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 Auburn’s 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.
“(It’s) 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 it’s not trying to learn on the go and still play well. Now it’s all about executing.”
Lashlee has set the bar high: He hopes to see Marshall’s 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.
It’s a challenge the Georgia native relishes.
“It should be a goal. The expectations for us are high this year,” Marshall said. “I’m just going to do what they tell me and complete the passes like they want me to. I’ll go through all my progressions and not turn the ball over.”
One of Marshall’s objectives for himself is to be named a team captain. If that doesn’t come to pass, though, he said he’d “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 wasn’t a whole lot,” he said. “If I speak up more to the team, they’ll follow my lead and we’ll be better off from there.”
It won’t involve any drastic changes, Lashlee said. More like minor tweaks, giving the example of being “just a hair off” on timing routes. Whether it’s Marshall’s fault or one of the receivers, Lashlee wants his quarterback to take charge and work through the situation himself.
And that’s already started to happen.
“If we’re having a lull, if we’re dropping balls, we’re not executing, you don’t only hear (center) Reese (Dismukes) any more, you hear Nick and C.J. (Uzomah) and other guys: ‘Let’s pick it up, let’s refocus,’” Lashlee said. “ It’s (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 you’re not thinking, ‘OK, I know what I have to do the whole time,’ you feel confident and you’re 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 — Auburn’s quarterback still received harsh reviews in some corners due to his underwhelming passing numbers. But that’s fine with him.
As is his nature, he’ll let the results speak for themselves.
“I’ll let them be the judge,” he said. “I’m just going to do what the coaches ask me to do. I know I’ll be completing more passes this year.”