AUBURN, Ala. A different side of Nick Marshall has revealed itself this spring.
Rhett Lashlee picked up on it immediately as well he should. No one works with Marshall more closely than Lashlee, who coaches Auburns quarterbacks in addition to his duties as offensive coordinator. Ever since Marshall arrived on campus last summer, Lashlee noted the signal-caller has always exhibited a calm, cool confidence, borne out of his spectacular athletic ability.
Now, the self-assured composure Marshall exudes has nothing to do with his physical gifts.
(Its) from just knowing the plays and the reads and where to go with the ball, Lashlee said. I think that has been huge because now we can really work on our footwork, our accuracy, work on the finer details of our position. Our expectations are for our completion percentage to go way up, our execution level to go way up, because I think more so now its not trying to learn on the go and still play well. Now its all about executing.
Lashlee has set the bar high: He hopes to see Marshalls completion percentage finish in the 65-70 percent range this fall. Last year, the rising senior completed 59.4 percent (142-for-239) of his attempts for 1,976 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Its a challenge the Georgia native relishes.
It should be a goal. The expectations for us are high this year, Marshall said. Im just going to do what they tell me and complete the passes like they want me to. Ill go through all my progressions and not turn the ball over.
One of Marshalls objectives for himself is to be named a team captain. If that doesnt come to pass, though, he said hed still lead by example.
That partly involves being more vocal than he was last season, both on the field and in the locker room.
I did some last year, but it wasnt a whole lot, he said. If I speak up more to the team, theyll follow my lead and well be better off from there.
It wont involve any drastic changes, Lashlee said. More like minor tweaks, giving the example of being just a hair off on timing routes. Whether its Marshalls fault or one of the receivers, Lashlee wants his quarterback to take charge and work through the situation himself.
And thats already started to happen.
If were having a lull, if were dropping balls, were not executing, you dont only hear (center) Reese (Dismukes) any more, you hear Nick and C.J. (Uzomah) and other guys: Lets pick it up, lets refocus, Lashlee said. Its (just) encouraging guys when they do well. Just as a whole you can tell his demeanor, his countenance has changed a little bit from that standpoint. A lot of that has to do with where youre not thinking, OK, I know what I have to do the whole time, you feel confident and youre more reactive.
If Marshall is able to play in that manner, he could quiet some of his few remaining critics. Despite the astounding success in his debut season from helping the Tigers lead the nation in rushing yards per game to capturing the SEC championship and coming with 13 seconds of a BCS title Auburns quarterback still received harsh reviews in some corners due to his underwhelming passing numbers. But thats fine with him.
As is his nature, hell let the results speak for themselves.
Ill let them be the judge, he said. Im just going to do what the coaches ask me to do. I know Ill be completing more passes this year.