Oct. 10, 2013
AUBURN, Ala. – Suddenly, Auburn’s quarterback picture seems murky and rife with questions.
Will junior Nick Marshall, who torched Ole Miss for 140 rushing yards and Mississippi State for 339 passing yards, be sidelined by a knee injury for Saturday’s homecoming game against Western Carolina?
If Marshall is sidelined, will Auburn coaches decide to pull the redshirt from true freshman Jeremy Johnson? Will they go with sophomore Jonathan Wallace?
Malzahn and his men might already know the answers to those questions, and they might not. They aren’t saying, and the rest of us are left to speculate.
Some possible scenarios:
Scenario No. 1
Marshall is gimpy but is able to start. What happens when he leaves the game will be the key.Will Wallace get all the snaps? Will Johnson play or remain redshirted?
Scenario No. 2
Marshall is out, Wallace gets the start and Johnson doesn’t play. This will probably mean that Marshall is not hurt badly and that coaches expect him to be full go a week later against Texas A&M. It will also probably mean there is no intention to play Johnson this season.
Scenario No. 3
Marshall is out, Wallace gets the start and Johnson plays for the first time. This will raise all kinds of questions, making it clear there is a plan going forward to involve Johnson in the offense. It won’t necessarily mean that Marshall won’t play against Texas A&M.
Scenario No. 4
Marshall is out and Johnson gets the start and the majority of the snaps. This is not a lot different than No. 3, but it would fuel more speculation about the role for Johnson going forward.
Regardless of which scenario comes to pass, anything other than No. 1 will send the Tigers into the second half of their season with questions they’d rather have not had to face.
Who plays and who doesn’t play Saturday will have nothing to do with the badly overmatched Catamounts. It will be all about going forward.
No matter how talented, a true freshman quarterback faces a massive challenge in the SEC. And the Tigers are headed into the meat of their schedule. Their next three SEC games are on the road – at Texas A&M, at Arkansas and at Tennessee. They finish with home games against No. 7 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama.
That schedule would be a tall order for any school and any quarterback. For Johnson, it would be an opportunity to shock the world but a challenge unlike any he’s ever faced. On the positive side, Johnson has been getting lots of snaps in practice since the start of preseason camp. Even before camp began, his teammates were amazed at how quickly he had learned Malzahn’s offense.
Wallace, on the other hand started four games last season. He does not have the talent or the presence on the field that Johnson has, but he is among the more respected players on the team. His teammates trust him.
It’s too early to even try to guess how it will all unfold.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: