Gus Malzahn, Auburn Handling Delicate Nick Marshall Situation Perfectly

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterAugust 11, 2014

Auburn QB Nick Marshall
Auburn QB Nick MarshallBrynn Anderson/Associated Press

It was almost a month ago when Auburn pulled senior quarterback Nick Marshall the night before the Tigers made the rounds at SEC media days in Hoover, Alabama, after Marshall was cited for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and illegal window tinting.

Since then, he's been off limits.

That changed on Sunday, when he appeared before the media following Auburn's fan day.

Auburn QB Nick Marshall
Auburn QB Nick MarshallChris Carlson/Associated Press

"I made a mistake and I'm just trying to gain my trust back from the coaches," Marshall said, according to Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com. "I let my family down and I'm also trying to gain their trust back and also the Auburn fans. The incident that happened, it's just going to change me as a better man on and off the field."

The way head coach Gus Malzahn handled this entire ordeal will also make Marshall a better man on and off the field, which was his goal from the beginning.

"We have high expectations for our players, but specifically our quarterback, being the face of our program," Malzahn said in Hoover. "Up until last Friday, Nick has been a model student, teammate and citizen. Nick made a mistake, and he'll have to deal with the consequences."

Auburn QB Nick Marshall
Auburn QB Nick Marshalljohn bazemore/Associated Press

Malzahn didn't have to string this out, and doing so is part of Marshall's punishment.

He could have announced that Marshall wouldn't start the opener, brought him to Hoover and forced him to answer the same repetitive questions about the incident all afternoon long, and the drama would have been over with.

Instead, he made a spectacle out of Marshall, which served as pretty severe punishment. Marshall's absence made him the talk of the town in Hoover, which is something that will stick with him through the season and the NFL draft process—which also may include a position change. On top of that, he missed out on a trip to Los Angeles two days later for the ESPYs with Malzahn and several teammates.

Auburn QB Nick Marshall
Auburn QB Nick MarshallStephen Dunn/Getty Images

He then waited a few weeks to announce that Marshall won't start the opener vs. Arkansas. His absence isn't really the punishment. Whether it's a series, a quarter, a half or a game, backup Jeremy Johnson should be able to hold down the fort until Marshall makes his 2014 debut.

The punishment draws out the process even more, and it will be a storyline up until toe meets leather. Time is punishment—more so than missing a few snaps.

Make no mistake, it was still important for Malzahn to make a point with his quarterback and force him to miss some time.

While some, including former tight end Ricky Parks, spoke of a "zero tolerance policy" regarding Auburn's football program and marijuana, the official school policy doesn't include an automatic suspension for the first marijuana offense, a suspension for half the season on the second and permanent suspension on the third.

Malzahn went above and beyond with Marshall to prove a point, and judging from Marshall's first media appearance of fall camp, it seems like the message was received loud and clear.

Shouldn't that be the point?

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.