AUBURN — Nick Marshall did the crime, paid the fine and is still doing the time.
As for Gus Malzahn, the Auburn coach is handling the situation involving his Heisman-hopeful quarterback just fine, and Auburn’s program under his watch will be better long-term for it.
Malzahn has made full use of the month-plus since Marshall was cited for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, exposing his first second-year starting quarterback as a head coach to multiple doses of public shaming.
On the weekend following Marshall’s July 11 citation, there was Malzahn’s decision to pull Marshall from a scheduled appearance at SEC Media Days. His absence drew headlines, and Malzahn used his time at media days to voice his disappointment in Marshall while building up backup Jeremy Johnson.
Then Malzahn announced last week that Marshall will not start Auburn’s season and SEC opener against Arkansas. Marshall is expected to play, but when and how much is uncertain.
Sunday, Marshall finally got the green light to speak to media and apologized to Auburn fans.
“I made a mistake, and I’m just trying to gain my trust back from the coaches,” Marshall said. “I let my family down, and I’m also trying to gain their trust back and also the Auburn fans.
“The incident that happened, it’s just going to change me as a better man on and off the field.”
There’re still two weeks leading up to the Arkansas game, two weeks for Marshall to watch Johnson prepare to start against Arkansas and watch media report on it.
Then will come the series, the quarter, the half, however long Marshall stands on the sideline against Arkansas. No telling how many SEC Network camera shots will show the guy who mounted 3,044 total yards and 26 touchdowns a year ago, standing next to the sweater-vested Malzahn.
None of that covers whatever punishment Marshall has endured behind the scenes, but Marshall will have endured more than a month of public drag for what amounts to a $1,000 ticket.
Anyone who has heard a Malzahn news conference knows he’s not given to overstatement, but he made a point to overstate things with Marshall.
It’s not just that Marshall is the quarterback, though Malzahn has said he expects more out of that position.
It’s not just that Marshall is Auburn’s most high-profile returning player from Auburn’s SEC championship and national runner-up team of a year ago.
It’s all of those things plus the foundation that Malzahn laid a year ago.
Auburn had more than its share of off-field missteps on former head coach Gene Chizik’s watch. Then came the 3-9 season that sent him packing.
Malzahn quickly laid the foundation for a team that went from 3-9 to 12-2 in his first year, and he could just as quickly jack-hammer the foundation by going too easily on Marshall.
The coach could have let his star nuke a few hours in the SEC Media Days microwave then suffer the rest quietly, with the strength coach. Instead, Malzahn made Marshall marinate through a month-plus of punishment speculation then ramifications talk.
And this from a coach who takes his time with little else.