Fresh off a conference championship in 2013, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn was the first head coach to speak on the first day of SEC Media Days Monday afternoon.
Marshall's status up in the air
The question on everyone’s minds was the recent marijuana citation issued to starting quarterback Nick Marshall. Marshall was originally scheduled to be one of the three Auburn players representing the school at Media Days in Hoover, Ala., but Malzahn and the school pulled the plug on his appearance and tight end C.J. Uzomah was sent in his place.
Malzahn told reporters that he has not reached a decision when it comes to disciplinary action against Marshall, who transferred to Auburn in 2013 following stints at junior college and Georgia.
“We have high expectations for our players, but specifically our quarterback, being the face of our program,” Malzahn said. “Up until last Friday, Nick has been a model student, teammate, and citizen. Nick made a mistake and he'll have to deal with the consequences. I'm not ready to say what those consequences are at this time, but he will deal with it. I know he's regretful and he feels very bad about it.”
Malzahn said that he met with Marshall following the incident on Friday and that he hopes the senior “learns a lesson” from the situation.
Much of the talk surrounding Marshall this offseason concerned the dual-threat quarterback improving his throwing accuracy to complement his dynamic rushing skills. Marshall completed just 59 percent of his passes last year and Malzahn said he wants his offense to be more balanced moving forward.
“That was really probably the number one priority in the spring, to be more balanced,” Malzahn said. “We led the country in rushing last year. When you do that, defenses have to take some chances. We've got to do a better job this year of making them pay when they do take chances.”
With Marshall’s status currently up in the air, Malzahn made it a point to mention his comfort level with backup Jeremy Johnson, a Rivals Top 100 recruit in the class of 2013 who saw significant action in two games as a true freshman last year and appeared in six games total.
“The great thing is we got Jeremy Johnson who could start for a lot of teams around the country, probably a majority of them. He has two games experience last year. He was a freshman SEC offensive player of the week both games he played. We feel good about that,” Malzahn said.
Lawson goes down with ACL tear
On the other side of the ball, Malzahn confirmed that standout defensive end Carl Lawson underwent surgery for an ACL tear in his left knee in May. Lawson, who registered 20 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss as a true freshman, was a five-star recruit for the Tigers in 2013.
Malzahn said Lawson is working hard to try to make it back onto the field at some point in 2014.
“Carl had successful ACL surgery in the first part of May. He injured the knee the last week of spring practice,” Malzahn said. “Carl is working extremely hard and he’s determined to come back owards the end of this year.”
Lutzenkirchen to be honored
Malzahn was asked about the program’s plan to honor former tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, who was killed in a car crash on June 29. Malzahn confirmed that there will be “something” to honor Lutzenkirchen, but the details were not immediately known just yet.
“Well, myself and our athletic director, Jay Jacobs, the Lutzenkirchen family, are working through that. There will be definitely something to honor Phillip,” Malzahn said. “He was the very first player I ever recruited as an Auburn coach. He was a true Auburn man. So that was definitely a tough blow to the Auburn family. He’ll definitely be remembered and we’ll do some things to honor him for a long time to come.”
The Tigers’ season opens up with a conference matchup at home against Arkansas on August 30.
For more Auburn news, visit AuburnSports.com.
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