Aug. 15, 2014
C.J. Uzomah, left, and Nick Marshall celebrate last season
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — C.J. Uzomah thought practice was over…until quarterback Nick Marshall spoke up.
"Coach asked after practice if we needed an extra pace period, which is the worst thing, and he said, 'yeah, we need another pace period. Let’s do two.' And we were like, 'Uh … Nick, what are you doing?'"
What Nick Marshall was doing, said Uzomah later, was showing leadership.
"But that just shows his drive, his willingness to win, and as much as we dreaded it, we needed it and that's kind of what he said: 'We’ve got to be pumped up about this, the pace is what our edge is, that’s what we thrive on, that’s what our MO is.' So I think as far as a leadership standpoint, he’s exactly where we want him to be."
So the Auburn tight end, the Auburn quarterback and the rest of the offense went back to work, and the team that gained a gazillion yards rushing last season and scored lots of points were back at work. Uzomah says Auburn is ready to play. Praise came easily.
"We’re leaps and bounds ahead of where we were last year, especially as an offense, just because we’ve been in the system for a year-plus now," Uzomah said. "We have that kind of connection as receivers, and the O-line knows what we’re doing with Coach (J.B.) Grimes. The quarterbacks and the running backs have their mesh points, yeah, it’s going really well and we’re pleasantly pleased where we are right now.”
Uzomah said Marshall has "been tremendous. He said that he’d get back on track, that’s what he told the team, and that’s what he’s done. He hasn’t missed a beat with anything we’ve been doing." Marshall had a breakout season last year, even though last season "he was just trying to really just understand the offense."
He does now, and he seems to be demanding everybody else does, too.
"He texts everyone. He has a group message where he’ll text all the receivers, all the running backs and he’ll be like, ‘we need to get out there and throw," Uzomah said. "There’s no question, there’s no 'oh I have this or that,' unless it’s school. It’s like we’re out there, and we’re throwing, and he wants to perfect it."
Uzomah said backup quarterback Jeremy Johnson has been doing well, too. Or, as Uzomah said, Johnson has been "doing great."
"I think he could start anywhere else in the SEC as a quarterback this year, and that’s no disrespect to any other SEC team," said Uzomah. "That’s just how we feel about him. We feel he’s a great quarterback and when he’s in there he’s making great reads, he’s completing passes. So we have all the confidence in the world in him and he’s doing exceptionally well.”
"I think last year, as a freshman, he was kind of on edge. He’d make really good throws and then sometimes he’d be a little errant with the ball, especially with Malzahn out there — that kind of makes everyone uneasy. But this year his confidence has grown because he knows we trust him. He knows where we’re going to be and we know he’s going to put the ball where it needs to be. So I think the connection with the receivers, he knows the line with protect for him, has boosted his confidence tremendously."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine