Jan 1, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall (14) throws the ball against the Wisconsin Badgers during the second half in the 2015 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Auburn Tigers 34-31 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
For two years, Nick Marshall made a name for himself as the signal caller for the Auburn Tigers.
Now, Marshall will try to make a name for himself on the opposite side of the football, at cornerback for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Cornerback is nothing new to Marshall however, as he originally began his college career at cornerback for the University of Georgia in 2011. A violation of team rules kicked Marshall off the program at Georgia. He later enrolled at Garden City Community College in Kansas in 2012 and began playing quarterback.
After a season there, Marshall caught the eye of Gus Malzahn and transferred to Auburn. The former dual-threat quarterback threw for 4,508 yards, ran for 1,866, and accounted for 57 touchdowns during his time at Jordan-Hare. In his two years at the helm, Marshall guided the Tigers to an SEC Championship in 2013 with an appearance in the National Title game later that same season.
Marshall, coaches, and scouts knew his chances of playing the quarterback position in the NFL were slim to none, so Marshall decided to make the switch to defense prior to the Senior Bowl. At the Senior Bowl, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley coached Marshall. After making an impression, Marshall was invited to the NFL scouting combine where the Jaguars eventually picked him up as an undrafted free agent.
Nolan Nawrocki, in his draft preview book (via Ryan O’Halloran of Jacksonville.com) projected Marshall as a fourth- or fifth-round pick and wrote: “A very good-sized, developmental cornerback prospect with rare length and a unique perspective from having played the quarterback position. Will require some time to get adjusted. … Has the size, length and foot quickness to make the transition.” Marshall’s slide was in large part in many teams not wanting to take such a risk on a developmental player.
Jan 21, 2015; Mobile, AL, USA; South squad wide receiver Josh Harper of Fresno State (3) pulls in a pass over South squad defensive back Nick Marshall of Auburn (14) during Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Nevertheless, Bradley likes what he sees in Marshall. “His length, his size [210 pounds] and his athleticism are all attributes we’re looking for at that position,” said Bradley to O’Halloran. “Sometimes you like a guy that has really bought into and he really wants to play corner, so we’ll see what we’ve got.” Depending how Marshall re-acclimates to the cornerback position, his chances of making the team are promising.
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The Jaguars plan on carrying six cornerbacks for the 2015 season. The team looks to have four corners who appear to be locks to make the roster in Demetrius McCray, Aaron Colvin, Dwayne Gratz, and free-agent signee Davon House. After those names it is up in their air. Marshall will battle with Tommie Campbell, Jeremy Harris, Rashaad Reynolds, and Peyton Thompson for the last two spots.
Marshall could use the help of Jaguars running back Denard Robinson on what it’s like on making the transition. Robinson showed promise last season as the Jags main ball carrier after playing quarterback at the University of Michigan from 2009 to 2012. Marshall could also make the roster by way of special teams either as a punt and/or kick-returner. Either way there have been a myriad of NFL players who have changed positions upon entering the NFL and enjoyed success including Brad Smith, Antwaan Randle El, Josh Cribbs, and Julian Edelman.
My guess is that Marshall will land on the practice squad as a project who will need some time to re-learn the position. Marshall plans to make the most of his chance, telling O’Halloran, “They gave me an opportunity to come here and I want to take full advantage.” The athleticism is there, and in a few years, the Jaguars could have a viable contributor in the secondary.
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