By John Zenor
Dual-threat junior college transfer Nick Marshall will be Auburn's starting quarterback in the opener against Washington State.
Tigers coach Gus Malzahn said Saturday in a statement that the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Marshall rose to the top of what began as a four-man race during preseason camp.
"Nick Marshall has emerged and earned the right to be our starting quarterback," Malzahn said, a few hours after a post-practice news conference. "As I've said, we wanted to go with the guy that gives us the best opportunity to win football games and Nick is that guy. He has caught on quickly in the short period of time he has been with us. He is a playmaker with a big upside, and once he becomes more comfortable with the offense, he has the chance to improve each week."
Marshall played cornerback and special teams as a freshman at Georgia. He and two other freshmen were dismissed from the team in February 2012 for undisclosed violations.
Marshall flourished on offense in his lone season at Garden City Community College in Kansas, passing for 3,142 yards and 18 touchdowns while rushing for 1,095 yards 19 scores. Malzahn's last Auburn SEC-to-JUCO-to-SEC transfer quarterback, Cam Newton, won the 2010 Heisman Trophy and led the Tigers to a national title.
Marshall set the Georgia High School Association record with 103 career touchdown passes.
Auburn tight end C.J. Uzomah, also from Georgia, said he watched Marshall's basketball highlights "and knew he was as athletic as anything."
"Him coming here and showing how athletic he is and how fast he is and his ability to extend the play and make things happen with his legs . it's something you just have to watch," Uzomah said. "You can't really say, 'All right, the defensive end would have tackled him.' Probably not. He probably would have run out. He's a blazing guy. It's something kind of special."
Malzahn had narrowed it down to the two newcomers, Marshall and freshman Jeremy Johnson, early this week. Former starter Kiehl Frazier moved to safety. Sophomore Jonathan Wallace ended last season as the starter.
H-back Jay Prosch said Marshall stood out as practice went along.
"This summer I noticed he had a great arm and could really throw the ball and move really well at workouts," Prosch said. "When camp started it was kind of the same stuff really. It took a while for me to figure out and see differences. It was definitely hard on Nick and Jeremy coming in and not knowing much about the offense and not having the spring. Now I can see a big difference. They have adapted and are doing very well."