For the first time in seven years, the Auburn Tigers expected to start the same quarterback in consecutive seasons.
But the streak of constant turnover could continue after Nick Marshall, a Heisman Trophy candidate in coach Gus Malzahn's spread offense, was cited for marijuana possession. Malzahn on Friday announced tight end C.J. Uzomah would replace Marshall at media days, which opened Monday in Birmingham, Ala.
"Nick lost that privilege," Malzahn said. "We have high expectations for our players, but specifically our quarterback being the face of the program. Up until last Friday, Nick had been a model student, teammate and citizen. Nick made a mistake and he'll have to deal with the consequences."
Malzahn said he wasn't at the point to share the specifics of Marshall's punishment.
Malzahn has never had a quarterback for back-to-back seasons at the college level. He said high school All-American Jeremy Johnson could start for a lot of teams, and the Tigers enter the season feeling good about their QB situation. Johnson turned in strong performances against Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic in 2013.
Marshall scored 26 touchdowns with 1,068 rushing yards last season. Marshall was teary-eyed and regretful upon his citation in Georgia with less than one ounce of marijuana in the sun visor of his car, according to police, who also ticketed Marshall for excessive window tinting.
Marshall's status for the Aug. 30 opener against Arkansas was not known. Malzahn and the Tigers do know the status of sophomore defensive end Carl Lawson, who will miss most of the season following ACL surgery, Malzahn said Monday. Lawson had surgery in May after injuring his knee the final week of spring practice.
Depth in the front four is one of the strengths of Auburn's defense, but Lawson was a freshman All-American with 7.5 tackles for loss.
"Carl is working extremely hard," Malzahn said. "He's determined to come back at the end of this year."
After a winless conference record in 2012, Auburn went 7-1 in the SEC last season with a 12-2 record and has 14 returning starters last season.
Malzahn said he is pleased to have the program back to where it belongs, and that includes the expectations that come with the worst-to-first rebound. Repeating as conference champions is a goal, but after winning six games by six points or less, Malzahn expects Auburn to have to make more of its own breaks.
"It's been awhile," Malzahn said of repeating. "That says it all. That is a goal of ours, but we understand how hard it will be."