Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall (16) runs for a touchdown in the second half of an NCAA college football game at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, October 21, 2017. Georgia Tech beat Wake Forest 38-24. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Georgia Tech’s TaQuon Marshall expecting ‘a big difference’

On the first day of spring practice, Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall already projected himself differently. That was the observation of wide receiver Brad Stewart, who shared the huddle with him all of last season, Marshall’s first as starting quarterback.

“Just Day 1, you could see how smooth he was out there,” Stewart said Monday after the Yellow Jackets’ first spring practice workout. “He didn’t have that transition period like he did last year. He was smooth (Monday), knew the plays, knew what everyone else had to do, really was vocal and had the guys motivated out there.”

Marshall, going into his senior season, was at times brilliant in his 11 starts in 2017, but also sometimes played like the first-year starter that he was. His debut was electric, when he ran for 249 yards and five touchdowns in the Yellow Jackets’ overtime defeat against Tennessee in the season opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It was the first of six 100-yard rushing games. However, he also completed fewer than 40 percent of his passes (37.1 percent) and was not consistent with his option reads in the run game.

“I think he knows what he needs to get better at, and certainly I feel like I have a couple things that we need to work on and get better at,” coach Paul Johnson said. “Really, that’s my conversation with (quarterbacks and B-backs coach Craig Candeto) as much as TaQuon. But he’s going to work. He’s always been a hard worker. I’m sure he’s set his goals really high, too.”

Marshall deemed himself “really confident” and is hopeful for the progress he can make in spring practice and through the rest of the offseason.

“I expect a big difference in the way I played last year and coming up this year,” he said. “I’m pretty much very experienced now. I know the playbook pretty well. So we’ll see how it goes when the time comes.”

Marshall is one of 10 offensive players who started at least six games last season.

“The bond, it’s there,” Marshall said. “Everybody’s clicking. Just the energy (Monday) just going out there and how excited everybody was just to get back together finally, it’s awesome. And having all the guys there that have experience, you’ll be able to tell when we start getting the pads on.”

Marshall said that he saw technical flaws in his passing motion, notably that he didn’t drop back deep enough and that he overstrided when he threw. The failure to take a deep dropback prevented the 5-foot-10 Marshall from getting a clear look downfield, although inconsistent pass protection may have spurred him to speed up his delivery.

Also, he said, “I caught myself overstriding a lot too last season when throwing, so my arm was already behind my body so everything kind of lags.”

Becoming better at making the give-or-keep read with the B-back and the keep-or-pitch read with the A-back in the option is a function of experience, as Marshall saw it.

“Just watching (on video), I’m like, ‘Dang, I probably could have done this better or I probably should have made this decision,’” he said. “So it’s always tough doing that, but at the same time, you can’t really go back and change it, so you can just watch what you did and then try to build on it.”

As always seems to be the case, small differences could matter materially for Tech, which finished 5-6 but held double-digit leads in four of the losses.

Marshall’s leadership has been recognized, as he was voted a team captain in January, along with linebacker Brant Mitchell. Johnson’s policy has been to vote for captains a few games into the season, but changed it because of the high number of seniors on the roster. Stewart said he has already seen Marshall take on a more vocal leadership role.

“We’ve just got to be a little more vocal and hold guys accountable, so that’s where TaQuon has improved at,” he said.

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