Dec. 18, 2013
Nick Marshall, like Cam Newton before him, has Auburn in a BCS Championship Game (AP photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Cam Newton and Nick Marshall are the only two quarterbacks in Auburn history who have passed and rushed for a 1,000 yards in a season.
Nick Marshall is not too comfortable taking the comparisons much further.
"I watched Cam a lot, but I can't be Cam," Marshall said. "I'll always be myself."
The common denominator? Gus Malzahn. Another one? Newton helped Auburn win the 2010 BCS national championship and Marshall can help Auburn win the 2013 one.
Malzahn, and then graduate assistant and now offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, helped Newton finds his way and his freedom on the field after the third game of 2010. The same freedom was found in Marshall in 2013.
He figures to continue that in the BCS Championship Game against Florida State on Jan. 6.
"I still play what I'm coached to do, but Coach Lashlee always tells me to just trust my instincts and I've just been doing that the whole year. And when I trust my instincts, I just play well," Marshall said.
Marshall said Auburn's offense was reshaped to fit his skills, which explains, in part, how Auburn shot to the top of the NCAA rushing charts late in the season.
"Coach Malzahn is going to call what you do best and whatever you do best, he's just going to keep doing that and really just call things that you're best at."
Marshall, eventually, became the best an operating the read-option, a play that is geared toward the run. That helped pushed Tre Mason to 1,638 rushing yards and Marshall to 1,023 yards. They've accounted for 45 touchdowns.
Now, suddenly, the junior college transfer and former Georgia defensive back is playing for the national championship.
"It would mean a lot because I never really pictured playing on the big stage like this," Marshall said. "When I was young I watched it on TV. As I've gotten older, I find myself playing in it, and it's just a dream come true. I've just got to take advantage of it."
Marshall said he got the hang of the offense in Game 5, a win over Ole Miss.
"I just took what we were doing and then embraced it. We had an off week to work on it. I was just playing my ball," Marshall said. "That's when we started to get on the road and the offense found that groove with how we're doing and just ran with it from there."
The story this week, as Auburn opened practice for the BCS game, has been Marshall is getting a course on the details of the offense, something he missed by not going through spring practice. He arrived during the summer.
"Just working on my drop steps and being more accurate with the ball, and stepping more into my throws and keep getting more in the read-option with my footsteps," Marshall said.
And fumbles? Marshall lost two of three fumbles, one of which was returned for a touchdown, in the SEC Championship Game. That still stings, so Marshall works "on ball security every day."
"I carry around a ball during practice, just keeping it tucked tight, just hoping I won't be fumbling the ball like I did in the SEC Championship."
And just to make things interesting, Lashlee and graduate assistant Kodi Burns sneak up and try to knock the ball away.
"If he knocks it out, it's like 10-20 up-downs," Marshall said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine