Phillip Marshall: A Look At Auburn's QB Situation

Phillip Marshall takes a look at Auburn's quarterback situation as the Tigers prepare for the season opener versus Georgia Tech.

I have what some in my business would consider a problem.

I tend to look for the best in people. I tend to believe people are honest unless they prove to me they aren't. In other words, I would never qualify as a cynic. There are a lot of folks who would say a journalist should, by nature, be a cynic.

But you can't change who you are, and that's who I am.

Have I ever been burned in the past? I have, but most of the people I've come across in almost 36 years of covering college athletics have, in fact, but good and honest people who really want to do what is right.

That brings us to quarterback Brandon Cox.

It's well-known that Cox has been plagued with a sore arm. He was terrific in last Saturday's scrimmage, but he hasn't thrown since, at least not to any extent. That has created a torrent of speculation.

I don't speculate about such matters. I search, as best I can, for facts.

Head coach Tommy Tuberville says the problem is not serious. Offensive coordinator Al Borges says the problem is not serious. Doctors who examined him at HealthSouth in Birmingham say the problem is not serious. Other medical people to whom I have talked and are part of the Auburn program tell me the problem is not serious.

Brandon Cox tells me the problem is not serious.

Maybe a cynic would believe all those people are engaged in a massive coverup so Georgia Tech won't know in advance that it will face a quarterback who has never played. I don't believe that. Not for a second.

Auburn's preseason started a week earlier than ever before. Cox had thrown more passes than ever before. And, yes, a good number of those passes were thrown with a wet ball.

There are few guarantees in college football. There is no guarantee that Cox will be under center against Georgia Tech on Sept. 3. The doctors could be wrong. He could get hurt in some other way. You never know.

But I am convinced that Cox, his coaches, his teammates and his doctors fully expect him to be there, ready to start for the first time in his college career.

The real question at Auburn's quarterback position is who will back up Cox. An answer will be coming soon, probably by the middle of next week.

Redshirt freshman Calvin Booker is locked into a tight battle with Blake Field for the second team quarterback position.

It will either be Calvin Booker or Blake Field, both redshirt freshmen. Tuberville said Thursday he believes Field is slightly ahead, but the truth is, what Borges believes is what really matters. Tuberville's style is to let Borges make that decision.

Booker, at 6-foot-4 and almost 240 pounds with a powerful arm, is the most physically imposing of the two. He is extremely intelligent, a straight-A student in high school. Field is also extremely intelligent but not as physically impressive. He came into preseason practice the definite underdog, but he has refused to go away.

Either way it goes, Borges says he doesn't buy the notion that the Tigers couldn't win if they had to rely on the two youngsters. If Cox should go down before or during a game, Borges will have a plan for the backup.

"What we will do is sit down and decide what he can and can't handle," Borges says. "We will put in a gameplan in just for him. I already have in my mind, if one of these kids had to play, what we would do. It doesn't necessarily fit Georgia Tech's defense yet. We've studied Georgia Tech, but we haven't formalized our gameplan. Once we do that, we'll put together a little mini-offense for them."

That plan, of course, would be less sophisticated and not as diverse as what the plan will be for Cox. And that's what the backup will work on in preparation for the Yellow Jackets.

"It's senseless to have them do a bunch of stuff they're not capable of doing," Borges said. "We would shorten the menu, get into some things we really felt like they would execute and that's all we would practice. It would probably be about half of what we would do with Cox."

Asked if he believed Auburn could win with one of the young quarterbacks, Borges didn't hesitate.

"Absolutely," he said.

But it's safe to say he doesn't want that belief put to the test against Georgia Tech. Nor do other Auburn offensive players who have come to believe in Cox.

"Man, he's a million times better than he was last year," wide receiver Courtney Taylor said. "He progresses in the offense each and every day. He puts it where it's supposed to be."


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