Sept. 19, 2013
Nick Marshall, left, and Zach Mettenberger are back in the SEC
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Georgia coach Mark Richt will be more than just an interested observer when Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall squares off against LSU's Zach Mettenberger on Saturday night.
Richt had both players at Georgia before they left for junior college only to return to the SEC.
"I like both of them very much. I want the very best for them," Richt said. "I'm glad they landed in a good spot and have the opportunity to continue their careers. I'm happy for them."
Both quarterbacks left Georgia after off-the-field incidents. Both returned to the SEC, now to one of the strangest footnotes in the league's history. Counting his own Aaron Murray playing North Texas on Saturday, Richt will have three of his former or current players starting at quarterback in an SEC game. That happened the first two weeks of the season, too.
Marshall played 13 games as a Georgia cornerback in 2011. Mettenberger signed with Georgia in 2009 and competed for the quarterback job.
Mettenberger got a jump on Marshall on their return to the SEC. He played sparingly for LSU in 2011 before taking over the starting job in 2012 and throwing for 2,609 yards and 12 touchdown passes. He's already thrown nine touchdown passes this year, the best three-game start to a season in LSU history.
Marshall jumped back in the league with modest passing numbers in his first two games this year, then threw for 339 yards, including the game-winner with 10 seconds left last week to beat Mississippi State 24-20.
"Even before the drive started, I'm thinking, 'I have a pretty good feeling this guy is going to start making some history at Auburn,'" Richt said.
Richt said he's glad Marshall and Mettenberger received their second chances.
"I believe in stories of redemption and stories of guys coming back from mistakes," Richt said. "Sometimes a guy makes a mistake, and you want him to turn it around while he's here at Georgia. Sometimes it happens at another school, and that's fine with me. I'm happy for these guys. I want all the guys we sign to realize all their dreams."
Richt said he had planned to tune in Auburn-LSU, anyway, Saturday night because the Bulldogs play both teams later in the year. He was reminded of the quarterback matchup Wednesday.
"It didn't dawn on me," he said.
Things will get even stranger for Richt next week when LSU visits Georgia. Mettenberger's mother, Tammy, works in Richt's office.
But that's next week. This week, Richt can be a fan watching on TV.
"I'll definitely be interested to see what happens," he said. "It'll be interesting to watch because we play both of those teams as well. "
Marshall set a Georgia high school record when he threw 103 touchdown passes in his career at Wilcox County in Rochelle, Ga. Richt said Georgia initially recruited Marshall as a quarterback, then switched gears.
"As time went on in the recruiting process, he decided it would be better for him to play corner, and we were all for that as well. He's a tremendous athlete and a guy that can play the position," Richt said.
"We knew he could play quarterback with the skills that he had."
"Each week," said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, "we learn more about him and try to give him a little more."
"Both quarterbacks have real talents," said LSU coach Les Miles.
Mettenberger, considered one of the prize catches of the 2009 recruiting class, was Georgia quarterback recruit all the way. He left, only return to the SEC.
"He's doing very well," Richt said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine