Auburn 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

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Auburn 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
QB Nick Marshall

Auburn has been no stranger to quarterback controversy over the last several seasons.

The dismal 2012 campaign began with new starting quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who was benched midway through the season in favor of backup Clint Moseley and later true freshman Jonathan Wallace.

Barrett Trotter opened 2011 as Auburn's new starter under center, but Moseley took over midway through the season before passing the reins back to Trotter for the Tigers' Chick-fil-A Bowl win.

Although he eventually won the Heisman Trophy and a national championship, no one truly knew what to expect from junior college transfer Cam Newton heading into 2010, his first and only season at Auburn.

Before Newton's heroics, Chris Todd was Auburn's top quarterback in 2009. He took the spot from Kodi Burns, who lost the starting job due to an injury in the 2008 opener but later reclaimed it for the second half of the season.

Some Auburn fans who were upset at senior Brandon Cox's play chanted Burns' name in 2007, when he was a true freshman. Burns, who ended his Auburn career as a wide receiver, scored the game-winning touchdown in another memorable bowl victory in the Georgia Dome.

USA TODAY Sports

While 2013 started in familiar fashion for Auburn—another dual-threat JUCO star originally from an SEC school winning the quarterback job—Nick Marshall made sure the Tigers would open 2014 with the luxury of an established starting signal-caller.

After leading Auburn to an unforeseen bounce-back season that ended with an SEC title and a berth in the national championship game, Marshall is back on the Plains to lead Gus Malzahn's patented offense for one more year.

He had an entire offseason to work on his accuracy issues and develop a better connection with his receivers, and the senior has Tiger fans excited about the team's chances at another magical year.

Fans will also be excited about the future of the position as the Tigers return all three quarterbacks who saw action last season. With the addition of a top signee, Auburn will venture into somewhat unfamiliar territory: having experience and depth at the helm of the offense.

 

Starter: Nick Marshall

Marshall did not blow anybody away with his passing numbers in his first season at Auburn, but his offensive production still made him one of the SEC's top playmakers.

His athleticism makes the Tigers' top-ranked rushing attack and developing passing game even more dangerous for opposing defenses. He can use his impressive speed to race past defenders on option keepers, buy extra time in the backfield for passing plays or just scramble for the first down. 

Nick Marshall's 2013 Statistics
Passing Yards per Game 152.0 91st in NCAA 10th in SEC
Passing Touchdowns 14 75th 8th
Completion Percentage 59.4 68th 10th
Yards per Attempt 8.3 21st 6th
QB Rating 143.2 33rd 6th
Interceptions 6 41st 8th
Rushing Yards per Game 82.2 5th (for QBs) 1st (for QBs)
Rushing Touchdowns 12 7th (for QBs) 2nd (for QBs)

CFBStats.com

But the Tigers want Marshall to throw the ball more this season, and he must improve on his middle-of-the-road completion percentage from 2013. While a more experienced set of receivers could give him the intermediate threat he was missing last season, he will have to cut down on his recurring personal errors such as overthrown deep balls.

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee set a goal for Marshall to complete "between 65 and 70 percent" of his passes during spring practices—a high mark that the senior met.

"He was 64 percent in 7-on-7 all spring, and he was almost 70 percent in team setting in practice," Lashlee said in May, per the Montgomery Advertiser's James Crepea.

If Marshall can carry that level of success through the air into the fall while continuing to be an effective weapon in the passing game, he could emerge as a contender for the Heisman Trophy as the Tiger offense sets its sights on smashing more records.

 

Backup: Jeremy Johnson

Butch Dill/Associated Press
QB Jeremy Johnson

Johnson raised a few eyebrows last season when he made the final cut in Auburn's preseason quarterback battle.

Although he lost the starting job to Marshall, the true freshman was surprisingly not redshirted and recorded a pass in five different games as the No. 2 quarterback on the roster.

He got his first career start against FCS opponent Western Carolina, wowing the homecoming crowd with his excellent touch on long passes in a 62-3 smashing of the Catamounts.

Johnson later came in for an injured Marshall against Florida Atlantic, once again impressing through the air against weaker collegiate competition. After Marshall got back to full health midway through last season, Johnson was used sporadically in special packages. 

Jeremy Johnson's High School Statistics
Passing Yards Passing TDs Interceptions Rushing Yards Rushing TDs
2012 3,193 31 7 706 7
2011 2,380 22 14 103 4

247Sports

Johnson, Alabama's Mr. Football in 2012, was listed as a 4-star pro-style quarterback out of high school, but he has enough athleticism to be a solid rushing threat for the Tigers. Marshall is a smaller, speedier type of running quarterback, but the 6'5" Johnson reminds Auburn fans more of the powerful Cam Newton when he takes the snap.

Only time will tell what kind of impact a more experienced Marshall will have on Johnson's play count in 2014. But if Marshall goes down with an injury, the Auburn faithful should have plenty of confidence his backup to take over and showcase his own set of dual-threat talents against tougher opponents.

 

Third-String: Jonathan Wallace

Dave Martin/Associated Press
QB Jonathan Wallace

Wallace will be a true junior this season, and he has already had a wild career on the Plains.

Hailing from nearby Phenix City, Alabama, Wallace was a signing-day surprise in 2012 and managed to get on the depth chart for his true freshman season. He was even Auburn's first-choice quarterback toward the end of the dismal season, trying to provide a spark for the lackluster offense.

He did not make the cut in Auburn's four-way battle for the starting quarterback spot last fall, sliding into third on the depth chart following Frazier's move from the position. The former starter saw little time behind Marshall and Johnson in 2013 as his biggest production came on a six-carry, 36-yard night against lowly Florida Atlantic.

If Marshall and Johnson somehow are not able to occupy the No. 1 and No. 2 roles on the depth chart at any point this season, Auburn will have some starting experience with Wallace. He is also a running quarterback who could fit right into Malzahn's offense after showing some promise in Scot Loeffler's pro-style scheme.

Wallace will have an opportunity to make a difference in 2014, although it probably will not be on the offensive side of the ball:

As a quarterback who has played against SEC defenses, he could be a valuable weapon if Malzahn and company want to get more creative in the popular "Batman" 2-point conversion package.

 

Newcomer: Sean White

USA TODAY Sports
QB Sean White

White was not the highest-rated quarterback in the class of 2014—he was the nation's No. 8 pro-style signal-caller—but he stood out in his final year of high school with a pair of prestigious MVP awards.

The Florida native was the MVP of the Elite 11 quarterback camp last July and committed to Malzahn and the Tigers days after winning the award. A few months later, he was named the Under Armour All-America Game MVP after completing 10 of 12 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns.

Sean White's High School Statistics
Passing Yards Completion % Passing TDs Interceptions
2013 2,656 61.4% 30 5
2012 3,431 70.5% 40 6
2011 2,001 59.0% 25 2

247Sports

Unlike Auburn's current starting quarterback, White is a pure passer known for his deadly accuracy in the pocket.

"It's an NFL type of ball that he throws," former pro quarterback Trent Dilfer told 247Sports (subscription required) at last year's Elite 11 camp. "He throws an artistic ball. He doesn't just throw a skinny post, he sends a message with the skinny post. It blows your mind, his passing proficiency."

If Auburn continues to put a stronger emphasis on the passing game in the next few seasons, White will have an advantage in future quarterback battles thanks to his top-level arm. He also boasts great ratings in pocket presence and footwork, so he has the potential to turn into a dual-threat player during his time on the Plains.

White will most likely redshirt in 2014 and have an opportunity to compete for the starting job in 2015 against Johnson and any quarterbacks the Tigers might sign in this year's recruiting class. He might not become a starter early in his Auburn career, but Auburn fans should be excited for when he gets the chance.

 

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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