*Courtesy Auburn Media Relations*
AUBURN, Ala. -- When the quarterbacks were live in scrimmage, when they were put in harm's way, Nick Marshall kept his cool.
Gus Malzahn liked that.
"He's very unique. He's a phenomenal athlete," said Auburn's coach. "He's got a very strong arm. And he's very calm. The day we went live, they were flying around him, and he seemed like it was 7-on-7 mode. I thought a lot about that."
And that was one of the factors Malzahn used in making Marshall his starting quarterback over the weekend, two weeks before the season-opener against Washington State on Aug. 31.
"He has a lot of playmaking ability," Malzahn said.
Marshall, the one-time Georgia defensive back and junior college quarterback, said he feels comfortable with Malzahn's fast-paced offense.
"It's a good fit, because I've been running this kind of offense since I left high school, and I did some of that in JUCO too," Marshall said.
Malzahn said that familiarity will pay off, and he'll tweak the playbook to match Marshall's style. Malzahn said Marshall impressed when "he didn't have to think, he just had to react, that's when he was at his best."
"I just basically went with my instincts," Marshall remembered of that pivotal scrimmage. "I am blessed that I can keep the plays alive with the abilities that I have."
Marshall didn't go through spring practice, arriving in Auburn at the first of the summer. He quickly went about "learning the offense, but it took time. Then again, on my off time, I watched film on my own to get settled in with it."
Malzahn said he sensed Marshall has something to prove.
"He's had that attitude since he's been here. He's really studied hard," Malzahn said. "He's worked hard. He's been in that play book.
"He's showed Coach (Rhett) Lashlee that it's very important to him. He showed his teammates, too. And that's the most important thing. He's got a lot of respect from his teammates, and they've got a lot of confidence in him."
Marshall is a dual-threat quarterback, and his running ability could come into play when he makes a decision to hand off or keep running.
"I really like the read option, and the stuff that comes off the read option. That just helps me utilize my abilities," he said.
Malzahn announced Marshall was his starter on Saturday. He said Sunday that sophomore Jonathan Wallace is the top backup and freshman Jeremy Johnson is available. "I'm not going to say a 3, but a 2A. He also really impressed us. He has a lot of physical tools. He understands how to run a fast-paced offense."
"It was a close battle. But the bottom line is was when Nick knew what to do, he outperformed the others," Malzahn said. "We really feel like he'll have a chance to improve each practice and each game. He didn't have the luxury of going through spring. But what he knows, he knows extremely well."
And Marshall will be another junior college transfer to start at quarterback in the last four years. The last one? The natural comparison to Cam Newton.
'"I really can't compare myself to him. I'll just be myself," Marshall said.