Gus Malzahn Making Mistake Not Letting Nick Marshall Work with George Whitfield

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterMarch 3, 2014

Nov 30, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn high fives quarterback Nick Marshall (14) during the second quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

These are uncharted waters for Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn.

For the first time as a college coach he has the chance to work with his starting quarterback from the previous season for a full offseason, and he's looking forward to the challenge.

It will be a challenge for only Malzahn and his staff, because according to Brandon Marcello of, Malzahn won't allow rising senior quarterback Nick Marshall to work with noted quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. this offseason.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn (left) and QB Nick Marshall
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn (left) and QB Nick MarshallKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

"We've never had anyone work with our quarterbacks while they still had eligibility," Malzahn told Marcello on Friday. "We feel really good about how we go about it and the success we've had before. There won't be anyone working with our quarterbacks until their eligibility is exhausted."

It is an attempt by Malzahn to create one voice within the program, with that voice being his and his staff.

"You want them thinking exactly like you want them to think," he said. "When you get multiple people working, there's multiple thoughts, so we want them thinking one way."

Malzahn is making a mistake by not letting Marshall work with Whitfield.

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 30:  Nick Marshall #14 celebrates with head coach Gus Malzahn of the Auburn Tigers in the fourth quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty I
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Whitfield has worked with several college quarterbacks during offseasons, including former Texas A&M signal-caller Johnny Manziel and former Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd last offseason. All Manziel did was throw 37 touchdown passes and make a return trip to New York City as a Heisman finalist in 2013. Boyd threw for 3,851 yards and 34 touchdowns in his final season with Clemson.

Both of those quarterbacks operate in a hurry-up, no-huddle system similar to the one Malzahn runs at Auburn, and Whitfield's tutelage didn't hurt them during their final collegiate seasons.

It wouldn't hurt Marshall either.

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 06:  Quarterback Nick Marshall #14 and head coach Gus Malzahn celebrate after a touchdown against the Florida State Seminoles in the second quarter of the 2014 Vizio BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl on January 6, 2014
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

College players typically make the trip to Southern California to work with Whitfield during spring break or the time between spring and summer semesters. Quarterbacks aren't working with their full teams or coaches during that time anyway, so what's the harm if Marshall takes the initiative and gets some unique work in with a quality coach during his downtime?

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 19: Nick Marshall #14 of the Auburn Tigers hugs head coach Gus Malzahn of the Auburn Tigers after they defeated the Texas A&M Aggies on October 19, 2013 at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas. Auburn Tigers won 45 to 41.(Photo by Th
Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

There isn't any.

In fact, for Marshall, it could be incredibly beneficial. 

He came to Auburn as a junior college transfer, only 18 months removed from playing defensive back at the University of Georgia. With only five weeks of practice and two-and-a-half as the starter before his first game with the Tigers, he wowed SEC fans with his big arm and dual-threat ability, leading the Tigers to within 13 seconds of their second BCS National Championship in four years.

But his accuracy was an issue.

When he had to take something off his passes and put more touch on the ball, he struggled a bit. That's not the most shocking development in the world. He was clearly raw, and the offense he plays in is designed to lull defensive backs to sleep with a punishing running game and then take its top off when the time is right.

It's not like Whitfield is going to break Marshall. His track record of working with quarterbacks from a variety of schemes is second to none. He may not do things the same way as Malzahn and his staff, but there could be some things that click in Marshall's head that he can take back and use at Auburn in 2014.

Working with a private quarterback coach during the downtime of the offseason is a low-risk, high-reward proposition for any quarterback.

For a raw quarterback like Marshall who has already led his team to one of college football's most remarkable one-year turnarounds, it's a no-risk, high-reward proposition.

Malzahn's stance on "one voice" makes sense, but it shouldn't be etched in stone—particularly with a player like Marshall, who has plenty of room left to grow.


* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of