Nick Marshall, Heisman Trophy Winner?


Dec 14, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Detailed view the Heisman Trophy awarded to Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston (not pictured) after a press conference at the New York Marriott Marquis Times Square in New York following the awards ceremony. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The online betting website Bovada still has the odds of Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall winning the Heisman Trophy listed at 16-to-1. That figure represents a tie for seventh-best with UCLA signal caller Brett Hundley and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon.

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Only last year’s winner Jameis Winston, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Braxton Miller of Ohio State and Baylor’s Bryce Petty have better odds among quarterbacks. Marshall’s former teammate Todd Gurley, the running back from Georgia, is the only player at another position to be listed higher than Marshall.

If Auburn backup/likely-though-not-yet-official week one starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson were a betting man (which we are certain he is not), it sounds like he would put his money on his senior teammate.

“He led us to the national championship (game), and we were 13 seconds away,” Johnson said over the weekend. “And this year he got better at passing, better at running, better at making reads. He’s become a leader on this team and I’ve never seen him so amped at practice every day the way he is, the way he comes out. So, I know for a fact he’ll win the Heisman.”

The reports of Marshall becoming a better passer, runner, and leader are a great sign. He was very impressive in his first season as Auburn’s starting quarterback, but there is plenty of room for improvement.

Nick Marshall’s journey to the position is well documented – from playing defensive back at Georgia, to being dismissed from the team and transferring to junior college and then finally to The Plains. He didn’t win the starting quarterback job until fall camp, and missed playing time over the course of the season due to injuries. However, as a junior, Marshall had 1,976 passing yards and 14 touchdown passes, coupled with 1,068 rushing yards and 12 scores on the ground.

Nov 16, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall (14) celebrates a touchdown against the Georgia Bulldogs during the first half against at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

The best thing for Marshall in 2013 is that he got better each week, and he led the team to 12 wins and an SEC Championship – and, as Johnson pointed out, to the National Championship Game.

The only issue from my personal perspective is his leadership. Senior quarterbacks are supposed to be leaders on and off the field, but Marshall made a poor decision this summer that will cost him some playing time – and we still don’t know exactly how much. It is expected that Jeremy Johnson will start the season opener against Arkansas, and that Marshall will enter the game at some point, but the details of the coaching staff’s plan is not yet known.

“Talking to coach (Malzahn) I think probably here in the next couple of days we’ll go ahead and decide how we want to handle that,” offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Sunday. “We have not made a decision yet, both those guys have repped and had a good fall camp. So, I think probably pretty soon, at least internally, we’ll know how we’re going to handle it and then coach will address that when he’s ready and we’ll have a good plan.”

As for the leadership Marshall has shown in the locker room after the incident, both coaches and players believe in him.

“We’re all human,” Lashlee said. “I think he understands. He made a mistake. We all make mistakes. I’ve made them, you all made them. I don’t think we need to make more of it than what it is. It was a mistake. He’s owned up to it, and he’s done a great job moving forward.”

For Marshall to have a shot to win the Heisman Trophy, he’ll need to make headlines for his performance on the football field, and not for any more transgressions off of it. As a team, the Tigers will need a similar successful season to what they produced last season, and the quarterback will need to improve on his individual numbers a bit.

For Marshall to have a shot to win the Heisman Trophy, he’ll need to make headlines for his performance on the football field, and not for any more transgressions off of it.

As a team, the Tigers will need a similar successful season to what they produced last season, and the quarterback will need to improve on his individual statistics.

Last season, Jameis Winston had 3,820 passing yards and 38 touchdowns when he named was called as the Heisman winner. He plays in a much different offense, is a different style of quarterback, and therefore had just 193 rushing yards. Winston was obviously good enough to win the award as a redshirt freshman, and could be even better as a sophomore in 2014. He is a major threat to repeat.

The three award winners prior to Winston give us a little more insight into the resume Marshall would need to take the trophy home in 2014.

In 2012, young Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel took the college football world by storm and amassed 3,419 passing yards, 24 touchdown passes, 1,181 rushing yards and 19 TD runs in his first 12 games.

The previous year, another Lone Star State QB, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, had 3,998 yards and 36 touchdowns through the air, as well as 644 yards on the ground and nine scores prior to the Bears’ bowl game.

One year prior to Griffin’s win, Auburn head coach and offensive mastermind Gus Malzahn tutored another Auburn quarterback to the Heisman Trophy. Cam Newton led the Tigers to the National Championship and ran away with the hardware.

That year, Newton threw for 2,589 yards and 28 touchdowns and added 1,409 rushing yards and 20 scoring runs prior to winning the award. He even caught a touchdown pass. In short, Newton put together one of the most impressive seasons in the history of college football. Can Marshall match those numbers? Quite possibly.

As Johnson stated, and as reports from spring and fall practice have alluded to, Marshall has become a better passer. Plus, Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee have both discussed the coaching staff’s desire to be more diverse on offense in 2014 than they were last year – which means they plan on putting the ball in the air more this season. If he stays healthy and plays in every game, 3,000 yards is attainable and 2,500 is likely.

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  • Also, Marshall is the team’s leading returning rusher. The Tigers have other capable runners on hand, but losing Tre Mason is big, especially early in the season. If Cameron Artis-Payne or Corey Grant cannot step up and take the reins as the squad’s featured runner, Marshall could get even more carries this season than the 172 he had last year.

    That, of course, should mean an increase in his yards and 1,400 would not be a shock. However, Marshall has already proven he is not as physically durable as the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Newton was. At just 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Marshall cannot make a living running between the tackles like Newton did. He won’t be able to withstand nearly as many hits and stay on the field.

    If Marshall can pick up big chunks of yardage on outside runs like he did last season, and throw 25 touchdowns and add 12 scores on the ground, he should at least earn a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

    Marshall winning college football’s biggest award is certainly not out of the realm of possibility this season– as we’ve already mentioned, he is one of the favorites according to Las Vegas experts. If the Tigers win ten or more games, and Marshall hits the numbers outlined here, he will have as good a shot as anyone.