by Jon Cooper | The Good Word
TaQuon Marshall is the prohibitive favorite to be Georgia Tech’s starting quarterback in 2018, but that doesn’t mean he’s going into the season as Georgia Tech’s lone quarterback.
In fact, heading into his senior year, Marshall, who last year at this time was in competition with redshirt junior Matthew Jordan, redshirt freshman Lucas Johnson and true freshman Tobias Oliver for the starting job, is counting on contributions from and competition with both Johnson and Oliver.
The contributing and the competition has already begun. More important, so is the learning and improving from each other. It’s got Marshall treating this summer with the same urgency he treated last summer.
“I’m kind of going into it the same way just because every day you’re going to learn something new,” said Marshall, who compiled 2,073 yards of offense (1,146 on the ground, 927 through the air) with 27 touchdowns (17 rushing, 10 passing) in 2017. “Even last year, between me and Matt and also Lucas and Tobias, we were all learning something new every day, a better way of how to do things. We’ll be approaching it the same way this year. I know things but I’m still trying to learn how to do things better and bring the guys around with me. If those guys can help me out by the way they learn things and I can help those guys out by the way I learn things and kind of be a full circle everyone is getting better at the same time.”
“We’re all very close,” he added. “Outside of football and school we all text and we hang out. We’re laughing all the time. In the weight room we challenge each other and we push each other to be better. Our relationship is very close on and off the field.”
Head coach Paul Johnson saw the potential benefit in a strong QB unit during Georgia Tech’s Pro Day.
“Lucas (Johnson) certainly we expect him to compete for the job this spring and Tobias (Oliver) will get a chance,” he said. “This is the fewest scholarship quarterbacks we’ve had going into spring. We don’t really have any walk-ons. So we have three quarterbacks and they’ll get a ton of work.”
That work paid off in the spring and especially in the Spring Game. Marshall was forced to sit it out due to a bout with the flu, which, in turn, forced Johnson and Oliver to go from being teammates playing against Marshall to opposing quarterbacks, Johnson with the Blue team, Oliver QB’ing White.
“I was very excited for the guys,” said Marshall. “I thought they played well. I thought they stayed poised in front of the crowd. I thought Lucas threw the ball well, Tobias threw the ball well, they both ran the ball well.”
“There’s always going to be some things that each one of us in the group can improve on,” Marshall added. “We’re working on that right now.”
Ironically, Johnson seemed more likely to miss the game, as he’d been hindered by a hamstring injury, finally being cleared that week.
“This spring was really frustrating not being able to get out there and get the reps I needed. But thankfully the hamstring felt good tonight and it was cool to run with the one’s,” said Johnson after the spring game. “It was cool. I always love playing in front of crowds. I had to settle down a little bit, I was a little TOO amped up in the beginning but I settled down, just had to keep the ball moving. I missed a couple of passes today that were just inexplicable but I thought we played well and came out with the win.”
The goal of coming out with the win in the fall binds the quarterbacks, regardless of who is taking the snap. Marshall feels that goal even extends to who is on the other end of their passes. Marshall has been impressed with the work ethic of the receiving corps.
“A lot of the guys have actually gotten faster since we’ve started working out. I can tell the improvement,” Marshall said. “I know one of the things (senior wide receiver) Brad (Stewart) has been telling me he wanted to work on was getting faster and also (junior WR) Jalen Camp wanted to work on getting faster. So those two guys, I definitely see change in that. A lot of the guys are working on getting out of breaks and working on their route-running. Everyone’s really progressing.”
Marshall is progressing in areas he wanted to as well and has something to prove this season.
“That I can be consistent,” he said. “Last year there were some times that I wasn’t very consistent and some things didn’t really go my way or go the team’s way. So really just show everyone that I can be consistent as a person and that we can be consistent as a team and that Georgia Tech isn’t a bust and that we are a program that can be at the top and play with the best programs in the nation.”
Last season Marshall established himself as one of the biggest offensive weapons in the nation — his 104.2 rushing yards per game ranked fifth in the nation among quarterbacks (third, overall in the ACC) and his 17 rushing touchdowns tied him for 12th in the nation, fourth among quarterbacks. He’ll be a co-captain for the second-straight season but 2018 will be his first in the public eye. He’s not letting his celebrity change him, even though it has change his life.
“It’s changed completely,” he said. “A lot more people know about me. A lot more people recognize me when I’m not in my football uniform so I have to carry myself differently, watch what I post on social media, just really stay low-key about things — which I try to do anyway. A lot of things have changed. People ask me for pictures when I’m out and about, autographs. It’s kind of a 180 you could say.”
Marshall’s work ethic and commitment to leadership has not changed at all. He’s helped organize regular unofficial workouts despite taking classes in Finite Math and Foundations of Strategy.
“In the weight room, we go early in the morning, just trying to get the guys going,” he said. “One of the things that I always tell them is, ‘You have to set the tone.’ So we’re working on setting the tone early in the morning. Set that foundation right now so that in the fall everything’s already set and we know how we want to work.
“We have a huge message system that we use. Pretty much every guy on the team is in it so we let them know when we’re going to do things and we try to get things organized so we can get the most out of everybody and get the most people there,” he added. “Everyone is not always able to do things because guys have summer jobs and some guys are taking classes that are later on in the afternoon but that’s really one of the ways that we try to get everyone involved so we can make it a team effort.”
TaQuon will take a little time for himself late in the summer, just before classes and fall camp begin, heading out to Las Vegas with friends. I’ll be his first trip to the West Coast.
He’s not a betting man but believes that people should not bet against him and the Yellow Jackets this fall.
“We just got started up, back to team activity,” Marshall said. “We’ve been grinding really hard. Guys are working really hard in the weight room, pushing a lot of weight. On Tuesdays and Thursdays in the afternoon we try to go in the Indoor and get some skill work in and work on some things.
“On the field, there’s a lot that we can improve on for game days in the fall,” he added. “Everyone’s really progressing and trying to get to the same goal. Everyone is working really hard to get to that one specific goal and that is winning games.”