The Auburn Tigers had a putrid season in 2012 (finished with a 3-9 record and lost all eight games against SEC opponents), but the quarterback battle coming into this year may be revitalizing the former national champions.
With the competition down to just junior college transfer Nick Marshall and freshman Jeremy Johnson, per Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com, the hope is that both players bring their best in order to win the job and inspire their teammates.
If Marshall and Johnson push each other to get better as they battle every day, no matter which player gets the start in Week 1, the hard work from both men and how it rubs off on everyone else will make Auburn the biggest winner.
Head coach Gus Malzahn told Joel A. Erickson of AL.com about the position battle, what each of the first-year Tigers bring to the table and how the eventual starter will win the job:
We were just to a point where we really felt like they deserved the opportunity to go out and win the job. In order to do that, what we wanted to do was give them more opportunities to show us…Both of them have extremely live arms. They both can run, and both of them are athletic. It’s just a matter of how quick they can get acclimated. We’re still looking for a couple of different situations to see how they react and see how their teammates react.
There were four QBs battling for the starting job, but with 2012 starter Kiehl Frazier asking to move to safety, per James Crepea of the USA Today, and the coaching staff narrowing the competition down to just two players, the team will be able to focus solely on improving before the season begins.
Finding the right fit will be much easier with just two quarterbacks taking snaps with the first-team offense. Not only will the coaches be able to analyze each QB more thoroughly, but the players on the offensive side of the ball will be able to build a rapport with both men.
Marshall is the smaller of the two quarterbacks, but he is the more athletic in terms of running the ball. While he has a strong arm—he showcased that in the first two scrimmages, per Erickson—a lack of consistency will hurt his chances of winning the starting job.
Johnson stands 6’5” and 219 pounds. While he may be a freshman, the tall QB has great vision with the mobility to make him the more dangerous overall passer. While his mechanics aren’t elite, the first-year player has time to develop into a star.
The competition should bring out the best in everyone. No matter which QB wins the battle to be the Week 1 starter, the team will be better off.
Auburn fans should expect a much more cohesive team fighting for the same cause this season. Look for the Tigers to ride the QB battle to eight wins.