Nick Marshall was nowhere to be found Monday afternoon.
That didn’t prevent him from being the most popular topic among Auburn’s contingent on the first day of this year’s SEC media days. The starting quarterback was originally supposed to be one of Auburn’s three player representatives at the event. But then he received a pair of citations -- one for possession of marijuana less than an ounce and another for excessive window tint -- last week in Reynolds.
With that, the Wilcox County product squandered an opportunity.
“I believe it’s a reward and privilege to represent Auburn here at SEC media day. I believe he lost that right Friday,” said head coach Gus Malzahn, noting that he reserves his highest expectations for his starting signal-caller. “Up until last Friday, Nick has been a model student, a model teammate and a model citizen, but he made a mistake and he’s going to have to suffer the consequences for that mistake.”
Don’t ask Malzahn, however, what that entails. Asked repeatedly, with different phrasing each time, he refused to shed any light on how much time Marshall might miss, if any.
“I’m not saying what that consequence is right now, but it will be addressed,” Malzahn said.
And that’s exactly what both Marshall and Jonathon Mincy -- a fellow senior who was arrested for marijuana possession in Abbeville, Alabama, last month -- have already done within the confines of the team. On Sunday night, both Marshall and Mincy owned up to their recent legal issues during a team meeting, expressing contrition for the actions.
While Malzahn wasn’t pleased a meeting had to be called in the first place, he believed both got the right message across.
“We had two guys make mistakes. We’re going to deal with those mistakes,” he said. “But I feel very good about the big picture of where we’re at with the program, and I know our players and coaches feel the same way.”
Gabe Wright concurred.
“I know him personally, and I know what he’s about,” the senior defensive tackle said of Marshall. “I could tell from the look in his eyes and I could tell from the words coming out of his mouth.”
Fellow senior Reese Dismukes also lended his support. He offered a sympathetic ear if Marshall felt he needed it.
It’s the least he could do, after all.
“He’s been nothing but a great piece of this fun journey we’ve been on the past year,” said Dismukes, entering his fourth year as the Tigers’ starting center. “(I) just let him know that I’m there for him and I can help him out however he needs me.”
C.J. Uzomah’s trust in Marshall was similarly steadfast. The team is disappointed, no doubt. But Uzomah believes Marshall will emerge from this situation stronger than ever.
“We know he’s going to learn from this mistake,” the senior tight end said. “Coach Malzahn’s going to address it and handle it accordingly. He’s still our leader. We still have all the confidence in the world and faith in him. We know he’s just going to bounce back from this.”
Still, for all their support, it wasn’t Marshall having to face the media crush Monday, it was his teammates. Did they not sense a disconnect between a player considered a team leader -- and one Malzahn deemed “the face of the program” -- then acting in the opposite manner? Didn’t it bother them that they were the ones having to answer for his mistakes?
No, Wright didn’t like it.
But he understood why the questions were being lobbed his way.
“I’m a realist. I feel like you just have to welcome it,” he said. “I’m not going to say I don’t want to be asked, but in all honesty, I have no (influence) in what happens to Nick or Jonathon. I can accept responsibility for what happens after the fact -- from looking out for them more, but when stuff like that happens, that’s really all a guy needs: someone to help him along. That’s what us three and the rest of our seniors can do.”
Malzahn expects nothing less. To prevent these incidents from continuing to occur, it falls on the senior class to self-police.
Rules are nothing if those at the top don’t set a standard for the rest of the team to follow.
“We put our seniors in a leadership position,” Malzahn said. “ We’ve got a very strong senior class, and I feel very good about them as a group and they’re going to handle (Marshall and Mincy). And I don’t foresee any other issues moving forward.”