There’s quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding Auburn’s quarterback situation leading up to Saturday’s game at Arkansas. The status of starter Nick Marshall is still up in the air after he suffered a shoulder injury last week against Florida Atlantic. He’s been able to practice this week, but head coach Gus Malzahn said it could be a game-time decision.
“He’s a tough guy, but like I said, it’s day-to-day,” Malzahn said. “We’re hopeful.”
If Marshall can’t go, the Tigers will turn to freshman Jeremy Johnson. The former ESPN 300 recruit has played twice this season -- against Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic -- and earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors both times.
Regardless of whether Marshall plays, the dual-threat quarterback will likely be more cautious with his body in the future. The initial injury occurred when he used his shoulder to throw down a defender before going out of bounds. The Auburn coaches have encouraged him to avoid those types of plays in the future.
“He’s a great competitor,” Malzahn said. “There’s no doubt. You’d rather have to pull him back than have to prod him on. He’s a great competitor, he’s a tough guy, we’ve just got to be a little bit smarter next time we are in that same situation.”
What Auburn needs to do to win: It doesn’t matter who’s at quarterback -- Auburn needs to continue to establish the run. The Tigers lead the SEC in rushing, and although they face an Arkansas defense that has had success getting to the quarterback, the Razorbacks have struggled against the run. Marshall is clearly the better runner of the two Auburn quarterbacks, but Johnson is athletic in his own right and has shown improvement with the zone-read. Defensively, Auburn needs to be ready for a dogfight. Arkansas will try and run it right down their throat, using running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. But, if Auburn can jump out to a big lead early, it would make it difficult for the Razorbacks to come back.
Players to watch
OT Greg Robinson: Auburn’s offensive line doesn’t get much credit, but it’s been one of the top units in the SEC this season. Not only do the Tigers lead the league in rushing, they’re among the top three in sacks allowed. Robinson will have his hands full with Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith, but it’s important he keeps his quarterback upright.
DB Robenson Therezie: This is type of game that was made for Therezie. He’ll be asked to come up in run support and do what he does best -- hit people. Through eight games, he’s tied for the team-lead in tackles. It also might be a little more personal for Therezie when he goes up against Collins, a fellow South Florida native.
"I haven't heard it, but since you told me that, it really doesn't do much. That's the way we run the ball, and that's our offense, so we've just got to stick with it." -- Corey Grant on Bret Bielema’s criticism of the hurry-up, no-hudde offense