Now that we’re less than a month away from the start of fall camp, it’s time to start taking a closer look at what Auburn has where.
With that in mind, is there a better place to start than quarterback?
From a national perspective, the Tigers will only go as far as their quarterback(s) take them. Is that a fair analysis? Not necessarily. While there’s no doubt the quarterback will be instrumental in Auburn’s success, the coaches insist that the offense will start with a power running game.
With that said, there’s significantly more uncertainty and interest at the quarterback position than there is at the tailback spot.
OPENING DAY CONTENDERS:
Neil Caudle, Jr.
Kodi Burns, Jr.
Chris Todd, Sr.
Tyrik Rollison, Fr.
Clint Moseley, Fr.
Robert Cooper, Fr.
OUT OF ACTION:
Barrett Trotter, RFr. (knee)
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Fall camp opens where spring camp left off. That means the Kodi Burns-Neil Caudle battle continues. If it’s up to offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, the Tigers might reach a decision quickly. Malzahn wants to find a starter as soon as possible without being reckless.
Consider this, though: The longer Auburn goes without an official starter, the better the chances for the other contenders. That list includes Tyrik Rollison, Clint Moseley and, yes, Chris Todd.
Don’t look for a true freshman to start the Louisiana Tech game, but also don’t surprised if the quarterback coaches deem the future – be it Rollison or Moseley – starts at the end of the season if Auburn fails to compete in the SEC West.
I spoke with Todd last week. Don’t count him out of the race. He knows his window of opportunity will likely be small, but he spent the entire spring learning the offense. Todd is a smart guy and, if his arm really is healthy as he says it is, I would be surprised if he did not compete for the role.
Robert Cooper will open fall camp at quarterback. I haven’t heard this from any coaches but I would be surprised if Cooper, who signed as an “athlete” remained at the position.
KEEP IN MIND:
Ben Tate had this to say about the quarterbacks: “Kodi and Neil are both looking good. Neil’s working hard. I’ve never seen Neil work quite this hard. I guess now that the opportunity presented itself he’s working really hard. Kodi’s feeling the pressure. Neil and Kodi are out there throwing sometimes on their own. I guess they’re both thinking the same thing. Sometimes I look out there and they’re asking guys to stay out there and catch balls and they’re definitely working hard.”
Tate also commented on Todd’s arm strength: “Chris Todd, he puts some zing on that ball. He can throw it pretty hard. You can definitely tell that his shoulder was injured last spring and it’s getting a lot better now. He’s going to be a guy to keep an eye on. He might start easing his way up the depth chart. You never know. … I have to tell him sometimes, ‘Hey Chris. Don’t throw it so hard to me. We’re just playing catch. We’re just trying to get warmed up.’”
Tate on Rollison: “First of all just his arm. He’s got a cannon. He can throw it far. Also his ability to place it in the right areas. He’s pretty accurate with it so far.”
Burns on his throwing improvements: “I feel like I’m throwing it really good. I have my confidence back and I’m just being a leader now. I’m approaching it like I am the guy and going out there every day and everybody is looking up to me.”
The obvious follow-up – Kodi, when did you lose your confidence?: “Pretty much during the season. During the spring, it was a whole new offense. I really couldn’t be myself. I had to learn the offense and had to show them I was knowledgeable of the offense. Now that I got it down, I feel like I can just open up and be myself.”
Burns on whether or not QBs will take Auburn as far as it goes: “It’s definitely a quarterback-friendly offense. Just like Coach Malzahn said, if the quarterback plays good, we’re probably going to win the game. If he plays bad, we’re probably going to lose. That is a good thing. It comes with pressure but at the same time, playing quarterback you have to be able to take pressure. That’s fine with me. I’m willing to step up to the plate.”
Todd said all last spring and fall that his arm was feeling better. That obviously turned out to not be the case. I asked him what’s different this year now that Dr. James Andrews has operated on his shoulder: “It’s already better than it was last year. Really, from last year, it was kind of progressing from when I hurt it. I didn’t really know how far back it went.
“Of course you want to think it’s going to be good and it’s going to be back, so you have all this positive thinking about it. I was trying to hurry and get back. Obviously that was wishful thinking but it was progressing. It was kind of a deal where it would progress some but it was not healthy. It was not put together right. It was obviously messed up but it would progress and then it would come back and the rate of progression with it wasn’t the same.
“Now with it being fixed, it’s just a huge difference. It’s a drastic change. It’s very noticeable. Whatever he did in the surgery, he did a good job.”
Todd on adjusting to a healthy shoulder: “It’s a huge difference as far as your confidence and stuff like that. Of course, I’m still building my confidence back in it. There were times last year I’d see a throw and I couldn’t make it. I’ve got to tell myself, ‘You can make those throws,’ now so I’ll start doing it again. It’s huge, confidence-wise, just feeling like, ‘You know who you are again and you know what you can do again.’ I can do it. It’s big mentally as well as physically. It’s helped me out a lot.”
Todd on whether or not he begins fall camp behind Burns and Todd: “It’s always critical to get reps and stuff like that. I think that’s very important, but at the same time you can get a ton of mental reps just sitting there watching. I always tried to go through and get the footwork as they were doing the drills and watching plays, watch the defense, watch the places to throw it. I think to be able to pick up that so that the thinking aspect isn’t as slow as it would be. It’s a lot quicker, you know, ‘I’ve seen this before,’ so you know how to react to it. I don’t think my learning process will be at the same pace. I think it will be quicker for me. But you are somewhat behind, just not getting the same type reps. I think it will be a pretty balanced stage.”