Friday, August 23, 2013

The Auburn Realist: QB Revisited

So, we have covered a brief breakdown of the first half of the season, the in-depth analysis of the Washington State Game. But what about my thoughts on the QB selection? After all, I was pretty open about my thoughts in my Post A-Day Analysis. And here I have been...silent as a church mouse about the new QB. If you read the article, you can see why. I didn't give near enough credit to either Jeremy Johnson or Nick Marshall.

I guess, in my old age, I have learned to never trust something I have not seen with my own eyes. It's something that I have learned at NASA. Never believe someone's stats or powerpoint until you see the evidence yourself. Contractors who build components for our new rockets have, since the dawn of the space age, stretched, exaggerated, downplay, and outright misdirect and lie. In the same way, stats can lie. Highlights on a video can lie. Coaches can even misdirect. Either for the good or bad.

So, I simply pointed out my thoughts on Marshall. He was turnover prone. A bunch of them over in JuCo land. Athleticism aside, he is raw. He didn't go through the spring.

Jeremy Johnson is a true freshman. A TRUE FRESHMAN. Playing a true freshman at QB is death. It's 3-Sigma Certainty in stats land. If you start one, he will falter. Furthermore, he will never recover. I took into consideration that he was not on campus, like Marshall, for the spring.

So, going into the fall, I made the call. Though the coaches said that neither QB stood out, I felt Wallace played reasonable in the A-Day game. Well enough to put Frazier on the bench. That call turned out to be right. Furthermore, I figured that having beaten Frazier out, he could have the jump on the newcomers and beat them out simply with experience. Now, I did know that he was not as physically gifted as the other two. I didn't think pure athleticism could win. I might still be right.

What I didn't expect was what ended up being reality. Both the newcomers were able to put both athleticism AND solid game play together in only a few short weeks. At least, enough to beat the two incumbents. While I REALLY REALLY want to believe that they are just THAT good...that we have an immediate impact player in Marshall who could be...might we say it....Cam Light, despite that Coaches and Marshall himself don't want to compare them to #2. What we do know is that he was good enough to go to one of the finest NFL defense player factories and start at UGA. He's good enough. At what...we just don't know....and we won't until possible Mississippi State comes to town.

I want to believe that Johnson is that good. We haven't had a high profile QB prospect...or really ANY prospect for that matter....to work out. See...well....any QB prospect in the last 10 years. Burns, Rollison, Pike, Frazier. Since we all started keeping up with recruiting as a 2nd football season. So, in one hand.,  it was a pleasant surprise to hear of a recruit that was making splashes. On the other hand, it made me really question the two returning starter's abilities. I know that everyone has heard it said that neither are SEC material...and I listened. I just didn't want to believe that a team 3 years removed from a NC was that hard up on QBs. Doesn't seem to happen to anyone BUT Auburn. I guess I can get on the bus with everyone else and throw rocks at Chizik.

So here we are. Wallace is a "2nd Stringer" though it's obvious what will happen. He is the Neil Caudle of the 2013. Wallace is the REAL backup, and Johnson will get redshirted....much to many people's dismay. In my mind, this is the only course of action. But I digress.

Think what you want of the old staff, particularly on the offensive side of the ball and the old head coach. Let's not all forget how we were ALL on board the Fire Ted Roof bus because there simply was NO WAY that Chizik would allow a defense to suck to bad. What happened? Roof took over a Penn State unit that was absolutely gutted and turned them into a top 20 unit. Hmmmmmm. It sure starts to look like the old staff wasn't too great with managing and developing players. Hey, I gotta admit...it gives me a good alibi for being almost dead wrong on my prognostication.

What's in the past is in the past...right? So, now what do I think? Wow. You are thinking...man...I had to read a lot just to get here. Sorry. I have to justify myself.

Quick thought about Johnson. He is labeled as the future as Auburn. Is he? Where have I heard this before? Seems to me that the only great modern QB we ever had never went through this process that we keep using to brand these young kids. Let me see him get on the field, win or lose...and learn. THEN we will talk about futures. After all, this would take a QB to actually start 2 years in a row.....novel idea in Tiger Town.

So Marshall is here. Cue all cutesy comments. Marshall Law, for example.

I want to be excited. I really do. REALLY REALLY. I was excited when Cam got here too. And, like all Redheaded stepchildern of Alabama, I refuse to believe that I can get lucky twice in 5 years. We talked about those picks he threw in JuCo. I don't expect him to throw 20. I do expect him to throw 10. At least. I see a 2:1 ratio at best this year. Really closer to 1.5:1. I also see a good many fumbles at the wrong time during scrambles. Like, against and LSU team.In my opinion, what we will see is a QB who is capable of beating you at any point with his legs, and somewhat capable of making you pay with his arm. I would compare him to Nebraska's own Taylor Martinez. Except that Nebraska has had 4 years to develop a somewhat raw passer out of him. The guy still won't throw a lazer dig route. But he will step back and chunk one when the D crashes in on him. With that being said, I expect him...this year at least....to put up large numbers on the ground against quality opponents while taking full advantage of superior talent in the passing game against the off-teams.

I covered what I think Marshall's stats and gameplay will show against WSU. I think he puts up +250 passing yards. I think he runs for 70 more. He accounts for 3 TDs. He puts up similar numbers on Ark State, though I imagine a few plays between these two games will earn him some one-on-one time with coach.

That's where the fun starts. Everyone knows what MSU is like. They are tough. Always have been. I have seen more of this game than any other and it's always tough. Though, it's a little different this year because it's at night. Auburn always seems to play better at night. Day time SEC games always give them fits. See Ole Miss 2008, Any of a handful of outmatched Arkansas teams, etc.

The MSU will set the stage for the rest of the year. Had MSU snagged that pass in a 2 minute drill in 2010, we might all have known a much different 2010 season. Malzahn said himself that he didn't know what he had until that game. In 2011, a goal line stand was really the highlight of a season for Auburn. Had they lost, they would have been in the SEC West Cellar. Well, deeper that is. Win or loose, We will know what to expect for the rest of the year. Am I calling a win or loss? It's too close to call. It is a field goal, either way.

After a tight game against MSU, he travels to Death Valley. I predict that if Auburn beats MSU...it will be last second and there will be a hangover. Auburn looses to LSU. If Auburn falls to MSU, I predict they win in Death Valley and show their true potential. They still don't win the West, however. But, they DO make the Iron Bowl the first EVER to settle the West.

The team wins out going home against UGA and BAMA, largely in part to a stellar run game. They lose both of those games. In both games, they get down early and Marshall tries...in true heroic fashion.....to win the game himself. But comes up just short. We all blame him for the  turnovers, but we admire that he tried. Which is more than we could say about the team last year.

This isn't all bad. The world will see what Auburn can do. We finally have a "non-rebuilding year" that we all look forward to. And, unlike 2003...this team will produce.

Final Stats for Marshall
150/270 passing for 1300 yards 15 TDs 10 INTs 
1500 rush yards 15 TDs