Nick Marshall has been on target at Auburn's practices
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee says he likes how quarterback Nick Marshall is handling himself early in fall camp.
"He's been really good going about his business and he’s been throwing the ball pretty well. I’ve been proud of the way he’s been competing and practicing."
Coach Gus Malzahn said last week that Marshall won't start the season-opener because of an off-the-field incident over the summer, but the quarterback has been leading the way through four days of preseason practice. Lashlee said Marshall was 15-of-17 passing in a drill on Day 2.
"He hasn't been that sharp every day, but he has been better. So far he’s been steady. Hopefully, he’ll continue to do that," Lashlee said Monday, the fourth day of practice.
Marshall is sharing practice time with backup Jeremy Johnson, just like they did it in the spring.
"With my guys, it’s been business as usual," Lashlee said.
Marshall ran for more than 1,000 yards and passed for more than 2,000 last year. Now, in his second fall camp, he's bigger, having gained 10-12 pounds "which is good for him," Lashlee said.
Johnson is also bigger -- and improving, too, now a year removed from his freshman season.
"When you come in here as a freshman, you’re immature, it’s all new, you don’t know the offense, you don’t know anything," Lashlee said. "You’re eager to learn. So he did all that last year and he got to play and had success. Then you get to that point where you’ve kind of got to get over the hump and take that next big step of really maturing if you’re going to be a quarterback and lead. I’m really hoping that between now and the end of fall camp, he can do that.
"He's doing well. It's now time to kind of take that next step in the maturation process with everything — from leadership to knowing the offensive to execution to just the way you’re professional in meetings and all those things. That’s the next step for him.
"We feel like he’s very talented. If Nick wasn't the starter, he would play, and play well and probably could play at a lot of places."
•Lashlee said preseason practice has gone well enough.
"For the most part, these four days, our guys have done a good job of knowing their assignments. We haven’t had a lot of busts. They’ve worked pretty hard. There are things here or there at times that you have lulls in practice. That’s pretty standard this time of year, but I’ve been pretty pleased with the first four days."
•Racean Thomas is known as Roc. Now, fellow freshman running back Kamryn Pettway has a nickname.
Running backs coach Tim Horton calls him "Bubba" to differentiate him from Cameron Artis-Payne.
"Coach Horton named him that because we’ve got two Cams in the room," Lashlee said.
Lashlee said it's too early to judge the freshmen, but, on Thomas, he said "you can see his athletic ability and his quickness." And, "Bubba is big and really athletic and has great hands. Those two guys have done really well."
•Lashlee gave a positive assessment of the new-look offensive line.
"I feel good about those five guys. They are all veteran guys and have all played," Lashlee said. "They are at a little different positions now, but we’ve got a month to get them working together and get that continuity established."
•Receiver Duke Williams arrived with much fanfare in the spring as the No. 1 junior college player in the country.
He did well then, and now.
"So far after four days, he's been great," Lashlee said. "He's playing well without the ball. He's been unselfish, he's blocking and he's making plays when he gets opportunities, too."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine