The feats of Auburn Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall are well documented. He transferred in from the JUCO ranks and led Auburn to a remarkable turnaround that ended in the national title game. Now, he and the Tigers enter 2014 with a target on their backs as defending champs.
Auburn lost some talent to the NFL, most notably LT Greg Robinson, DE Dee Ford and RB Tre Mason. Those guys are major contributors and won’t be easily replaced come the fall. That means Marshall needs to take his game to the next level. The Tigers’ offense was a thing to behold last season. The way they ran the ball down teams’ throats was incredibly entertaining. You can bet that’s a sore spot for many conference foes coming into the season, and they will adjust.
Marshall was a key cog in Auburn’s success in running the ball during the 2013 season. He doesn’t need to morph into a pocket passer suddenly for Auburn to win next season, but you better believe that guys like Kirby Smart, John Chavis and Jeremy Pruitt will be game planning to take that part of Auburn’s game away.
That means Marshall needs to step up in the passing game. His numbers were decent last year, but he didn’t cross the 2,000-yard mark and only completed 59 percent of his passes during the 2013 campaign. Those numbers need to increase this season. Auburn still has talent all around Marshall. They should still be a force running the football, and Marshall can certainly have another 1,000-yard rushing season.
However, they won’t be able to rely on the running game as much as they did this past season because teams will be ready. There will be more games that Marshall will need to win with his arm. If he can throw for more than 2,000 yards and complete more than 60 percent of his passes, defensive coordinators will be losing a lot of sleep figuring out how to slow the Tigers’ offense down.
Marshall is an incredible talent. He will make or break what the Tigers are able to accomplish this season. And with a schedule that draws both the Georgia Bulldogs and South Carolina Gamecocks, he and Auburn have a tough road to repeat. But if Marshall makes those improvements, Auburn will be tough to beat. They may just find themselves playing in the Georgia Dome again come December.