UPDATE: Auburn officials tell B/R Nick Marshall will not attend SEC Media Days. He will be replaced by TE C.J. Uzomah.
Auburn QB Nick Marshall will not attend #SECMD14. TE C.J. Uzomah will attend in his place.— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 14, 2014
HOOVER, Alabama — Up until late Friday afternoon, SEC Media Days was lacking intrigue, drama and the circus-like atmosphere that typically litters the annual event at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall changed that in a hurry.
The rising senior signal-caller and Heisman Trophy candidate for the Tigers was cited Friday afternoon in Reynolds, Georgia, for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and having illegal tinting on his windows, according to Joel A. Erickson of AL.com.
Brandon Marcello of AL.com reported Sunday that Marshall was very regretful and "teary-eyed" during the incident.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn commented on the incident late Friday night.
"I am aware of the situation that happened earlier today with Nick. I'm very disappointed and I will address it with him accordingly," Malzahn said, according to Erickson.
"Addressing it" is a little more complicated than it would be for other players at other times, though, because Malzahn, Marshall, center Reese Dismukes and defensive lineman Gabe Wright are slated to be the first four people, other than commissioner Mike Slive, to make the rounds at SEC Media Days on Monday afternoon.
Does this storyline sound familiar?
It's quite similar to the one former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel faced this time last year, when the then-reigning Heisman Trophy winner—fresh off his early departure from the Manning Passing Academy, where he "slept in"—turned the Wynfrey into a three-ring circus.
For the most part, Manziel handled that situation well.
He stuck to the party line that was built around his time in Thibodaux, Louisiana, at the camp, sold his story to the media and didn't shy away from tough questions—even comparing himself to NBA star LeBron James in the process.
Now, Marshall finds himself in a similar boat.
No, he's not James, nor has he had the rock-star offseason that Manziel had, but he's the most high-profile quarterback at the event and he's playing for a team that is expected to be in the national-championship picture, just as Manziel was last year.
So, how should Marshall handle this?
He doesn't seek out the spotlight like Manziel did, but as the quarterback of the defending SEC champs, a Heisman candidate and a national title contender, the spotlight is going to seek him out.
Because of that, Marshall should view it as an opportunity.
An opportunity to be a leader and face his critics head-on, several of whom will likely be looking for any reason to chastise him in columns, on radio and on television.
He shouldn't let them.
SEC Media Days has evolved into a made-for-television college football convention, and that exposure provides Marshall an opportunity to make fools of his critics before they make a fool out of him.
Apologize to the fans.
Take the heat.
Don't shy away from the spotlight, because if all goes according to his and Auburn's plan, he will see a lot more of it during the season—albeit in a slightly different and more pleasant way.
Being a leader and owning the moment will make those columns published Monday night and the radio fodder that follows seem silly and outlandish.
Marshall should take advantage of the cards he dealt himself, not fold when the stakes are high.
In the process, he'd show his team that, even though it's the hunted now and not the hunter, he's still the cool customer who led Auburn to within 13 seconds of a national title before even playing in a spring game for the Tigers.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.