Nick Marshall

Spring optimism: Auburn’s Nick Marshall improving his passing skills

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Nick Marshall’s always had a strong arm and was often lethal on play-action last fall, but per Jay G. Tate of, the Tigers quarterback has become a better overall passer this spring.

Of course, everyone is “improving” or “developing” during spring practice, which wraps up about four and a half months before the 2014 season kicks off. But perhaps there’s something to this, given Marshall was still a relative greenhorn running Gus Malzahn’s offense last fall. Via Tate:

It’s clear that Lashlee and coach Gus Malzahn are placing more emphasis on the passing game this spring. Marshall, whose development will determine just how far Auburn goes with that passing game, is inspiring widespread confidence.

Lashlee said Marshall now is showing the kind of next-level awareness shown by Ryan Aplin, who thrived for this same offensive brain trust at Arkansas State. As a senior in 2012, Aplin impressed Lashlee and Malzahn by suggesting adjustments and challenging ideas with structured arguments.

Granted, Arkansas State and the Sun Belt is a few rungs down the ladder from the SEC, but Alpin completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,342 yards with 24 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2012. He wasn’t the kind of threat Marshall is with his legs (104 attempts, 438 yards, 6 TDs) but there is precedent for a quarterback to put up elite-level passing numbers in Malzahn’s system.

There’s more from Malzahn & Co. in Tate’s article on Marshall’s comfort level and fit in the Tre Mason-less offense, too, so go check that out.

Starting Navy S Kwazel Bertrand undergoes surgery, likely out for season

Kwazel Bertrand, Jacobi Owens
Associated Press
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Navy has seen one of its most productive players on the defensive side of the ball play for perhaps the final time this season.

Kwazel Bertrand sustained a broken ankle in the win over Air Force last Saturday, head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed earlier this week. As a result, the defensive back will very likely miss the remainder of the 2015 season.

And, because he is a senior and has no other eligibility avenues to pursue, it would effectively end his collegiate career as well.

“I feel terrible for Kwazel. It’s really unfortunate any time a senior goes down with a season-ending injury,” Niumatalolo said. “Kwazel has been a really good player for us and we’re going to miss his presence out on the field.”

Bertrand started 27 games over the past three-plus seasons, including all four in 2015.

Unitas Award whittles watch list in half down to 15

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 03:  Trevone Boykin #2 of the TCU Horned Frogs looks for an open receiver against the Texas Longhorns in the second quarter at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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You know how I know we’re gradually creeping up on the end of another regular season?  Watch lists are being whittled.

The first major honor to do so is the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is given out annually to the best quarterback who is a college senior or fourth-year junior.  The preseason watch list was 30 quarterbacks strong; the newest list has been cut in half to 15.

The most recent list includes one of the top Heisman contenders (TCU’s Trevone Boykin) and the top two nationally in passing yards (Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson, Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty), as well as a quarterback who’s closing in on the all-time FBS record for rushing touchdowns (Navy’s Keenan Reynolds).

The Pac-12 leads all conferences with three watch listers, followed by two each from the AAC, ACC and Big Ten.  The SEC has as many players (one, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott) as the FCS (North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz).

Last year’s winner was Marcus Mariota of Oregon.

Trevone Boykin, TCU
Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Connor Cook, Michigan State
Brandon Doughty, WKU
Everett Golson, Florida State
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
Cody Kessler, USC
Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Carson Wentz, N. Dakota State
Marquise Williams, North Carolina
Travis Wilson, Utah