AUBURN | The quarterback quandary has ended with a most predictable conclusion.
Junior Nick Marshall, who dominated the junior-college world last season with his dual-threat ability, has been named the Tigers' top option heading into the season opener against Washington State. He entered fall camp as one of four competitors, but floored coaches with a remarkable performance during the live scrimmage on Aug. 7.
Observers say Marshall has only improved since then, making him the clear winner.
"Nick Marshall has emerged and earned the right to be our starting quarterback," Malzahn said. "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."
The 6-1, 210-pounder from Pineview, Ga., came to Auburn from Garden City Community College, where he passed for 3,142 yard and 18 touchdowns while rushing for 1,095 yards and 19 TDs last season.
Marshall signed with Georgia out of high school as a cornerback, but left school near the end of his freshman season in 2011. He soon made his way to Garden City (Kan.) Community College, which was the first school to offer Marshall an opportunity to continue his football career.
He changed positions, learned a new offense six weeks before the 2012 season began and emerged as an unusually dynamic quarterback. Marshall finished the season ranked among the national top 10 in both rushing and passing.
He chose Auburn after considering Texas and Kansas State, whose coach, Bill Snyder, faxed Marshall hand-written messages during the week leading up to National Signing Day.
Marshall wasn't dissuaded. Auburn was his favored destination.
His choice as the Tigers' next quarterback is sure to raise comparisons to another Georgia native who found solace at Auburn after struggling during initial exposure to the Southeastern Conference. Marshall's speed and arm strength will make him valuable, but he's not Cam Newton.
"I wouldn't say I'm rolling in his footsteps," Marshall told AuburnSports.com during an exclusive interview in May. "I'm a different guy. We had the same type of situations, but I really don't know how I'd compare (myself) to Cam Newton. It doesn't bother me at all. I'm just over it -- for real."
Garden City coach Matt Miller, who played quarterback at Kansas State, said the Tigers are in for a bump in relevance with Marshall behind center.
"Auburn is getting the best quarterback in the country, plain and simple," Miller said. "Heck, I think they're getting the best football player in America -- at any school anywhere. I've never really seen Nick Marshall fail. He might make a bad read or a bad throw, lose a fumble. That just makes him better the next time he gets the ball. He's exactly what every coach wants. Auburn got the best."
AuburnSports.com traveled to Garden City, Kan. this summer. Here is the four-part series on Marshall's journey to Auburn.
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