AUBURN, Ala. — After a one-game absence, Nick Marshall is back.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said Tuesday that the junior quarterback will start Saturday’s game against Texas A&M after sitting out last week’s 62-3 romp over Western Carolina with a knee injury. Despite missing the Tigers’ previous contest, Marshall practiced throughout the week, with Malzahn saying the signal-caller “was locked in.”
The coach said that carried over into Sunday’s practice.
“He looked pretty good,” Malzahn said. “We didn't go crazy. We had a 12-period practice. But he looked pretty good so hopefully another day of rest and he'll be looking good today.”
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Marshall’s sterling play during last week’s practices convinced the coaching staff there won’t be any signs of dropoff this week, downplaying the quarterback’s lack of live game snaps.
“We're past the midway point,” Malzahn said. “If it was early in the season, I'd be concerned, but not too concerned now.
Tre Mason backed up Malzahn’s assessment. Seeing Marshall in Sunday’s practice was proof enough that the game off did nothing to hinder his level of play — or his mind-set.
“He just wants to win out, win every game from here to the end of the season,” Mason said. “He's a great leader. Him taking the week off to heal up, we really needed (that). He's a great athlete. He's somebody we need going into this game to make his plays and get this ‘W.’”
Marshall may make his share of highlight reel plays, but he enters Saturday’s contest as the less-heralded of the starting quarterbacks. The Tigers are facing Johnny Manziel, after all. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is a remarkable talent in his own right, Mason conceded.
But the junior running back hopes people recognize Marshall’s ability as well.
“Nick is great on his feet. He can do some of the things Johnny can do,” Mason said. “He's great on his feet, if not even better. That guy is just a complete athlete.”
Malzahn: Johnson ‘will be used from game to game’
Jeremy Johnson’s first start was every bit as impressive in retrospect.
After breaking down film of last week’s game — which saw the true freshman complete 81 percent (17-for-21) of his passes for 201 yards and four touchdowns — Malzahn was pleased with what he saw, taking special care to praise Johnson’s poise.
“Jeremy did a good job for the first time ever being on a college field in front of a lot of people,” he said. “We thought he did a really good job. We had the one turnover, but he's the type that he's a very intelligent player. I think he'll have a chance to improve.”
In his postgame press conference Saturday, Malzahn said Johnson wouldn’t be stuck to the bench for the rest of the season now that Marshall is back to full health. Instead, Malzahn will sit down with offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and discuss how to best utilize Johnson going forward.
Just don’t ask for specifics.
“We don't want to give all our secrets away, but he will be used from game to game,” Malzahn said. “We'll try to have different packages or any way to help us be successful.”
Injury updates and more
Jonathan Jones came up with a key play late in Auburn’s victory versus Ole Miss. The sophomore cornerback downed Steven Clark’s punt at the 1-yard line with 5:16 remaining in the final period, leading to an immediate three-and-out in the Tigers' eventual 30-22 win.
That heads-up play may stand as the one highlight for Jones this season. He missed the first four games of the season after breaking a bone in his foot during the final week of fall camp. Jones also sat out last Saturday against Western Carolina.
Malzahn was unsure of his availability for the rest of 2013.
“That's still a little bit up in the air,” he said. “We're hoping he can be back on the field quick. He's an outstanding player and when he gets out there you can really see that.”
In other injury news, Malzahn said weakside linebacker Justin Garrett is still “week-to-week,” while defensive tackle Montravius Adams and tight end C.J. Uzomah are expected to practice Tuesday after not playing last week.
Meanwhile, Malzahn said the situation remains the same for right tackle Patrick Miller and tight end Brandon Fulse. Both missed last week’s game against Western Carolina because of what Malzahn called “off the field things.”
Neither was on the sideline during Saturday’s victory.
“Nothing's changed as of right now,” Malzahn said, “but we'll see how that goes.”