Tuberville Counting On Cox

Hoover, Ala.--Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville says he has told his new starting quarterback Brandon Cox that punting the football won't always be a bad thing.

With Cox getting the assignment of taking over for SEC Player of the Year Jason Campbell, Tuberville says he has confidence that the redshirt sophomore is ready for the assignment. He also notes that having a strong defense and a potentially strong kicking game should take some of the pressure off Cox, who has very limited college game experience.

Punter Kody Bliss is a preseason All-SEC pick and kicker John Vaughn is also a first team pick by the SEC coaches.

"The good thing about Brandon is that he has better experienced players around him than Jason did when he started," Tuberville says. "He has got a better defense playing for him and an experienced punter and kicker. Hopefully, Brandon won't have the growing pains that Jason did.

"Brandon has got to learn one thing. He doesn't have to do it on his own, but he is going to have to be as consistent as he possibly can. As I have talked to him, it is not a sin to punt. Sometimes living to punt when you are on offense is the best thing. Don't force a third and 15 throw. That is what he has to learn, or has already learned, to make this a better football team."

Tuberville says the play of Cox is the biggest unknown factor for his team headed into the 2005 season. "Brandon has all of the ability," he says. "The job is his. It isn't even close. He has two young guys behind him. They are hoping he doesn't get hurt. They don't want to play right now, they don't need to play. They need to stand over on the sideline.

"Brandon has gone through some tough times. He has got a lot to learn, but Al (offensive coordinator Al Borges) is real high on him. He kind of reminds of David Greene, a lefty. He is very tough in the pocket. You won't see him run out of the pocket like Jason. He will stand in there and hold the ball to the end. It is a little bit scary, but that is his strength, I think, having the ability to wait on his receivers and his accuracy."

Other points that Tuberville made include:

*First team tailback Tre Smith, who had emergency surgery on Tuesday night to remove his appendix, is doing well. He should be back on the practice field in time to scrimmage before the season opener vs. Tech, but will probably miss a couple weeks of preseason work.

*Auburn has been able to avoid the rash of off the field incidents that have plagued other SEC programs in the offseason partly because of senior leadership. Tuberville says the theme of not embarrassing their teammates or the program seems to be resonating with the Tigers.

"You challenge your guys when they first come in and you challenge your seniors," Tuberville says. "Basically, my rule is I don't want your name in the paper for doing anything and I don't want you to embarrass the team." Tuberville adds, "It all goes back to caring for your team...We have been fortunate. This is a good group we have on campus. Chette Williams, in addition to Wes Yeary who we added to our FCA staff, has been a big part of that. We challenge our guys at almost every meeting to don't take anything away from your football team by doing something negative."

*Jason Bosley, a 2004 grayshirt offensive lineman from Grissom High in Huntsville, will get a look at center in preseason although he is not yet full speed after suffering a knee injury in the spring. Steven Ross, the projected starter, has made a strong recovery from knee surgery he had last fall. Jeremy Ingle, last year's starter, has graduated. Bosley, who will be a true freshman this fall, is a strong candidate to redshirt.

*Tuberville says he is expecting safety Tony Bell, who missed two-thirds of spring drills while working on his academics, to make a strong push for playing time in preseason.

*Tuberville notes that late signee Robert Dunn, a wideout from Augusta, Ga., has been fitting in well with his new teammates and he doesn't anticipate any issues with the freshman, who had legal problems as a high school junior that caused many colleges to back off from recruiting him. Tuberville says he won't bring in any players to the program who won't fit in with the team. He adds that Dunn may see action this fall.

*Tuberville says he isn't sure how good the Tigers will be this season, but he notes that he believes his squad will be capable of beating any team on the schedule.

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