What To Watch: QBs Take Center Stage

Auburn starting quarterback Nick Marshall may not play Saturday and if that's the case what do the Tigers do?

Who Will Be The Quarterback?

Auburn is off to a 4-1 start and the quarterback play from Nick Marshall has been solid to this point for the Tigers. Completing 59.2 percent of his passes for 902 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions, the first-year starter has also rushed for 288 yards--averages of 57.6 yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry.

This week there could be a different quarterback running the show for the Auburn offense, however, as Marshall has been slowed after going down awkwardly and hurting his knee on a fourth quarter run in the win over Ole Miss.

If the junior is unable to go this week then Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee have a pair of backups to choose from and how it turns out very well may tell us what to expect the rest of the season.

Getting experience last year while playing in nine games and starting Auburn's final four contests as a true freshman, Jonathan Wallace completed 57.5 percent of his passes for 720 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions in nine games.

Jonathan Wallace is shown in action last season.

Trying to direct an offense that didn't fit well with his skills or the talents of players around around him, Wallace struggled mightily in losses to Georgia and Alabama at the end of the season. Playing briefly in two games this season, Wallace has completed one pass in just two throws and carried the ball two times for seven yards.

The other option is to pull the redshirt off of talented freshman Jeremy Johnson from Montgomery. One of the top quarterback prospects in the country for the 2013 class, the 6-5, 220 Johnson has all the tools to be a big-time player for the Tigers. As a senior for the Wolverines, Johnson was named Alabama's Mr. Football after throwing for 3,193 yards and 31 touchdowns and adding 705 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

If Marshall is unable to go and the coaches feel like Johnson is the second-best option at the moment then it may be time to pull the redshirt and see what the big freshman can do. With the pressure to win, and win early, more prevalent now than ever before in the world of college football, the possibility of having Johnson as a fifth-year senior in 2017 could be trumped by the 2013 team's immediate need. While he may not make a difference in winning or losing vs. Western Carolina on Saturday or Florida Atlantic later this month, if gaining experience for Johnson now could help the Tigers defeat Texas A&M, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia or Alabama going with the freshman makes sense.

Youth Is Served

While there is still a question on whether or not Johnson will play on Saturday, there is little doubt that young players on both sides of the ball will have an opportunity to show what they can do in extended duty.

Offensively, guys like Avery Young, Jordan Diamond, Shane Callahan, Will Adams and Robert Leff should get a chance at playing time on the offensive line.

Jordan Diamond (76) and Jonathan Jones (6) could see playing time during Saturday's Homecoming game.

Defensively, Mackenro Alexander has already played some this season at the "star" position and should see extended playing time on Saturday. The same is true of linebackers such as Kenny Flowers and Javiie Mitchell.

In the secondary true freshman cornerbacks Kamryn Melton and Johnthan Ford should be able to get their first significant college playing time on the defense if the Tigers can build a comfortable lead in the second half.

True freshman Johnathan "Rudy" Ford began preseason drills at tailback before moving to cornerback.

Up front on defense redshirt freshmen Gimel President and Tyler Nero as well as sophomore Jabrian Niles could see extended playing time.

Prep For Johnny Football

While he is not on the same level as Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Western Carolina's Troy Mitchell should give the Auburn defense a good workout in advance of next week's trip to the Lone Star State. Throwing for 1,030 yards and eight touchdowns with five interceptions in five games, Mitchell is completing 58.3 percent of his passes this season. Throw in 353 yards rushing and a touchdown on 70 carries and you have an athletic pass/run quarterback playing for the Catamounts.

An all-conference performer at Cy-Falls High in Houston as a senior, Mitchell threw for more 2,400 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2011. As a freshman last season he started five games and set the school record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with eight.

Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium as Auburn looks for its 22nd consecutive victory on Homecoming.

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