Jason Campbell, who will be a redshirt junior this fall, is expected to be the man at quarterback and is having his best spring practice as a collegian. However, behind him there isn't another player who has taken a snap in an Auburn football game.
Josh Sullivan, a former walk-on who was put on scholarship in January, finished the 2003 season as the third stringer while being redshirted. He moved up one spot on the depth chart with Cobb's departure and has held off challenges from two other freshmen--Wesley Hill and Brandon Cox.
Head coach Tommy Tuberville says that Sullivan has made progress and as the Tigers near the end of spring drills that will conclude with Saturday's 1 p.m. A-day intrasquad game, Sullivan is in good shape to enter the 2003 season as the No. 2 quarterback.
Josh Sullivan is showing passing the football in Tuesday's practice.
Sullivan says he isn't taking that for granted and plans to keep on pushing to get better, something he thinks is happening as he gains more experience directing the offense this spring.
"All fall I was there watching everything, but you learn a lot more when you are actually out there thrown into the mix having to learn it," he says. "I think it has helped me a lot. I think I have grown a lot since last fall."
Sullivan says that Campbell's help has made his assignment easier. "I have learned a lot from Jason since he has been out there in the battle and he knows what it is actually like," Sullivan says. "He is a real good teacher. When we are in the meeting room he tells you different things to look for and what you need to know because he has actually been out there and experienced things."
Campbell says he is glad to help Sullivan, noting that the redshirt freshman is one injury away from being counted on to lead the offense. "I am very impressed with the way he has developed and the way he is picking up the system," Campbell says.
Sullivan had perhaps his best day throwing the ball this spring in Tuesday's practice following a 12-day layoff from football. However, it wasn't a layoff from sports for the freshman who is currently a part-time baseball player until spring drills end on Saturday. After that, he will concentrate on baseball the rest of the season.
"I think I have been doing all right," he says when asked if he is satisfied with how he is throwing the pigskin. "It is a little different going from baseball to football, but I don't feel I am losing anything. Coming back from the hernia surgery, I am able to get back on the weights and keep my arm strength up so I think it is going to be all right."
While other football players were taking a vacation away from campus last week during the university's spring break, Sullivan was at Plainsman Park working on his form as a pitcher. "I didn't pitch in games, but I did throw some bullpens," he says.
With time running out on spring training, Sullivan says he wants to finish impressively during the final practices and during the spring game. "This last week I am working on timing and footwork," he says. "With the progressions we have got and the receivers we have got, you have to be on time. If you are they are going to be open and they are going to make plays for you."
Josh Sullivan (13) listens to instructions from his position coach Steve Ensminger.
Sullivan and the other quarterbacks have been adjusting to a new position coach with Steve Ensminger taking over for Bobby Petrino, who left to become head coach at Louisville. The Tigers have not made major changes in the offensive system and that has made the adjustment easier. Also, Ensminger and Petrino have many similar points of emphasis.
"They are both real big on technique," Sullivan notes. "I thought Coach Petrino was real big on that, but Coach Ensminger might even be more in depth on detail on footwork and timing. He is more laid back and talks to you one on one. He is more relaxed, but he is just as hard on footwork, film and studying the game as Coach Petrino was."
Sullivan has gotten plenty of time behind the center running the second offense throughout the spring after seeing limited live action in the fall. He says the extra work has made a difference. "I feel a lot more comfortable with the offense," he says. "Last fall I knew what to do, but now I understand blitzes and what to expect even before they show it. My total understanding is a lot better."
Saturday's A-Day game will be his final football exam for the spring semester and the redshirt freshman says he is looking forward it. "I am real excited about that," he notes. "The coaches are out there with you in the previous scrimmages. I think they will be on the sidelines this coming weekend. They will be sending plays in and we will be out there on our own. I am looking forward to that and seeing how that goes."
Tiger Ticket Extra: Sullivan is known as "Sunshine" by his teammates and coaches. "It is not very an intimidating nickname," he jokes. The freshman says he got the tag because his teammates think he looks like a character with that name in the movie Remember The Titans...Sullivan has shown signs of being a mobile quarterback in the pocket. He says that is natural to him because he was in charge of a running offense at Central High in Little Rock, Ark.