One thing must be made abundant clear: Auburn quarterback and preseason Heisman contender Nick Marshall owes no one in the media an explanation for being cited on marijuana possession and driving a car with window tint that exceeded the legal limit.
In the coming days, there are likely to be columns written and airtime devoted chastising about Marshall, who arrived at Auburn under the cloud of a dismissal from Georgia for an accused theft on which charges were never filed. And, as they are wont to do, fans of other programs–particularly programs within the SEC–will tut-tut should he be allowed to play, while lauding the squeaky clean (and largely fictitious) images of their own teams.
By remaining in the lineup of the SEC media days, where he’s one of three Auburn Tigers scheduled to appear, Nick Marshall won’t silence his concern-trolling and glass-house stone-throwing detractors. Nor is that any worthwhile motivation for head coach Gus Malzahn to bring Marshall to Hoover for the forthcoming media days.
Marshall’s obligations are to his Tigers teammates and Malzahn. The latter expressed his disappointment in Marshall for running afoul of the law in a brief statement issued Friday night:
I’m aware of the situation that happened earlier today with Nick. I’m very disappointed and I will address it with him accordingly.
Accordingly is a subjective term guaranteed to earn condemnation no matter the result. Will Nick Marshall be suspended for the opener, an SEC West contest against Arkansas?
Maybe he’ll be out of the lineup for the Tigers’ marquee matchup with Kansas State, a Thursday night showdown in the heart of Big 12 Country? Perhaps Marshall will miss no time at all with this being his first, and rather minor, transgression since coming to Auburn.
Barrett Sallee offered details on Auburn’s internal disciplinary policy, which includes a mandatory six-game suspension for second offenses.
Auburn's policy has been that a player is suspended for half the season on second offense, none for first.
— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 11, 2014
How much the serious allegations against Marshall at Georgia factor into his punishment for this minor incident is at Malzahn’s discretion.
The head coach offered another statement about Marshall to Ryan Black of the Ledger-Enquirer, days before Auburn faced Marshall’s former team, Georgia, that told another story of the quarterback’s time in the program:
“We did our homework on him,” he said. “The fact that we got here with (defensive line) Coach (Rodney) Garner (who was at Georgia when Marshall was on the team in 2011) who knew him well and knew the family well (helped). … We’re very proud of Nick on the field, off the field. He’s got a lot of respect from his teammates as well as his coaches. He’s a good person.”
Malzahn can take cues from Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, who left lightning rod quarterback Johnny Manziel on the 2013 SEC media days lineup just days after the jet-setting Heisman winner slept through a session at the Manning Passing Academy.
The media frenzy surrounding Manziel has reignited since he was drafted to the Cleveland Browns, but for a few short months during the 2013 season, A&M stemmed the tide of unwanted attention. Moreover, Sumlin put Manziel in a position where the star quarterback had to face the kind of scrutiny he’s seeing now, and deal with it accordingly.
No, leaving Nick Marshall on the SEC media days docket isn’t about placating the hand-wringing critics. It’s an opportunity for the quarterback and Heisman hopeful to meet those criticisms head-on and address them. It’s an opportunity to prove his leadership qualities to those reliant on him.