After TaQuon Marshall left a meeting with coach Paul Johnson in his office following Georgia Tech’s first scrimmage of spring practice, the first person he called was his father, William.
“Usually when TaQuon calls me and tells me about something that happened to him, he is wanting some advice,” William Marshall said. “He kind of felt nervous about it. I could hear it in his voice.”
The younger Marshall’s news was that Johnson wanted to move him from A-back, where he had played last year as a freshman, to quarterback, which he had played since he began playing football as a young boy. And, the older Marshall was right — his son had concerns.
“Because I was getting real comfortable at A-back. So I was like, ‘Oh, wow, this is going to be a big change,’” TaQuon Marshall said.
The elder Marshall’s counsel — “I said, ‘That’s not a bad move. It’s a good move.’”
At least two weeks in, it appears Dad knows what he’s talking about. In the two weeks since the move, Marshall has been a playmaking revelation at quarterback. It’s early, but Johnson’s decision to shift Marshall may shape the Yellow Jackets’ post-Justin Thomas future in 2017 and beyond.
“I’m excited about TaQuon,” Johnson said. “I think quarterback’s a good fit for him. He seems to enjoy playing there. He’s already made more big plays and long runs than we’ve had there in a long time, so I think that’s a good fit.”
Marshall likely needs to bank hundreds more practice snaps before he can operate the Tech offense efficiently. But he’s shown he can make plays with his arm and his legs. He may not have Thomas’ speed, but he does have a more powerful running style.
“He’s certainly got a strong-enough arm, watching him throw the ball,” Johnson said. “He can throw the ball. That’d be the thing we’d be worried about to start with. I don’t see that as a problem.”
Marshall played quarterback at Harris County High, but was recruited to Tech as an A-back. Still, Johnson left open the possibility that he might return to quarterback. He played as a backup A-back in 2015, carrying the ball eight times and catching three passes. With A-backs Qua Searcy and Nathan Cottrell coming back from injuries and J.J. Green eligible after sitting out last season as a transfer from Georgia, Johnson said it was possible that A-backs who had played in 2015 as freshmen — such as Marshall — might redshirt this fall.
But Johnson elected to make the switch with Marshall to find a way to get him on the field and to challenge backup quarterback Matthew Jordan. It didn’t take Marshall long to reacquaint himself with the position.
In his first day of practice at quarterback, “I made a couple big plays, and it kind of reminded me of high school,” he said. “I was like, OK, I can deal with this. I like this right here.”
He is still adjusting to the scheme and how quickly he has to make the reads taking the ball under center rather than out of the shotgun, which he did in high school. But he said he feels at home.
“It’s definitely fun being able to have the ball In my hands every play and being able to decide whether I can keep it or pitch it, show the A-back some love or show the B-back some love (by giving either the ball), or be able to sling it around a little bit,” Marshall said.
Marshall said he has been splitting snaps with Jordan with the second-string offense behind Thomas, with both occasionally running with the first string. It’s a competition that could extend into preseason camp, when signees Jay Jones and Lucas Johnson also will join the derby. Whoever wins the backup spot behind Thomas will have the inside track going into the 2017 season to be the next starter.
“Competing with Matt Jordan and the other guys, it’s real fun, knowing that I have a chance to step in and be that guy, to be the next up,” Marshall said.
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