AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Auburn's Nick Marshall is enjoying a luxury none of Gus Malzahn's other college starting quarterbacks have had.
Marshall gets to return for a second season as the starter. He's going through his first spring practice and aiming to show everyone that he's much more than a runner with a strong arm.
"I hope this time next fall that they just feel he's truly a complete quarterback," Tigers offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. "I think he's got the talent."
Auburn's offense flourished with Marshall operating the zone read, either handing off to Tre Mason or keeping it and darting through the line. It seemed simple but was effective enough for the Tigers to win the Southeastern Conference and make it to the national championship game.
Malzahn has even higher expectations for Marshall since he's had eight different full-time starting quarterbacks in as many years on the college level.
Malzahn repeatedly spoke about the handicap the junior college transfer was saddled with last season after not being around for the spring.
The result was a midseason shift to a heavy reliance on the zone read as coaches discovered what worked best for Marshall at the time. He attempted a combined 26 passes in wins over Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri in the SEC championship game.
Malzahn said the pre-snap challenges of operating a hurry-up, no-huddle offense alone require more than a handful of practices to master.
"Really, what Nick did with two weeks of practice was really phenomenal," he said. "So the little things the casual eye has seen would be frustrating, but a lot of times there was a lot more to it than what it looks like.
"The goal for him will be at the end of the spring to know our base offense, our base fundamentals and be reactive. We really feel like that's going to happen and it will happen before the end of the spring."