Jan. 22, 2015
The big Auburn contingent at the Senior Bowl struck a pose Thursday: Gabe Wright, Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne on the front row, left to right. Second row is C.J. Uzomah, Gus Malzahn, Reese Dismukes and Sammie Coates
By Charles Goldberg
MOBILE, Ala. — Gus Malzahn was looking up his players after Senior Bowl practice, glad-handing Nick Marshall and Sammie Coates, Cameron Artis-Payne and the rest, and wondering about how their day was going.
"I would have made y'all go faster," smiled the Auburn coach whose offense is built on speed. Alas, Malzahn can't make them go faster anymore. Auburn's large Senior Bowl contingent — Marshall, Coates, Artis-Payne, C.J. Uzomah, Reese Dismukes and Gabe Wright — is here trying to impress pro scouts ahead of the NFL Draft.
Malzahn flew from Auburn to the sidelines at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, the site of Saturday's Senior Bowl to be a spectator during practice. He was a fan when it was over, saying it's a special trip "when you walk in here and see six guys in Auburn helmets. I'm very proud of them. They've all earned it. They all have bright futures.
"Anytime you get six guys in the Senior Bowl it's a good thing for everybody. I think it's a positive.
"These six out here says a lot about our program. Our coaches have done a great job developing guys."
Auburn will be part of the headlines Saturday. But Marshall made some of the biggest Senior Bowl headlines when he announced Tuesday that he was switching from quarterback to cornerback.
Marshall was a winning quarterback for Malzahn for two years, so the move to defense "surprised me a little bit, but I want Nick to be happy. There's no doubt in my mind that if Nick chose to play quarterback he could play quarterback in the NFL. But he wants to play corner. He's a good enough athlete to play a lot of different positions. He did a great job for us and we're rooting for him.
"What he did in our program was really unbelievable for two years. He took us to the national championship game the first year, and had a great year this year. He broke a lot of records. Whatever he wants to do, we'll support him."
Malzahn provided his scouting report for some of Auburn's other players:
• Receiver Sammie Coates
"We thought he did a great job for us. He's a deep-threat guy. He's improved his intermediate routes. His upside is very good. He's got a lot of speed, he's very strong. He's a great competitor," Malzahn said.Our earlier story on Sammie Coates.
• Running back Cameron Artis-Payne
"Cameron Artis-Payne is a winner. He does all the little things right…protections, he blocks, check-downs, he's got good hands. He's a great worker."
• Center Reese Dismukes
"He's a four-year starter in the SEC, which I think is very important. He's like another quarterback on the field, and like a coach on the field, too. He doesn't have any bad days.
"He's one of those guys who will definitely make it and he'll be around that league for a long time."
• Defensive lineman Gabe Wright
"He's a big athlete. I think he's got a chance to be an impact player."
Wright didn't practice Thursday because of sprained foot, but is expected to play Saturday.
• Malzahn said defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has "been a breath of fresh air. Great defensive mind. Great staff guy. We're really looking forward to next year with him."
He joins fellow new defensive assistants Lance Thompson and Travaris Robinson.
"They're at the top of their line at what they do," Malzahn said.
He also said it was "very important" that Muschamp had worked with both of them.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: