Nov. 21, 2013
Auburn's Nick Marshall is on the go against Georgia (Anthony Hall photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. – Ellis Johnson liked the attitude. He liked the depth, too. But Auburn's defensive coordinator wasn't really sure what to make of the Tigers' chances after spring practice.
"I did not know, and I think everybody was sort of the same way," Johnson said.
Then quarterback Nick Marshall, a junior college transfer, showed up for fall practice and everything seemed to change.
"I don't want to say any one person flipped this program, but I think if you look at what he's done, and where we were before him and after him, I think you have to honestly just say it's been unbelievable," Johnson said.
Marshall has engineered three last-minute winning drives, including last Saturday's 43-38 win over Georgia, and has helped push Auburn to a 10-1 overall record and 6-1 SEC mark heading into the Iron Bowl on Nov. 30 in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Marshall is Auburn's No. 1 passer, of course, hitting 108-of-185 passes for 1,530 yards and nine touchdowns; and Auburn's No. 2 rusher with 823 yards and nine touchdowns.
Think things may be different than last seaosn? Auburn scored 24 offensive touchdowns last year with the former coaching staff. This year, Marshall and running back Tre Mason have accounted for 35 offensive touchdowns by themselves. Overall, Auburn has more than doubled last year's offensive touchdowns, now at 52 and counting.
Johnson's view of Marshall is from an admiring defensive side of the game. Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee sees Marshall up close in practice every day. And in the games, his teammates rallied around Marshall for those last-minute wins against Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Georgia.
"The guys believe in him. He's a winner. He has proven that," Lashlee said. "Whether he wins with the drive against Mississippi State or A&M, the other night, it's a variety of ways and some or normal and some aren't.
"The guy is calm, he really is. That's what we saw in fall camp when we named him the guy because he ran the two-minute drills really good. In the time we went live he was good, but you never know until you get in the moment. He believes in himself even if he's having a good game or bad game, it doesn't matter.
"When it becomes crunch time he believes in himself and the guys do. That has carried off the field. The thing that speaks the most about Nick, if you really want my opinion, is the way Georgia treated him in the game. Every time he carried the ball, and he carried it a lot, they would smoke him and help him up every time. Every single one of their players helped him up because that's the respect he had from those guys when he was there. He's not a guy they were trying to injure or treat poorly. They were treating him better than they treated anyone else on our team, I know that. That's just the kind of guy he is. Everybody likes him. He's a humble guy. He's a team guy. When it's crunch time everybody looks to him."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine