Young QBs Featured In Auburn's SEC Opener

Auburn worked for a little more than 90 minutes on the practice field on Thursday in its final serious practice for what is expected to be an interesting duel of young guns.

This year's Auburn vs. Ole Miss game features a battle of two highly-touted, but young quarterbacks making their SEC debuts for the Tigers and Rebels. Both are famous in the Magnolia State and the Jason Campbell vs. Eli Manning matchup is overshadowing the Tommy Tuberville vs. his former team angle for most of the off-the-field attention this week.

Although the focus of this game has been on the matchup of potential SEC quarterback stars of the future, senior offensive lineman Kendall Simmons said the Tigers have to win this game regardless of all those distractions. "All I know is we need this one because it is at home and that it is an SEC game. If they want to look at this as the Ole Miss-Auburn revenge thing, that's on them."

As for those two highly-touted, young quarterbacks, their respective teams will be counting on them to step up and play to each one's potential in the SEC Western Division showdown. The Tigers will start redshirt freshman Campbell, a smooth and athletic six-foot-five, 218-pounder from Taylorsville, Miss. In his first college start last week for the Tigers, Campbell completed 16 of 28 passes for 214 yards and one touchdown in Auburn's 30-0 win over Ball State.

"Eli's got a little bit more of an advantage because he played last year," Tuberville said. "It's his third year in the offense and he's a little bit more mature. Jason, this is his first year to have the opportunity to play. He's been thrown to the wolves. I think it will be a good matchup. It'll be interesting to see what happens. Anytime you are in this situation with both young quarterbacks, you want to have the home field advantage which we do with the crowd noise."

His counterpart will be redshirt sophomore Manning, a six-foot-four, 212-pounder, who captured Auburn's attention with his 271-yard and five-touchdown air raid against Murray State in his first Ole Miss start last Saturday. "I've heard of Peyton Manning's little brother and I heard he was real good," Simmons said of the quarterback the Tigers will face Saturday. "And from the performance he put up last weekend, he kind of proved himself, but he still has to play us though."

Despite not putting up the numbers that Manning did, Campbell still performed admirably in his initial game as an AU player. He said the Rebels will provide more of a challenge for him this week. "It's an SEC team," Campbell said. "Their defense is a whole lot quicker and a whole lot faster. Any time you play an SEC team it's going to be a tough game."

Auburn has won eight consecutive games at Jordan-Hare Stadium dating back to a 28-17 loss to archrival Alabama to close out the 1999 season. Even with the winning streak and their SEC Western Division title from last season, the Tigers are still getting little attention from the college football world. Simmons says these are the things that matter to Auburn. "The only way we are going to get respect from anybody is to win all of our conference games and it starts with Ole Miss this week."

A full stadium is expected when the two teams meet on Saturday. Kickoff time will be shortly after 2:30 p.m. for a game televised regionally by Jefferson-Pilot Sports.

After three demanding practices Monday-Wednesday, the Tigers had a much lighter workout on Thursday. "This was a real good week of practice," Tuberville said. "And we really needed it. We had some good film sessions. We had some hot days which we desperately needed because it's been cool the last eight to 10 days.

The coach also noted that most of his injured players were able to get healthy during the course of the week which allowed players to get back to their normal positions. The only question mark remaining for the Ole Miss game is wide receiver Marcel Willis. "We'll make a decision on whether he dresses out or not," Tuberville said. "I don't know whether he will play..He's the main guy right now."

Tight end Robert Johnson missed half of Thursday's practice due to a stomach virus, but Tuberville said it's not to big of a concern.

Auburn will have a walk-through on Friday at Jordan-Hare Stadium before leaving town for the evening before returning for the Tiger Walk that will start two hours before kickoff. This week's Tiger Walk featured guests former Tiger standouts Ron Stallworth and brothers Tommy Yearout and Gusty Yearout.

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