Big Week For QB Hopeful Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox is stepping up his on the field performance in the first week of spring football drills.

Auburn, Ala.--Although practice had formally ended 45 minutes earlier and sun had disappeared behind the western horizon, redshirt freshman Brandon Cox was still on the Auburn football practice field Tuesday evening.

The 6-2, 195-pound lefty from Hewitt-Trussville was into overtime getting ready for Saturday's scrimmage, which will be the most important so far in his collegiate football career. With Josh Sullivan, last year's backup to Jason Campbell, deciding to play baseball and give up football, that leaves the number two quarterback spot open for the taking. Right now that appears to be a two-player battle with Cox competing with fellow redshirt freshman Kelcy Luke.

"Brandon is going to make this thing interesting," says head coach Tommy Tuberville. "He looks so much better physically than he did last season. Brandon is throwing the ball a lot better than he did in the fall. It looks like we have a real good battle going on.

"I have been really impressed with Brandon and how much he has improved over the last two or three months," Tuberville adds. "This is the first offseason he has made it through physically healthy. He has the disorder over the last few years. He has come at it real well. He hasn't missed a practice and has worked hard and gained about 20 pounds. It looks like his arm strength is a lot better. He has been the most accurate quarterback that we have had."

Brandon Cox rolls out in Tuesday's practice.

When Cox arrived at AU from Hewitt-Trussville High, he was skinny. "He was 170 to 175 pounds," Tuberville remembers. "He wasn't big enough. He had to get a lot stronger. He just hasn't been able to handle the grind with the illness he has had. Hopefully, he has been able to overcome that and now give it a legitimate shot. He just hasn't had enough reps to tell what he could do because of not being able to practice more than one or two practices in a row."

So far in 2004, Cox has been healthy and more impressive as a passer than he was in 2003. "I am working on improving my arm strength and speed," says Cox, who originally signed with the Tigers in February 2002 after a record-setting career at Hewitt-Trussville High School. "The extra strength has helped my passing and I am going to see if I can put on about 10 more pounds by the start of the season."

Luke, who stayed late after practice Tuesday night to work on his passing and footwork along with Cox, is the more mobile of the two young quarterbacks while Cox is the more accurate passer. Their new position coach, offensive coordinator Al Borges, said after Tuesday's practice that both players are making strides as they prepare for a Saturday scrimmage that Tuberville says will determine who will move up to No. 2 on the depth chart.

"With Josh gone, with him being the backup last year, that leaves it wide open for me and Kelcy as well as Wes (Wesley Hill) for somebody to step up, compete and take over the second position," notes Cox, who sat out of football during the 2002 season for health reasons. He rejoined the team last year, but never seriously challenged to get into the playing rotation.

Tuberville says he is encouraged that Cox looks to be healthy enough to make a serious run at the backup job after floundering the past two seasons. "It has been a long time," Cox says when talking about his arrival at AU in the summer of 2002 until spring training 2004. "I am only a redshirt freshman going into this year. Some guys I came in with are already juniors. I look at it that I have already been here a long time and I still have four more years."

Auburn's new West Coast Offense style of attack seems to be well suited for the lefty's skills. Cox has been trying to show Borges he can handle the system and so far is off to a good start. "He is real demanding," Cox says of Borges. "He is going to turn out to be a good coach. He has already worked with us a lot. The passing game he has brought in has seems to help a lot. Hopefully, in the long run it will help us to be a better team."

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