Tiger QBs Adjusting To New System

Jason Campbell and his position coach discuss the Auburn football team's offense.

Auburn, Ala.--Al Borges says he wishes the Tigers had 15 more practice days this spring to work on his offensive system, but overall he says he is pleased with what happened in his first experience coaching the Auburn football team.

In a spring filled with lots of scrimmaging, the offense, which features seven returning starters, won the majority of battles vs. the defense, which returns six starters and the same coordinator.

Borges says one of the reasons the offense was able to make solid progress was how quickly fifth-year senior quarterback Jason Campbell picked up the system.

"He's a coach's kid," says Borges, who was hired by Tommy Tuberville earlier this year as offensive coordinator. "He understands football. He has been well-coached up to this point. All I had to do is kind of program him to all of our stuff, but he knows how to get out of bad plays into good plays. He understands the timing of the passing game. I think it was a pretty easy move for him--pretty easy transition."

Campbell, a 6-5, 228-pounder, comes into his final season with 36 college games under his belt, including 27 as a starter. He has completed 364-584 passes for 4,599 yards with 25 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

Campbell finished his junior season by being named the Most Valuable Player of the Music City Bowl.

Borges says that Campbell has adjusted well to the new offensive coordinator's version of West Coast Offense. "I think a lot of it has to do with experience, facing a lot of defenses, understanding what we are going to see in this league," Campbell says. "Coach Borges does a good job of teaching things. I try to sit back and be a learner and take what I learn from him and take it to the football field."

Campbell, who is currently sixth in career passing yardage among Tiger QBs, says he likes what he has seen so far of the new offensive system. "If we don't get satisfied with being where we were at the end of spring and keep working hard at getting better, we have a chance to be very good on offense," he says. "I am excited about seeing what happens this season."

While it was not a surprise that Campbell emerged from spring drills as the number one quarterback, one of the big positives of the spring is that redshirt freshman Brandon Cox established himself as a potentially strong backup. Head coach Tommy Tuberville admits that last year he was concerned that Cox was finished as a football player due to illness and struggles adjusting from high school to college.

"Brandon bounced back and had a great offseason, a great spring," Tuberville says. "The jury is still out. He has to finish it off, as we say, keep working hard, keep learning. He has great presence in the pocket."

With former number two quarterback Josh Sullivan giving up football for baseball, Cox and Kelcy Luke battled for the backup QB job in the spring. When the Tigers were practicing for the bowl victory over Wisconsin, Luke was ahead fellow redshirt freshman Cox, but that changed during spring training, something that stood out to Campbell.

"Brandon is a totally different quarterback than he was at this time last year," Campbell says. "Now he can see the light at the end of the tunnel. He is going to have an opportunity to be a good quarterback. One thing I like about Brandon is the way he has fought his way back into football. With everything that went wrong with his personal life last year, it was tough for him to get back into this. Now that he is back into it everything is working positively for him. He is keeping a positive attitude about everything."

Borges says that the 2004 Tigers will still feature star running backs Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams, but the offensive coordinator notes that he won't be satisfied if the quarterbacks don't put up big numbers, too. Based on spring drills, the Tigers will throw the ball deep a good bit this fall and the tight ends and running backs should be heavily involved in the passing game.

"I feel like this offense is well-suited for both of us, especially him because this is my last year," Campbell says of the West Coast Offense. "He (Cox) will have an opportunity to learn it this year and the next three years he is going to be under Coach Borges. Maybe he will have something I didn't have--the same coordinator each year."

The Tigers open the 2004 season at home vs. Louisiana-Monroe and get into SEC play in game two at Mississippi State before returning home to face defending national champion LSU.

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