Auburn’s Marshall Encouraged to Improvise

AL.com informs us that Auburn is concerned about their running game and needs quarterback Nick Marshall, to “improvise“:

A key part of Auburn’s running game can’t be planned, but it can kick-start the Tigers’ offense when the rest of the rushing attack has been stymied.

Nick Marshall’s ability to improvise and scramble can churn out yardage on the ground

And it’s a tactic the Tigers might encourage after Marshall’s scrambling injected life into a sluggish offense against Louisiana Tech last Saturday.

He’s an inside look at how this would look on the field…

AUrunningplay

He Has More Faith Than Me

Can Arkansas hang with Auburn in the season opener?  Greg Schiano, the former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, thinks so:

“Now, because I’ve been in meetings the last 36 hours, anything I say can and will be used against me,” Schiano said, according to ArkansasNews.com. “So you’re going to have to wait. Next Saturday you’re going to see. I’ve got faith. I’ve got faith in the Razorback defense.”

I find it interesting that Schiano was in meetings with the Hog staff for 36 hours.

Does he have a point?  I dunno.  What else is he going to say?

 

Auburn’s Passing Game

Auburn thinks their passing game will be much improved this year:

Gus Malzahn has options and he’s ready to use them.

The Auburn coach’s promise to throw the ball more often in his second season will be fulfilled only if his receivers follow through, and so far the Tigers believe their options are abundant and strong.

“Really, for the first time, at least since I’ve been at Auburn, we’ve got deep threats at every position we put on the field,” Malzahn said Monday on SiriusXM radio. “Hopefully that will equate into some big plays in the passing game.”

Here are the those prospective deep threats:

Sammie Coates, who was eighth nationally in yards per catch (21.5) last season, returns after a 900-yard season. Ricardo Louis, who fans will always remember for his 73-yard tipped touchdown catch against Georgia, is also back. It’s those big threats — they all stand tall at 6-foot-2 — that has Malzahn expecting a breakout season in the passing game, which ranked 108th nationally at 173 yards per game in 2013.

When you consider how dominate Auburn’s offense was in 2013 – this was a team that rushed for 4,500 yards after all, it makes one wonder why Gus Malzahn would keep tinkering. Plus, besides the fact that their rushing game was so dominant, Nick Marshall didn’t appear to be that good of a passer, so why mess with a good thing?

Well, here’s the reason:

“It’s going to be hard to double-team anybody on our team,” Coates said. “We have a lot of threats everywhere.”

We’ve talked on this blog recently about the importance of the double team. It’s huge – whether it’s offensive or defensive players demanding this attention. Unfortunately, the benefits of double-teams apply to Auburn as well.

I don’t think – at least for 2014 – that Malzahn wants to get too far away from their potent running game. There are many reasons for this. Their offensive line looks to be very good; they have several capable running backs; and Marshall is very effective when he runs. There’s no reason to over complicate things. Until the running game can be stopped, opposing teams will get a load of it.

But at some point, some team will effectively stop their rushing attack. It may be Alabama or it may be LSU or it may be another team. But, eventually, it will be stopped and that’s where defenses double-teaming wide outs will become very important. Defenses will load the box and go man on the edges, tempting Auburn to go up and over. We saw this last year at times, which helps to explain Coates’ gaudy YPC.

The problem for Auburn, as we saw last year is that, at times, Marshall just wasn’t very good throwing the ball. While last year’s crop of SEC quarterbacks was very good, top heavy in fact, Marshall was only middle of the pack in terms of throwing the ball. He was 6th in terms of QB rating, but only 10th in completion ratio. That’s not good enough for the elite teams of the SEC. With stats like that, it’s easy to see why defensive coordinators will be loading the box to stop Auburn’s running game and daring Marshall to beat them with the pass.

The Discipline of Nick Marshall

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn announced yesterday that Nick Marshall won’t miss the season opener against Arkansas as a result of his being cited for marijuana possession.

Nope, instead he won’t be allowed to start the game, but he will play:

Auburn starting quarterback Nick Marshall will not start against Arkansas, Tigers coach Gus Malzahn announced after the first practice of training camp on Friday, although the senior will play in Auburn’s season-opener.

With Marshall out, sophomore Jeremy Johnson will take the Tigers’ first snap of the 2014 season, making this the eighth straight year that Auburn will have a different starter for the season-opener, albeit only due to punishment.

Malzahn made it clear that Marshall, who led the Tigers to an SEC title and the national championship game last season, hasn’t lost his role as Auburn’s starting quarterback.

“Nick is still our quarterback,” Malzahn said.

I’m no expert on collegiate punishment for drug offenses – even those only including a citation, but of course this comes off as a bit…smarmy.

How can I say this?  After all, Marshall is really, really sorry:

“He’s apologized about it, said he’ll never do it again,” Auburn receiver Ricardo Louis said. “I can see he’s sincere about it.”

Does he mean he’ll never smoke pot again or does he mean he’ll never get caught after doing so?

Pardon my sarcasm.  Seriously.

I know I’m viewing this through crimson-colored glasses, but the whole Nick Marshall at Auburn story is a little tiring.  From Georgia high school quarterbacking hero to UGA defensive back to junior college hot shot quarterback to Heisman contender at Auburn.  On the surface, it’s a wonderful story, even when considering his dismissal from Georgia for stealing.  Lot’s of college kids (or kids in general) make stupid decisions, and they often come with some pretty stiff consequences.  Marshall’s situation is no different and for him to make it this far back is quite an accomplishment.

But there are some things about the Marshall story that just don’t mesh.

For one, I don’t understand how Auburn athletic officials could allow him to wear the bracelet he wore last year.  Even for Auburn, this seemed quite hypocritical given all the religious talk that comes from the Plains.

I have no problem with motivational slogans and all that, but I’m not sure this is the message the Auburn family wants to send.

I’m not trying to be judgmental, really I’m not.  It’s just that this seems totally opposite of the image Auburn wants to portray, both for the football team and for Marshall, the guy who has been humbled by an exit from Georgia and a tour through the bush leagues of junior college football.  Auburn beat writer Brandon Marcello spun Marshall’s trek as:

Just a few days before Nick Marshall was cited for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana on Friday, the most influential people in his life shared a story of redemption and second chances. [Emphasis added]

 

As I thought about this and read the linked articles above, it struck me what is wrong with this Marshall situation.  He is simply a pawn being used for whomever can benefit from him.  His troubles are being kicked down the road and not dealt with so that those around him can get their full benefit.

Consider this from Marcello’s recent article on Marshall:

Marshall is on the cusp of being able to provide for his family as a professional because of his stellar athleticism, penchant for delivering dynamic plays in crucial moments — and because he was able to rebound from a dark moment in 2012 when Marshall, then at Georgia, and two other Bulldog players were booted the team following an incident involving theft from teammates.

His grandmother, Earlene Mahoganey, reflected on that trying time. Her grandson, she said, was influenced by the wrong friends — “associates,” she fittingly labelled them — to keep “watch” while his teammates performed the bad deed.

Marshall’s football career in the ensuing moments appeared to be over. He cried and cried, family members said, but knew he wanted to continue playing football.
“It’s not over for you,” Mahoganey recalled telling Marshall. “Sometimes God will let your butt drop, but before you hit the ground he’ll already have picked you up.”

Soon, the phone was ringing.

And this one:

“We try to motivate him and give him words of encouragement and let him know we’ve got his back,” said Lorie Mahoganey, one of Marshall’s aunts. “Even when he got in trouble, we didn’t bash him for it. He knew it was wrong and we let him know it was wrong, but we still let him know he’s human and he makes mistakes.”

 

 

“Soon the phone was ringing.”  This sentence, I think, summarizes Nick Marshall’s athletic career.  If you can play, the phone will ring, people will find you and you can keep going, keep doing what you do.  As long as you can play – and have potential – your family won’t bash you and they will be there to provide encouragement for you.  And you know what?  That’s okay and it is a portrait of the grace that God shows to His children.  We mess up, we stumble and we fall and God is always there to forgive us.  Even when we do the same old stupid things again.

But the problem could come when Marshall’s athletic ability is used up and when the potential is gone.  That could come next year after the NFL draft or it could come in 15 years after a stellar career.  When the talent is gone and you no longer are a benefit to others, what have you learned?

In Marshall’s case, I’m fearful that he isn’t learning because he is surrounded by enablers.  His family wants the future payoff, so does that affect how they discipline him?  Gus Malzahn wants a run at another title, so does that affect how he disciplines him?  At this point, it certainly looks like that could be the case because what the public sees is a guy that seemingly doesn’t recognize the fantastic opportunities in life he’s been afforded.

Now, again, as I stated above, I’m not an expert on how to punish college athletes for drug offenses.  We also don’t fully know, I suppose, what Malzahn’s punishment for him is.  We may think the best discipline is missing a game or two, but perhaps the strength and conditioning team has another idea.  Whatever it is, though, let’s hope Marshall gets the message.  His future, whatever that may be, will be much brighter if he does.

 

 

Sorry for the Weed, Bro

In case you didn’t know it, Auburn’s Nick Marshall is sorry:

“He was very regretful,” [chief] Holder said. “He was very respectful. He was very apologetic. He seemed like he was disappointed in himself. He did get a little teary eyed as we had the conversation. I think sometimes what those kids need, they need somebody to talk to them and say, hey, you made a mistake, don’t let it happen anymore.”

Right, chief.  He just needs a shoulder to cry on.  That’s it.

Nowadays, you better know that most of the players on your favorite football team smoke weed.  One study says that about 22% of college players smoke doobies, but I’m guessing that number is short – by a lot.  Marijuana, like it or not, is part of the culture of college athletics.  I don’t know why and it makes no sense to me, but it is.  It figures that athletes that spend so much time training and preparing their bodies would stay away from pot, but they don’t.

Therefore, it’s not appropriate to cast stones at your rival, but your guys are doing it as well.  Players at all schools are going to smoke dope and it doesn’t matter what you say or do primarily because, well, there aren’t any consequences.  Oh, Gus Malzahn will tell us that there are, but there won’t be anything significant – and by significant I mean any significant playing time.  Why?  There are a couple of reasons, I think.

One, our culture as a whole condones the use of illegal drugs.  Who are we, the medicated masses, to prevent one of our favorite athletes from having a little fun?  After all, these guys work so hard to play the game we enjoy so much.

Two, there’s two much money involved.  Do you honestly think a little bit of pot found in a car will get in the way of a college playoff run?  Do you think a little weed will be a roadblock for college coaches with millions of dollars in salaries and benefits on the line? Not hardly.

College athletics has become accepting of drug use – just review your favorite team’s drug testing policy – and that is a reflection of how our culture now view drug use, regardless of what local, state or federal drug laws may say.  If our culture truly has a problem with drug use – even less than an ounce – there would be a reaction that would force our favorite teams and conferences to act.  Instead, our favorite teams and conferences are treading water on the issue until drug laws are relaxed.

Nick Marshall is nothing special or new related to marijuana use.  I won’t think one way or the other regarding whatever consequences Malzahn doles out to him.

But I will be a little doubtful about his apology.  We’ve seen this act before.

Usually, when we are sorry for something it’s because of one of two reasons.  One, we are sorry that we got caught, because getting caught means we have to deal with a hassle.  We won’t really want to change our behavior, because we probably don’t think we did anything wrong.

On the other hand, there is recognizing that what we did is wrong, and we are truly sorry for making a mistake, harming others, causing trouble, etc.  We realize we hurt ourselves, broke the trust of others and sinned against God.  And we don’t want to do it again.  We are sorry.

It’s really not my place to judge the sincerity of Nick Marshall’s apology.  That’s really between Marshall and Auburn and Marshall and God.  But because this plays out in the public eye, and because this is a reflection of how our culture deals with things, it is interesting to see how things will play out.

For Nick Marshall’s sake, I really do hope he is sorry.