Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace—who didn't do an awful lot to inspire confidence last year and didn't separate from each other this spring. Because of that, Nick Marshall will have a shot to win the starting job once he enrolls in June.
Marshall, a 6'2", 190-pound dual-threat quarterback who played defensive back at Georgia in 2011, was dismissed from the program in February 2012 for a violation of team rules.
According to ESPN.com, Marshall and another teammate were involved in the theft of money.
After a season playing quarterback for the Garden City (Kan.) Community College Broncbusters, he's headed back to the SEC, looking for a fresh start after choosing the Tigers over Kansas State and briefly flirting with Texas, according to AuburnSports.com.
Let's see, a junior college transfer quarterback with SEC roots coming to Auburn to take the snaps for a Malzahn-led offense.
Despite having a similar career path to former Tigers Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton, Marshall isn't Newton—at least, not yet.
Last season for Garden City, Marshall threw for 3,142 yards and 18 touchdowns and ran for 1,095 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Cam-like? No doubt. But he also threw 20 interceptions, and that's troubling, especially now that he's joining an offense that desperately needs consistency.
Developing consistency is right in Malzahn's wheelhouse.
Former Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin had a 19-to-16 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2011, the season before Malzahn arrived as coach. That ratio improved to 24-to-4 last season.
That's quite a turnaround.
And don't use Arkansas State's membership in the Sun Belt to diminish Malzahn's success with quarterbacks. He's done it in the SEC, too.
In his first season with Malzahn as his offensive coordinator in 2009, former Tigers quarterback Chris Todd improved his completion percentage by 5.3 percent, tossed 17 more touchdowns (22) and an equal number of interceptions (6) in 172 more passing attempts.
Reclamation projects are nothing new for Malzahn, and for the most part, he's been successful.
Despite Marshall's inconsistency passing at Garden City, he earned plenty of praise from his coaches. Former Kansas State quarterback and assistant coach Matt Miller installed the Broncbusters' spread attack when Marshall arrived and was impressed with what he brings to the table, according to AuburnSports.com:
From the beginning, it was a no-brainer: He is the most talented quarterback I've ever been around. I've been around some special, special dual-threat guys. What makes Nick different is that he's got the size and the strength. He's not a small guy. He throws off 300-pounders. He's just naturally strong. He has [former Kansas State quarterback] Michael Bishop's strength and arm strength.
Neither Frazier nor Wallace solidified the starting quarterback spot at Auburn this spring, leaving the door wide open for Marshall.
It's clear from his time at junior college that he has the raw talent to be successful as a dual-threat quarterback as long as he continues to progress as a passer. He's stepping into a situation with a coach and a scheme that are perfectly designed to help him in that progression.
Marshall doesn't have to be Newton, and Malzahn doesn't need a dual-threat quarterback to be successful.
With Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant lining up at running back, Auburn's offense will be a run-based attack out of the spread. Adding Marshall's ability as a runner only helps matters, especially if he can learn to take what defenses give him and not force passes into tight coverage.
If he can do that, Marshall might beat out Frazier, Wallace and true freshman Jeremy Johnson and be the one taking snaps in Auburn's opener on Aug. 31 versus Washington State.
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