Quarterback Says He Is Making Progress

Comments from new offensive coordinator Al Borges and QB Brandon Cox are featured.

Auburn, Ala.--In Auburn's first major scrimmage of spring football practice, Brandon Cox took a step forward in his quest to get back into the battle for playing time at quarterback.

Cox, who wasn't even in the picture last season as a redshirt freshman, completed 9-15 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"I feel like I improved," Cox said after Saturday's 160-play scrimmage at which he shared time on the second team with Kelcy Luke. "There is a lot I can improve on because there were a lot of mistakes, but overall I feel like I did what I wanted to do."

Offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Al Borges said he saw positive signs from Cox. "Inside the pocket, he did a very nice job on third down, but we have got to get him doing a better job on early downs so we don't get forced into so many third downs," Borges said.

""Some of those third and longs were self-imposed, but I do think he did a nice job of standing there and throwing the ball and not being bothered by the pass rush," Borges added. "That is a good sign for a young quarterback."

Health problems have kept Cox out of football games the past two years. The former Alabama Mr. Football says he is healthy now and enjoying the opportunity to compete with Luke for the backup quarterback spot behind senior Jason Campbell. The lefty got a break last weekend when returning backup QB Josh Sullivan decided to give up football for baseball.

"If Josh had been here, I wouldn't have got as many reps with the second team and I wouldn't have been able to prove myself," Cox said. "With him leaving it is unfortunate that he couldn't continue to play because he is a great player, but it opened up a spot for me."

Cox had a solid week passing the football in practice. Medical problems, including a concussion after a car wreck his first season at AU in 2002, had kept him from being a regular on the practice field the past two years, but the QB hopes that problem is in the past. "Right now I am 100 percent healthy," he said. "We will start back after spring training working out. Hopefully, I will continue to get stronger and gain weight."

Up to 198 pounds, Cox is pushing to get to 205 by the start of the 2004 football season. If he continues to improve on the field, he will have a legitimate chance to earn playing time this year. "With all I have been through, that would be huge," he said. "I didn't think I would be back at this point so soon so that really has me going. I am re-energized and looking forward to this upcoming season."

Brandon Cox will be a redshirt freshman this fall.

Cox hooked up twice for completions on Saturday with his high school teammate, Lee Guess, who is making a comeback from medical problems, too. Guess caught two passes for 51 yards in the scrimmage.

"It is fun being able to throw to Lee again because in high school he was my go-to guy," Cox said. "I can always rely on him to get open. The one play where I had to step up I saw Lee. He wasn't open, but I knew he was going to find that open spot. I just waited and he moved to the open spot and we picked up that first down. He is a big-time receiver. He has put on a lot of weight. He has got stronger and his routes have even improved."

Cox threw a touchdown pass to tight end Cole Bennett on a 14-yard play and just missed another one on a 54-yard bomb to Devin Aromashodu. The pass was completed, but the wide receiver's foot hit the sideline, officials ruled.

"That was a play action," Cox said. "We sucked the corner in and he was wide open. That is the toughest throw to make when they are wide open. I just laid it out there and he ran under it."

Cox said the scrimmage showed that he needs to work on his fundamentals this week in practice. "We had a lot of third and longs because we had a couple of mistakes on my part handing the ball off so it put us in a situation where we had to throw the ball," he says. "I felt comfortable and was able to make some good throws."

The defense dominated the first half of the scrimmage, but Cox helped get the offense moving better in the second half with some accurate passing.

"I felt good out there," he said. "I had a lot of mistakes, but I felt like I made some big plays. Those mistakes--I just have got to keep working. You have got to be able to run the ball. You just have got to take the right tracks to get back to the running back. I messed up and caused a fumble on one of them and we didn't even get the handoff on another one. That is just something that I have to work on. It cost with those first downs bringing up third and long a lot, but I stepped up converted most of them. I hope the coaches realize that."

The new West Coast Offense that Borges has brought to Auburn seems to agree with the lefty quarterback. "I do like it," Cox said. "It is about throwing on time and staying in the pocket. I feel like I throw the timing routes well. Sometimes the pocket collapses and you have to throw on the run, but this offense is set up to drop back in the pocket, make your reads and throw inside the pocket and I feel like I do that well."

Borges also likes to keep the defense guessing where the quarterback will be passing from so there will be rollout passes as a major part of the offense. "I have always liked throwing the bootleg throughout high school," Cox notes. "It gets you out of the pocket and you just have that up the field read. It is a real easy read to make and you just have got to make the throw."

Cox and the Tigers will take two days off before returning to the practice field on Tuesday for the seventh of 15 spring practices.

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