Through two seasons, Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall has labored mostly in the background for the Yellow Jackets. He played sparingly in nine games as a freshman at A-back and then twice as a sophomore after moving to quarterback.
However, at least for the remainder of spring practice, he is the Yellow Jackets’ No. 1 quarterback following a foot injury to Matthew Jordan suffered April 8. It might not be Marshall’s preferred method for ascending to the top spot, but he recognizes the chance he’s been given.
“I feel like this is a great opportunity for me to step out there a little bit more and show what I can do with the (starting offense) and show my ability for the fall,” Marshall said.
Jordan’s return is expected for the season, although when he comes back will depend on the progress of his rehabilitation. It could be in time for preseason camp, but possibly later. It’s not unreasonable that Marshall could be under center when the Jackets open the season against Tennessee in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff game at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 4.
Attention now shifts to Marshall, 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, who has played 14 snaps at quarterback for the Jackets and attempted one pass.
Since past Monday’s practice, the first with Jordan sidelined, Marshall has taken the snaps with the first-string offense while redshirt freshmen Lucas Johnson and Jay Jones split the second-string offense repetitions. To that point, Marshall said, he had been splitting first-string snaps with Jordan and second-string snaps with Johnson and Jones.
Being with the first team, “I get a feel of how everybody plays, starting with the offensive line, the center, see how the receivers play and how they read the DB’s, kind of them get on the same page with them throwing-wise,” Marshall said. “And then pitch relations with the A-backs and how (B-back) Dedrick (Mills) plays with the mesh. It’s all a good feel. I think I’m getting used to it now that I’m getting a lot of reps with them.”
A quarterback at Harris County High, just north of Columbus, Marshall began his Tech career at A-back in the 2015 season. Early in spring practice last year, to add depth and to challenge Jordan, he was moved to quarterback. He won praise from coach Paul Johnson for his ability to break long runs.
This past season, he served as the No. 3 quarterback behind Justin Thomas and Jordan. He led a 23-yard touchdown drive at the end of the 35-10 win over Mercer and then directed two fourth-quarter possessions in the Jackets’ 38-7 win over Vanderbilt the following week.
To this point, his game is speed and quickness and would seem suited to running on the perimeter, not unlike Thomas. He ran the 100-meter dash in high school in 10.8 seconds. However, Thomas was a far more adept passer.
It appeared that spring practice would be a process after which Jordan would be named the starting quarterback, and he may well be the starter against Tennessee yet. For now, though, Marshall has the reins and likely will lead the 7-on-7 sessions this summer while Jordan recovers.
“I’ll definitely be out there throwing a lot over the summer,” Marshall said.
In last week’s scrimmage, three days after confessing he hadn’t been throwing well to that point, Marshall threw three touchdown passes, including a 55-yard strike to wide receiver Brad Stewart, who described the throw as “right on the money.”
“I definitely feel like I’m improving week to week,” Marshall said. “Personally, I still think I need to work on my throwing, even though I had a big day throwing this past scrimmage.”
After two seasons, Marshall knows the offense, Johnson said. He wants Marshall to work on being smarter with the ball in his hands.
“I’m talking about making decisions,” he said. “Don’t pitch it in tight spaces and don’t try to throw it in tight spaces, and good ball security. Get up with the ball, don’t turn it over. That kind of thing.”
Those are often skills that become more refined with repetition, the kind he will get through the end of the spring. He’ll likely lead the No. 1 offense in the spring game April 21 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Johnson has not declared a leader between Johnson and Jones, but he has praised Jones for his ability to turn broken plays into gains.
“Can’t anybody tackle him,” Johnson said after last Saturday’s scrimmage. “A lot of times, it’s not the way it’s supposed to go, but he reverses and he’s athletic. He is a really, really good athlete.”
Tech fans will be able to see for themselves at the spring game.
“I’m enjoying it,” Marshall said. “It’s still fun competing with everybody. We’ve still got three guys on scholarship and we’ve got (walk-on Chase Martenson) back there, so it’s still fun.”