When Jalin Marshall sat down for questions after Ohio State’s 55-14 win against Illinois, he was calm and collected. But when more reporters trickled toward him, stuck microphones in his face and asked him about his performance in the game, he got antsy.
Once the swarm dissolved and just a few recorders were left lying in front of him, Marshall started to crack jokes. He was more at ease, more comfortable.
It’s the same nervousness under pressure Marshall needs to overcome for him to be called on to take more snaps.
The redshirt-freshman H-back — who played quarterback at Middletown High School — lined up at quarterback on two different drives Saturday in OSU’s wildcat package. The first instance, about halfway through the third quarter, he burst through the Fighting Illini defense for a 30-yard touchdown.
His next stint — which ended after five yards rushing and an incomplete pass to redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Michael Thomas — was less successful.
But Marshall — who redshirted last season to mature on and off the field, coach Urban Meyer said — had reason to be pleased postgame. After turning down opportunities to play quarterback in college, he finally got his chance to throw the ball.
“I just tried to throw it up there, let my receiver make a play, I just wished for him to catch it but he didn’t,” Marshall said. “It was definitely a big step for me throwing a pass in the game, not having thrown a pass in two years.”
He also had a newfound level of comfort in playing quarterback at the collegiate level. “I’m getting more confidence,” he said.
But when asked if he knew what was next for him — whether he’d be called upon to take a snap again — Marshall said he doesn’t know, but he’ll do whatever the coaches ask him.
So a reporter — by that time, one of only about four surrounding him — pushed and asked whether he didn’t know or wouldn’t say. Then, the reporter asked if there was anything people hadn’t seen yet from Marshall that he was hoping they might get a chance to witness.
“For the sake of accuracy, I can’t tell you that,” he laughed.
This season, Marshall has played in every game. He has 14 rushing attempts for 88 yards, an average of 6.3 per carry. Saturday was a night of career highs: 42 yards on five carries.
While he’s been used in the wildcat and was allowed to throw the ball, Marshall isn’t officially considered a quarterback option. But Meyer said he wants Marshall ready as a backup plan.
“We’ve been working on Jalin playing quarterback, first, because he’s very talented. Second of all, whenever you start getting, you hear these stories, I’ve never been down to our third- and fourth-string quarterback, but you always try to be ready in case something happens,” Meyer said.
“And he’s a gifted guy. So we’re going to expand his package each week.”
Marshall said he knew ahead of time he’d be asked to be a signal caller against Illinois.
“I knew it was coming, we worked on it during the week,” he said. “He (Meyer) said he was gonna need me to do that and I told him, ‘I got you, coach, I’ll do whatever you need me to.’”
He also hopes there’s more coming for him, but for now, he seems to be staying calm out of the limelight and stepping up as needed.
“If they call my number,” Marshall said, “I let it fly.”