Joe Medley commentary: Next Cam? Marshall looks more like Craig, but whoa on hype

sports@ledger-enquirer.comJune 27, 2013 

I watched highlight video of new Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall. One play caught my eye.

Playing for Garden City Community College last season, he took a snap at the Garden City 45-yard line, dropped back, scrambled right then turned back and around. He stopped at his 31, on the right-side hash marks, and heaved off his back foot.

The pass crossed the hashes in the air and traveled 58 yards before being caught at the opponent's 11. The wide-open receiver scored easily.

So, to review, Marshall escaped the rush and made a back-foot throw 58 yards down and across the field for a touchdown. It reminded me of a scramble and across-the-body touchdown bomb Dameyune Craig threw to Karsten Bailey at Virginia in 1997.

The next Cam Newton?

Auburn fans might want that, but nature doesn't make many Cam Newtons.

Nature barely makes more Dameyune Craigs, and the next Dameyune Craig would make a huge difference for an Auburn team that so lacked quarterback play in 2012.

But let's pause this video and go back, with Marshall and his team at the line of scrimmage.

No, let's go back farther, with Marshall and his team in preseason practice, learning the play that gave him the platform for such improvisation.

That's farther along than Marshall has come with his new team, so whoa on comparisons and wild expectations for the junior college quarterback who just arrived on Auburn's campus.

Yes, people including yours truly were skeptical of such soaring expectations of Newton this time three years ago, and that turned out pretty well for Auburn.

Then again, Newton went through spring practice with Auburn in 2010. He was named the starter 11 days after spring practice and, at that, his coaches didn't fully grasp his potential until five games into the Tigers' national-title run.

Marshall hasn't gone through a spring practice at Auburn. He hasn't given first-year coach Gus Malzahn a look in Malzahn's fast-paced offense, and Malzahn has had no chance to experiment and find Marshall's full potential.

Oh, and Marshall hasn't won a job yet.

For all that Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace went through a year ago, running a system foreign to their experience and talents, they're in the right system under Malzahn. They've also had a spring with him.

There's also freshman signee Jeremy Johnson, Alabama's Mr. Football.

Auburn has been down this road. Jason Camp

bell was supposed to come right in and unseat Ben Leard in 2000. Kodi Burns was supposed to relegate Brandon Cox to a backup's life in 2007.

As for Marshall, one doesn't have to watch much video to see his potential. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he won't run many "Slam Cam" plays, but he looks faster than the much bigger Newton off the edges.

Marshall is closer to Craig's size and shows Craig's quickness. Marshall also shows flashes of Craig's knack for buying time and delivering the home-run ball.

Imagine Craig, now on Malzahn's staff, playing in Malzahn's system. Maybe Craig imagined it when he recruited Marshall.

Imagination and video will have to suffice for now, because Marshall has done nothing in an Auburn uniform.

Joe Medley writes for the Anniston Star. Contact him at 256-235-3576 or jmedley@annistonstar.com.

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