The SEC's 25 best players: No. 21

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
10:00
AM ET
The next player on our list of the SEC's 25 best players from this past season had a bit of magic on his side, especially late in the season.

No. 21: Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn, Jr.

2013 summary: An honorable mention selection for the Associated Press' All-SEC team, Marshall finished the season with 1,976 passing yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions on 142-of-239 passing. Marshall averaged 152 passing yards per game and had a passing efficiency rating of 143.17. He also ranked seventh in the SEC with 1,068 rushing yards and had 12 rushing touchdowns.

Most recent ranking: Not ranked in the 2013 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Marshall: The former Georgia defensive-back-turned-junior-college-standout guided Auburn all the way to the VIZIO BCS National Championship in his first season as the Tigers' quarterback. He wasn't the most accurate passer, and he didn't have the biggest arm in the conference, but Marshall did exactly what coach Gus Malzahn asked him to do -- and he did it well. Marshall only threw for 200-plus yards five times on the season, but he was deadly with the read-option. It helped the running game churn out yards against some of the SEC's stoutest run defenses while opening up the pass for Marshall to make some big plays with his arm.

The cool and collected Marshall really got on the map when he heaved an absolute prayer down the middle of the field against Georgia on fourth-and-18 with 25 seconds remaining. That prayer bounced off safety Josh Harvey-Clemons and into the hands of receiver Ricardo Louis, who then jogged into the end zone for a 73-yard game-winning touchdown. Two weeks later, Marshall slipped a slick 39-yard pass to a wide-open Sammie Coates to tie top-ranked Alabama before Chris Davis' improbable Kick Six.

Marshall was at his best when he was on the move. He was deceptive with the zone-read but was slippery enough in the pocket to turn nothing into something more than half the time. As the year went on, you could tell he was getting more comfortable throwing the ball, which made stopping him and Auburn's offense that much more difficult. His only losses of the season came at then-No. 6 LSU and to No. 1 Florida State in the BCS title game. He also helped guide Auburn to victories on the road against then-No. 7 Texas A&M and at home against then-No. 1 Alabama.

The rundown:

No. 25: E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri, Sr.

No. 24: Kenny Ladler, S, Vanderbilt, Sr.

No. 23: Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State, Sr.

No. 22: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama, Jr.

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