Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn announced that quarterback Nick Marshall will not start the first game of the year against Arkansas, according to reports.
Marshall, who had nearly 2,000 passing yards and another 1,000 rushing yards, was cited for marijuana possession last month.
In reality, this is a brilliant move by Malzahn. Nobody is going to criticize him for not punishing Marshall more severely because the violation was minuscule. In fact, punishing him at all makes him look like a tough disciplinarian. He is even able to look tougher because he’s punishing his quarterback for an SEC divisional game, not some random game against an FCS school.
This grand stand by Malzahn, though, is such a farce, like it almost always is with coaches. Malzahn said he’s not ready to say how long Marshall will sit in the game yet. Translation: He’s still trying to figure out if Marshall will be needed at all in the game.
It’s worth noting that Arkansas was 3-9 last year.
So while Malzahn gets to act tough for punishing his quarterback for a very small violation, he’s doing it for a game he should easily win. This is a political move that he can jump back to in case he ever comes under fire for not doling out a tough enough punishment in the future. It’s very smart thinking.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Marshall should be suspended longer. In my opinion, he shouldn’t be suspended at all.
But if you’re Malzahn, what’s the harm in not starting him against a team you know you’ll probably beat anyway? The benefits far outweigh the risk.
Malzahn is doing the same thing to defensive back Jonathan Mincy, who had a marijuana charge in June. Again, this is the same concept.
He’ll get to come across as a disciplinarian, but in reality there is nothing to lose from not starting these guys.