HOOVER, ALA. | Perhaps the most high-profile player that the Southeastern Conference has to offer this season ‚Äî certainly the biggest name of the quarterbacks ‚Äî was scratched from his appearance Monday at the league‚Äôs annual media days.
Auburn‚Äôs Nick Marshall was pulled out of the lineup by coach Gus Malzahn after a marijuana citation Friday.
Tigers tight end C.J. Uzomah got a call from the coach on Sunday to fill in and jumped at the chance. The Suwannee, Ga., product phoned his mother, Stephanie, to get her to drive two hours and 15 minutes to deliver a suit for him.
‚ÄúThis is my first time wearing this suit, so I‚Äôm glad it kind of fits nicely,‚Äù Uzomah said of the threads he sported in the Hyatt Regency Birmingham.
Coming off a turnaround season in which Auburn reached the BCS national championship before losing 34-31 to Florida State, Malzahn was forced to field questions Monday about Marshall.
He said Marshall lost the ‚Äúprivilege‚Äù of being able to attend SEC Media Days but didn‚Äôt say if he would be suspended for the season opener against Arkansas.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm not to that point yet,‚Äù said Malzahn, entering his second season as Auburn‚Äôs head coach.
Auburn has become a landing spot for players shown the door by Georgia.
As a freshman defensive back, Marshall was dismissed by Georgia after being
involved in a theft and landed at Auburn after a season at junior college.
Safety Tray Matthews went straight from being booted by Mark Richt in early June to the Plains.
Matthews was one of four players involved in check-cashing scheme and later was disruptive in a class this spring, leading to his exit.
‚ÄúWe do our homework on everybody that we take in our program,‚Äù Malzahn said. ‚ÄúWe got a chance to recruit Tray before he went to the other school.‚Äù
Longtime Georgia assistant Rodney Garner is now on staff at Auburn and Malzahn referenced him saying that he knew Matthews and his family well.
‚ÄúWe feel like he‚Äôll be successful in our program,‚Äù Malzahn said.
Auburn defensive lineman Gabe Wright said Marshall made ‚Äúa bad decision‚Äù but said he could tell in his eyes he was truly remorseful.
The police chief in Reynolds, Ga., where Marshall was cited during a traffic stop told WRBL TV that he was ‚Äúteary eyed‚Äù when he was found to have less than an ounce of marijuana and was also cited for ‚Äúillegal window tinting,‚Äù according to AL.com.
Malzahn said that Marshall, the first returning starting quarterback he‚Äôs had in his college coaching career, was ‚Äúvery remorseful and that‚Äôs the start. ‚Ä¶ We have high expectations for our players, specifically our quarterback.‚Äù
The senior is a Heisman Trophy candidate who passed for 1,976 yards and rushed for 1,068 last season, becoming the fourth quarterback in league history to reach 1,000 yards rushing.
‚ÄúNo, I haven‚Äôt confronted Nick about that personally,‚Äù Wright, a high school teammate of former Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve seen him going into the dorm as I was driving by and I just told him I love him.‚Äù
Wright said Marshall also viewed SEC Media Days as a ‚Äúprivilege,‚Äù although some players may view the experience of answering questions from those in the 1,200 credentialed for the expanded four-day event as something different.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs going to learn from this mistake,‚Äù Uzomah said. ‚ÄúCoach Malzahn is going to address it and handle it accordingly. He‚Äôs still our leader. We still have all the confidence and faith in the world in him.‚Äù