Malzahn: QB deserves Heisman shot

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AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn Tigers coach Gus Malzahn doesn't have enough good things to say about quarterback Nick Marshall.

In fact, Malzahn thinks Marshall should be considered for the most prestigious individual award in college football.

"He should be in the mix, there's no doubt," Malzahn said of Marshall's Heisman Trophy candidacy. "I don't get the chance to watch other teams like y'all do, but he should be in the mix. He's one of the better players in college football, and he's leading our team."

Marshall arrived at Auburn only about six months ago from Garden City Community College in Kansas, and despite not competing in spring practice, he won the starting quarterback job from day one of the season.

He's known primarily as a running quarterback with 922 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground this season. But when he does throw it, he's efficient with 11 touchdowns, five interceptions and a nearly 60 percent completion percentage.

His numbers won't stack up against those of Heisman favorites like Florida State's Jameis Winston, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel or even Alabama's AJ McCarron, but Malzahn would have Heisman Trophy voters focus on what Marshall has meant to the third-ranked Tigers and their journey to the SEC championship game on Saturday against No. 5 Missouri.

Auburn's turnaround from winless in the SEC to the Western Division champs might not have happened without Marshall at the helm. Fans will remember Chris Davis' 100-yard return to beat then-No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, but without Marshall scrambling late in the fourth quarter and finding  Sammie Coates for a 39-yard touchdown, the game wouldn't have been tied and the Tigers' improbable run would have ended short of a trip to Atlanta.

"We're a quarterback-oriented offense," Malzahn explained. "If he plays well, we play well. If he doesn't, we don't.

"When you really think about it big-picture, it's really amazing what he's done."

"He's made plays for us all over the field this season," Auburn running back Corey Grant said. "If he doesn't make those plays, we wouldn't be where we are now."

Fullback  Jay Prosch agreed with his head coach, saying he "definitely" believed Marshall should be part of the Heisman conversation, crediting his smarts and ability to make improvisational plays.

"You watch film after the game and go, 'Wow!'" Prosch said. "... As you can see, people can't tackle him. He's proven himself on the field."

Auburn has had three Heisman Trophy winners in its history:  Cam Newton in 2010, Bo Jackson in 1985 and Pat Sullivan in 1971.