Spring Preview 2002: Quarterbacks

New offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bobby Petrino shares his thoughts on the upcoming spring training for the Auburn Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--Without question, no position is scrutinized on the football field as much as the quarterback. That was definitely true for the Auburn Tigers in 2001 as Jason Campbell and Daniel Cobb juggled the quarterbacking duties back-and-forth throughout the season as the offense searched for a positive identity, one which it was never able to find.

The coaches and fans alike hope that is not the case this season as new coordinator Bobby Petrino takes over the reins of an offense that was beyond stagnant to finish last season. Bringing a pedigree of success with him from both the collegiate and professional ranks, Petrino says that he has had a chance to watch both Campbell and Cobb on film and likes what he has to work with beginning this spring.

"I think it will be a good competition between Jason and Daniel," Petrino says. "We want to keep it very open and try to split the reps evenly with the one group as much as we can so they both get the opportunity to show what they can do. I've been impressed with their willingness to learn and to work hard. It will be fun to get out on the field with them and just see how their technique and how exactly they throw the ball.

"We've watched the videos and talked about technique with them and things that we want to change and things we want to work on. Particularly important is the timing aspect of getting back and getting the ball out of your hands and making the decisions quicker. All that helps out your protection and we want to be more of a timing and a rhythm passing game than sitting back and holding the ball."

Campbell leads the team to the line last season at Syracuse.

Campbell comes into spring practice number one on the depth chart based on how last season ended. After a solid but uneventful redshirt freshman season, the big sophomore is back and ready to make amends for how the season closed in 2001. The 6-4, 220-pound Taylorsville, Miss., native completed 89-of-142 passes for 1,117 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions last season. Completing 62.7 percent of his passes, Campbell was accurate in the passing game ,but couldn't make plays happen down field.

Also an excellent runner, he had five runs of 10 or more yards last season. Campbell started eight games as a redshirt freshman. His best came in Auburn's win over Vanderbilt in Nashville when he completed 17-of-24 passes for 247 yards while adding 22 yards rushing in the game.

Cobb is the veteran of the Tiger program. A sixth-year senior as approved by the NCAA because of medical problems suffered as a freshman at the University of Georgia, the 6-4, 228-pound Cobb hopes to finish his career on a high note in 2002. His quest for that begins this spring as he tries to impress his new position coach and coordinator. Starting four games last season while seeing action in eight, he completed 89-of-158 passes for 1,165 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.

The highlight of his 2001 campaign was leading the Tigers to an upset win over top-ranked Florida in relief of Campbell. Though he threw for just 152 yards on an 11-for-23 night, his poise down the stretch was the difference in winning and losing for Auburn. That is the advantage the 23-year old Cobb has over Campbell as they both vie for the starting spot.

Cobb is interviewed by ESPN's Adrian Karsten after last season's win over Florida.

"I think the first thing I want to see is what kind of leadership they want to provide," Petrino notes. "Whether they take charge and take control. Then I'll grade them on their decision-making and their execution. It's kind of a two-fold deal. They have to be able to make the right decisions and then they have to be able to execute, make the throw or make the play when it's there. That's kind of how they'll be judged."

While Campbell and Cobb will garner most of the attention, they will have some company this spring as true freshman Wesley Hill will go through spring practice after graduating early from Crisp County High School in Cordele, Ga., in December. The record-setting coach's son should gain valuable experience this spring as one of the only three quarterbacks going through the 15 practices allowed by the NCAA.

A 6-3, 218-pounder who was formally a wide receiver, Hill set a Georgia High School single season record by passing for 3,320 yards on 267-of-458 attempts and 27 touchdowns as a senior. His junior season Hill moved from wide receiver and played in seven games as a quarterback, but still managed over 1,800 yards passing to cement himself as the starter heading into his senior season.

This August will also bring more competition into the mix as Alabama record-setter Brandon Cox throws his hat into the ring. A smooth 6-3, 192-pound left-hander from Hewitt-Trussville High School, Cox completed an impressive 233-of-329 passes last season (70.8 %) for 2,887 yards and 27 touchdowns. For his career he completed 68.7 percent of his passes for 5,417 yards.

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