Coaches See Improvement From Tiger QB

Junior Jason Campbell has helped spark Auburn's current winning streak with his steady play.

Auburn, Ala.--After struggling in games one and two vs. Southern California and Georgia Tech to start the football season, quarterback Jason Campbell has rebounded nicely.

The junior quarterback has put together three solid performances in a row in leading the Tigers to victories over Vanderbilt, Western Kentucky and Tennessee. In those three wins, he has completed 35 of 50 passes for 550 yards and five touchdowns without an interception.

Campbell's position coach, Steve Ensminger, says he likes what he is seeing from the junior. "He really did a good job against Tennessee," Ensminger says. "He played well. The thing he really did well was that he put us in some good plays. You could tell we did a lot more checking at the line of scrimmage. He put us in some good runs and some good (pass) protections."

Jason Campbell

Campbell struggled in the first two games. Poor pass protection contributed to his slow start, but part of the problem was that he was holding the football for too long, contributing to the 13 sacks he suffered in those two outings. When he did throw the ball he had mixed results. He hit 32-59 passes for 311 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. Better pass protection has helped, but that is not the only reason for his improved performances in games three, four and five.

"He is getting better every week," Ensminger says. "He looked comfortable against Tennessee. He got rid of the football. The one sack he took was a good play by the defense, but he should have gotten rid of it without taking the sack. He told me he thought he had him, but I said, ‘I don't care what you thought you had. Get rid of that football and we'll go to the next down.' That was the only time he held the ball."

Campbell threw three touchdown passes in Auburn's 28-21 victory over Tennessee, but only two counted because the officiating crew incorrectly ruled that a 29-yard toss to Devin Aromashodu was out of bounds. However, the sophomore receiver caught the football with both feet in bounds.

Campbell says he is excited to see the offense playing so much better than it did early in the season. He says that the Tigers are now moving in a positive direction despite the disheartening start. "We are definitely improving and playing with more confidence," Campbell says.

Jason Campbell has completed 61.5 percent of his passes this season.

Ensminger says the Campbell is showing maturity as a quarterback changing plays at the line of scrimmage. "He is redirecting to the other side or putting us in new plays," the coach says. "In the (Tennessee) game he probably changed the complete play more than he has in the past, but he did a good job. He had a good feel for the defense and he put us in good runs. He made a lot of good decisions and kept us out of third and longs. That is the biggest thing we have got to do."

Head coach Tommy Tuberville has praise for what he is seeing from the quarterback. "Jason Campbell continues to improve every week. He is completing somewhere around 63 percent (62.5 for his career) of his passes, he continues making good decisions at the line of scrimmage and he is not turning the ball over. That is what you ask of a quarterback.

"He is becoming a more vocal leader in the huddle," Tuberville adds. "You are going to play about as well as your quarterback does. Since he has been playing well we have been playing pretty good."

Offensive coordinator Hugh Nall says that Campbell's improved passing in the last three games has made a difference in the running game. "It certainly helps when Jason is being as accurate as he has been and throwing as well as he has been," Nall says. "That helped more than anything."

Campbell and the Tigers, who are 2-0 in the SEC and 3-2 overall, will be tested again by another Top 10 team as they travel to Fayetteville for an 11:30 a.m. contest this Saturday vs. the Arkansas Razorbacks. The SEC divisional game should be one of the toughest for the Tigers as they face a team that is ranked seventh and eighth in the major polls with a 1-0 SEC record and a 4-0 overall mark.

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