First up in our Georgia Tech football post-2017 player evaluations is junior quarterback TaQuon Marshall.
Heading into the 2017 season, it was a question of who was going to be the Yellow Jackets starter this season until the end of fall camp. Prior to the Jackets season opener against Tennessee, head coach Paul Johnson said that Marshall would get the start but the starting job for the season was still up for grabs.
For the case of the 2017 season, the rest was history. Marshall would go on to torch the Volunteers offense up and down the field on Labor Day night and would never look back. But how well did Marshall perform overall?
Passing (D-): 43-for-117 (36.8%), 927-yards, 10 TDs, 5 INT
As a run-first offense, the Yellow Jackets rarely throw the ball, in 2017, the Jackets threw the ball at a lower rate than normal. Over the course of the Jackets’ 11-games this year, they threw the ball just 119 times, all but two of those were from starting quarterback TaQuon Marshall.
Marshall’s 117 passing attempts was the second lowest out of any full season starter for the Jackets since Paul Johnson took over the program in 2008. One major reason for the drop in passing attempts is that Marshall when it comes to passing is not all that polished, which wasn’t unexpected.
Out of his 117-passing attempts, Marshall completed just 36.8% of his passes which way less than desirable, even in a run-first offense. This season when it came to passing the ball, Marshall was inconsistent. While he would hit a receiver in stride at times, he often would completely overthrow his wide receivers, potentially missing a few touchdowns along the way.
The interesting case with Marshall is as the season went on, his passing statistics got much worse. After not throwing interceptions in the Jackets first six games, Marshall threw five interceptions over the course of the Jackets last four games including their 40-36 loss to Virginia.
Early in the season, Marshall was able to be a quality passer which allowed the Jackets to win four of their first six games. But down the last five weeks of the season, Marshall struggled terribly, which did play a key in the Jackets 1-4 record over the last five weeks of the season.
Marshall earned a D- for the season as a passer for several reasons. The first is his low completion percentage, and that’s not completely his fault. Paul Johnson and the Jackets coaching staff must adapt their offensive plans better to their starting quarterback and not make Marshall make passing attempts he’s going to struggle to complete. That being said, Marshall also missed a ton of wide open receivers this season. Another major reason for his D- is that over the last five weeks of the season, Marshall’s passing became consistently worse.
Rushing (A): 247 carries, 1,146-yards, 17 TD
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While Marshall was a below average quarterback, to say the least, on the ground, he’s dynamic and fun to watch. Marshall kicked off his first season as a starting quarterback with a performance no one will ever forget when he rushed for 249-yards and five touchdowns against Tennessee.
Marshall almost single handily won the game for the Yellow Jackets and that shouldn’t be forgotten. While Marshall was never able to crack the 200-yard barrier again for the Yellow Jackets in 2017, he was able to by a leading force for the Yellow Jackets on the ground. Over the course of the season, Marshall rushed for over 100-yards on six different occasions which include the Tennessee game.
The one notable fact to look at when it comes to Marshall’s stats this season is each of those six, 100-yard games came against weaker defenses when it came to stopping the run. Those defenses were Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wake Forest. Against those teams, he averaged 157-yards per game.
When the Jackets took on tougher defenses such as Clemson, Georgia, Miami, and Virginia Tech, Marshall struggled mightily. In those four games combined, the junior rushed for 177-yards on 73-carries. It’s not a coincidence that the Jackets lost to three of those teams with the only exception being Virginia Tech.
All that being said, Marshall’s season on the ground overall was a good one. While he struggled against top-tier defenses, which is nothing new for Tech, he absolutely dominated the lower-tier defenses, as he should.
Marshall was awarded an A for his efforts on the ground. His dominance over certain opponents cannot go left unnoticed but his struggles against ranked teams also can not go unnoticed as well. That being said, he was a consistent threat to take on to the house and had four carries this season that 40+ yards. His 17 touchdowns were also the most in the ACC, as he racked up 107-points.
Decision Making (B-):
Marshall wasn’t a consistent bad decision maker but it’s safe to say that his decision making this season cost the Jackets at least one game and a few extra scores which would’ve made a difference.
His biggest decision-making gaff this season came against Tennessee in double overtime. For those who don’t remember, the Jackets were going for a two-point conversion and the win in double-overtime.
It was your average speed option play, as Marshall ran towards the right, he had BB KirVonte Benson to his outside. With just three defenders with a chance to make a play, Marshall had to make the pitch to Benson who would’ve walked right into the end zone for the win. However, Marshall kept the ball and tried to get to a quick gap that opened and was met by two Tennessee defenders. While he made a valiant effort to lateral the ball at that point to Benson, it was ruled a forward pass and ended the game.
Marshall’s decision making throughout the season wasn’t the best but it wasn’t great either. That being said, we awarded him with a borderline B-. The option offense is hard for any quarterback, especially with your first year, starting. For Marshall, it was a good start but Paul Johnson, the coaching staff, and fans alike will expect better decision making out of Marshall going forward.