Tiger Quarterback Deserves More Respect

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about Jason Campbell as well as other football Tigers plus takes a look at football happenings around the SEC.

Maybe he should wear a question mark on his jersey instead of a number. From talk shows to magazines, the prevailing opinion about Auburn's football team seems to be it will be a championship contender if Jason Campbell comes through at quarterback.

He is Auburn's question mark, or at least that's the way he is viewed by those who either have not bothered to check the record or haven't paid attention to it. Here are the facts:

*Campbell is 10-4 as a starter.

*He has the highest completion percentage in Auburn history.

*He directed Auburn to five wins in its last six games last season, the only loss coming on Georgia's Hail Mary.

*Had he thrown five more passes, Campbell would have led the nation in passing efficiency last season, and by a substantial margin.

If I was pointing out Auburn question marks, I would look at the secondary and at the kicking game. Campbell is certainly not viewed as a question mark by his teammates or by his coaches. Maybe Campbell is viewed with uncertainty because he lost the starting job halfway through his freshman year or because he didn't get it back until halfway through last year. But it seems to me he proved himself beyond much doubt down the stretch. He was the quarterback of record in wins over two Top 10 teams and in a near miss against another.

Jason Campbell (17) is shown during a spring practice workout earlier this year.

The facts are there for anybody to see. Of course, when one magazine rates Ronnie Brown the 50th best running back in the nation, what else can surprise you? After Campbell went to the bench as a redshirt freshman, I said in this space I thought he would be a great college quarterback and would play on Sundays. I stand by that prediction.


Looking ahead to the football season that is just more than a month away, here are a few educated guesses at some things you might see:

*Carnell Williams will be Auburn's starting tailback, but Ronnie Brown will get plenty of carries.

*There will be an entire different plan of attack to utilize Tre Smith.

*Brandon Jacobs will have to wait to become a major part of the offense.

*Opening opponent Southern California will be the most talented team Auburn plays this season.

*Alabama will have a surprisingly good season. There are a lot of similarities between the Tide of 2003 and Auburn of 1993. No, Alabama won't go 13-0 or 12-1 or even 11-2. But Mike Shula will put a competitive team on the field in his first season. Tide fans best enjoy it, because the real impact of scholarship sanctions will be felt in 2004.

*Tennessee will win the East Division championship and will play a rematch against Auburn in the SEC Championship Game.

*Auburn offensive tackle Monreko Crittenden will have a career season and will be a first-round NFL draft choice next spring, surely embarrassing those who criticized him mercilessly when he was a sophomore.

*Florida will struggle for the second straight season and Ron Zook will face the wrath of the Gator nation.

*Vanderbilt players will talk boldly in August of having a winning season and wonder yet again in November where it all went wrong.

*There will be at least two new coaches in the SEC next season, maybe three. One of them will be at Mississippi State.

*Georgia folks, talking about a dynasty at the end of last season, will be grumbling about Mark Richt at the end of this one.

*Receivers Ben Obomanu and Devin Aromashodu, uncertain freshmen last season, will be playmakers this season.

*Senior Jeris McIntyre will have the most catches. Look out, too, for redshirt freshman Courtney Taylor.

*Anthony Mix will be the most dangerous pass-catching tight end in the SEC.

*Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning will follow a family tradition and finish second in balloting for the Heisman Trophy. He won't finish first because he still doesn't have enough talent around him to make the Rebels a championship contenders.

*Mississippi State will be the next SEC program to be hammered by the NCAA. It could be bad.

*Ronnie Cottrell and Ivy Williams won't get a cent from their lawsuit. Mike Price will get the settlement he should have had when he was fired.

*Houston Nutt will be shown on television crying before the season is half over.

Until next time...

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