Auburn notebook: Malzahn on Marshall's first start: "pretty average"
by Ryan Black
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer
Sep 03, 2013 | 1723 views |  0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gus Malzahn gave an assessment of starting quarterback Nick Marshall's performance against Washington State. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Gus Malzahn gave an assessment of starting quarterback Nick Marshall's performance against Washington State. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
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AUBURN -- Gus Malzahn didn’t think Nick Marshall played too well Saturday.

But he didn’t believe he was terrible, either, in his first major college starting assignment. Instead, it was somewhere in the middle.

With the benefit of going back and watching film, Auburn’s head coach had a fuller perspective on Marshall’s performance in a win over Washington State.

“It (was) pretty average,” Malzahn said. “Our expectations, you know, he's only been here four weeks but still our expectations are high. The No. 1 thing he did was protect the football, and that can't go overlooked.”

Malzahn didn’t dispute Marshall had to battle his nerves for the early portion of the contest. No, he didn’t make the right decision every time, noting Marshall’s “eyes wandered in other places” on certain instances. The coach believed Marshall eventually steadied himself, though.

“He had jitters, there's no doubt,” Malzahn said. “And that's to be expected, to come in and play quarterback and everything. He started settling down toward the end of the game and that will help him moving forward.”

INJURY UPDATE: Defensive end Dee Ford (left knee injury) and “Star” Justin Garrett (left foot sprain), who both sat out against Washington State, returned to practice Monday. Naturally, it led to questions about their status for Saturday’s game.

Malzahn’s kept his comments curt on the matter.

“We're hoping,” he said.

The status of Jeff Whitaker isn’t as murky.

He’ll be out for an extended period of time after injuring his right knee and undergoing surgery last week. The senior defensive tackle was seen on crutches prior to kickoff last Saturday. At this point, Malzahn said Whitaker is week-to-week.

Contingent upon how much time he misses, Malzahn said pursuing a medical redshirt was a definite possibility.

“Hopefully we can get him back sooner rather than later but if that does happen, we’ll have that conversation,” he said. “We’ve not had that conversation yet. Jeff is a leader on our team, if not the leader, and he’s very important to us as a whole.”

LINEBACKER WOES: Auburn’s linebackers had a rough go of it against Washington State – and that’s putting it lightly. The unit had only five total tackles, with four from Kris Frost and one courtesy of Cassanova McKinzy. Malzahn wasn’t worried, however.

He said it was more a function of the Cougars’ pass-happy offense than anything the linebackers did wrong.

“Sometimes when teams pass the ball as much as they did, it takes the linebackers kind of out of the game,” he said. “I think we'll learn more as we go, the more we face running teams.”
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