Aug. 3, 2013
Nick Marshall shows off his arm in Auburn's first practice (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — The quarterbacks who played last season received the first opportunity in Auburn's first practice of the fall. Coach Gus Malzahn then handed the keys to newcomers>Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson.
"They both have live arms," Malzahn said. "The ball comes out of their hands very well. They get the ball out quick, which is very critical to what we do offensively."
And with that, Marshall, the junior college transfer; and Johnson, last year's Mr. Football in the State of Alabama, officially joined the quarterback race with veterans Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace.
"The first part of practice we let the older guys who went through spring, and let our two new guys sit back and watch and see how everything went.
"It was very equal among the four of them all day."
Wallace started the final four games last year. Frazier started the first five. But the race this season is far from settled.
"When you've got four guys, it's a challenge. But I really like our strategy trying to divide things up," Malzahn said.
"You're evaluating everything. You're evaluating how quick they can pick up things; you're evaluating how they can execute your base, fundamental offense; and you're also evaluating how the teammates respond to them."
Malzahn's assessment of Marshall went like this: "Very good arm strength, there's no doubt, not just the long throws, but he throws the short throws real hard, too. It's going to be a matter of him learning the offense."
Malzahn said Johnson "has run a similar offense before, so a lot of the communication stuff he's got down. It's just a matter of learning a few new schemes. He also has an outstanding arm. We recruited him for this offense."
Defensive back Jonathon Mincy said Johnson "doesn't look like a freshman."
"I'm just excited to see what he can come in and bring to the table. I'm definitely excited for him."
But it was the experienced quarterbacks, and other veterans, who showed the way Friday.
"We divided up in the first part of practice with an emphasis on the older guys," Malzahn said. "We really let them get out there and show the younger guys the pace and expectations. Halfway through we did some special teams, and then, the second part of practice we really slowed things down and really tried to spend quality time with the young guys at every position. We'll do the same thing tomorrow and see where we're at."
Charles Goldberg writes for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: