October 27, 2013

Conflict avoidance


AUBURN |Nick Marshall is going to be fine.

The Tigers' quarterback suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder during a first-quarter collision and subsequently aggravated it after a second-quarter sack. He was removed from the game as a precaution and didn't return to the field, but the junior has been cleared to return to action.

In fact, he practiced Sunday night.

"He's sore, but he's a tough kid," offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. "Other than educating him a little on … trying to get down a little bit (rather than initiating contact), I think he'll be alright."

The idea of Auburn entering its final stretch of regular-season games without Marshall would have been alarming to say the least. He's emerged as a useful element within Lashlee and coach Gus Malzahn's read-option run system, which is forcing defenses to closely monitor both Marshall and various tailbacks during every snap.

There's a reason Auburn's rushing attack is ranked fifth among the 123 Bowl Subdivision programs.

That run-game battery will be in tact when Auburn plays at Arkansas this weekend. Lashlee said that Marshall could have been available to return against Florida Atlantic on Saturday night had he been needed.

Still, Lashlee is hoping for corrective action.

The hit that created Marshall's shoulder bruise was avoidable. Marshall broke free for a modest gain off the left side of the line and approached FAU defensive back D'Joun Frye-Smith near the sideline.

Rather than veer away from the defender or slide, Marshall decided to unload a lick. The show of power worked; Frye-Smith lost that battle and was knocked well off the boundary.

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