Nick Marshall Will Leave Auburn as 'One of the Best' in the Tigers' History

Justin Ferguson@@JFergusonBRCFB National AnalystDecember 26, 2014

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AUBURN, Ala. — The start of a new year might be the end of Nick Marshall's career as a quarterback.

On Jan. 1, when Auburn faces Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl, the senior will lead his offense onto the field one last time.

Marshall's NFL prospects as a quarterback look slim. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. projects him to make a return to defensive back, a position where he started his wild collegiate career while at rival Georgia.

But no matter if Marshall takes another snap at quarterback in a competitive game after the Tigers' bowl game, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn knows one thing—his signal-caller will leave as a legend.

Auburn HC Gus Malzahn and Marshall
Auburn HC Gus Malzahn and MarshallUSA TODAY Sports

"He was a big part of leading us to the national championship, and it would have been extremely hard to get there without him," Malzahn said. "He has been very good for us. He’s one of the best to ever come through here."

That's high praise, especially at a school that has put out several Heisman winners and dozens of All-Americans, but it's not unwarranted.

Marshall has been responsible for 55 touchdowns in his Auburn career. That mark places him third all time in school history, behind Heisman winner Pat Sullivan and current Auburn wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig.

If Marshall records four touchdowns against Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl—a feat he has accomplished four different times—he will pass Craig.

But while Sullivan and Craig both compiled their touchdowns across three seasons as starting quarterbacks, Marshall will have made his mark in just two seasons.

That is an impressive accomplishment for a former junior-college transfer who didn't even win the starting job at Auburn until a few weeks before the 2013 season opener.

Auburn C Reese Dismukes and Marshall
Auburn C Reese Dismukes and MarshallButch Dill/Associated Press

"He's a guy who came in here with three weeks to go and started at quarterback for us the last two years," senior center Reese Dismukes said. "He has done a great job and has done everything the coaches have ever asked him to do. He'll be remembered as one of Auburn's greats."

Marshall took over Auburn's starting quarterback position, one that had been in turmoil since the departure of Cam Newton at the end of the 2010 season and helped turn a 3-9 team into a 12-2 team with an SEC title and a BCS National Championship Game appearance in 2013.

He has one of the top winning percentages for a quarterback in Auburn history, as the Tigers have gone 18-6 when his name has been in the starting lineup.

Despite his well-documented struggles with accuracy, Marshall is currently eighth all time in passing yards with 4,291 in 25 games.

His 6,139 career yards of total offense is sixth in Auburn history, and he has a realistic chance at moving all the way into fourth with another standout performance in the Outback Bowl.

Marshall vs. Alabama
Marshall vs. AlabamaButch Dill/Associated Press

This chance to rise even higher in the Auburn record books comes after the finest performance of his career, the Iron Bowl against No. 1 Alabama.

Marshall shattered the school record for total offense in one game by putting up 505 yards against one of the country's best defenses. While his team fell short of the upset in Tuscaloosa, the 55-44 loss wasn't due to a lack of anything from Auburn's athletic quarterback.

"I'm proud of myself, my teammates and my coaches for putting us in the best situation to try and win the game," Marshall said after the Iron Bowl last month. "That's all I can ask for."

In that Iron Bowl, Marshall showcased his best quality as an Auburn quarterback—performing his best when the pressure is at its highest.

Fourth-quarter comebacks and last-minute drama were never too much for Marshall, who has a 9-2 record at Auburn in one-possession games.

Several of Marshall's game-changing plays in those contests will be remembered forever, including the "Miracle at Jordan-Hare" Hail Mary pass to knock off Georgia in 2013 and a game-tying pop pass to Sammie Coates in the 2013 Iron Bowl:

"I've been blessed to coach some pretty good guys…but Nick is a guy that the moment's never too big for him," Malzahn said. "He's had numerous moments, from a quarterback standpoint, I don't know if I've ever had a quarterback that had that many different pressure moments. He's responded like a champ in all of them."

Although the lofty goals Marshall and his teammates set heading into the 2014 season are unattainable at this point, he still has a chance to add on to his incredible Auburn legacy on New Year's Day.

Marshall vs. LSU
Marshall vs. LSUBrynn Anderson/Associated Press

Some players might underachieve in a bowl game when their team has expectations at competing for a national championship.

But don't expect that out of an all-time great like Nick Marshall.

"He has played in the biggest games to the lowest games, and I'm sure his confidence and the way he approaches games is just like any other game," senior wide receiver Quan Bray said earlier this season. "He doesn't show any ups and downs. He just goes out, and he steps up his play.

"Once he does that, everybody else follows, and everything else takes care of itself."

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU.

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