Auburn QB Nick Marshall's Week-by-Week Improvement an Encouraging Sign

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterSeptember 9, 2013

They say that a player shows the most improvement from Week 1 and Week 2, and that old adage held true for Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall.

The junior college transfer completed 10-of-17 passes for 147 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in Auburn's 38-9 win over Arkansas State Saturday night on the Plains.

Eye-popping stats? Not really.

Marshall has yet to take that step and become the dual-threat weapon that he was touted to be heading into the season. But the Pineview, Ga. native showed some encouraging signs in his second start with the Tigers.

The most noticeable difference in his performance against the Red Wolves was the touch he put on his passes. Auburn had several key drops in its opener, but most of those drops were a direct result of Marshall putting way too much heat on the ball on short routes.

Against Arkansas State, he toned it down a bit, and the offense clicked as a result.

On the short out route in the video above, Marshall rolls left and hits wide receiver Trovon Reed in stride near the sideline. Reed turns it upfield and puts the Tigers in position for the first touchdown of the game.

Two weeks ago against Washington State, that touch wasn't there.

In the video below, wide receiver Ricardo Louis drops what would be a sure-fire third-down conversion in the first quarter. He needs to make that catch, but the drop isn't all on him. Marshall needed to throw a changeup rather than a fastball on the five-yard hitch.

Head coach Gus Malzahn commented on Marshall's week-by-week progression after the game in quotes released by the university:

He is getting more comfortable each practice. He was a little more comfortable this game than last week and I feel like that will improve. The guy didn't go through spring. He is still learning as he goes. He is very hard on himself, and he has a chance to improve each game.

His deep ball also looked much better in Week 2.

There's no doubt that Marshall has a big arm. He can let it fly with the best of them and look rather effortless in the process. 

Against Arkansas State, he put air on his deep balls to allow his receivers to adjust accordingly. On Auburn's third touchdown of the game, it paid off.

Marshall lofted a beautiful ball and hit Sammie Coates in stride down the seam for a 68-yard touchdown. Coates adjusted a bit, but it was decent coverage by the Red Wolves' defensive back.

That kind of touch on the deep ball simply didn't exist in Week 1. In fact, Marshall looked more intent on showing off his arm than anything else.

Check out the third play of Auburn's win over Washington State in Week 1. Marshall unleashed a 67-yard bomb and overshot Coates by about 10 yards. 

His arm strength is mighty impressive. That ball traveled 67 yards in no time at all. But he didn't give Coates any opportunity to make the catch.

Could that have been first game jitters? Of course.

If it was, he got over it in a hurry, because he looked solid against Arkansas State.

Auburn doesn't need Marshall to be Cam Newton.

Two weeks into the season, it's clear that the trio of Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant are going to be the focal points of the Auburn offense. All Marshall needs to do is rely on his running game, make smart decisions, take shots when it's appropriate and keep the chains moving.

If Marshall can keep progressing and become an accomplished enough passer to keep opposing defenses honest, it'll be all Auburn needs to be competitive in the SEC West.