AU Players In The Protection Business

Protecting the quarterback is not an option for Auburn's running backs.

Auburn, Ala.--Tailback Tre Smith says he and his fellow running backs will be in the protection business on Saturday night or else they will be watching the action from the sidelines.

The junior says their position coach, Eddie Gran, has made it perfectly clear that protecting quarterback Brandon Cox from blitz-happy Georgia Tech players is a very important assignment.

"The importance of protecting the quarterback on a scale of one to 10 is going to be a 10 this week," says Smith, who is scheduled to make his first start at tailback since the 2002 Alabama game when he was a true freshman.

"We watch film of other schools and you can tell that the other schools don't work on it like we do," Smith says. "Our number one priority before running the ball, before anything, is protecting our quarterback. Our number one priority is don't let Brandon even get hit, even if we have to sacrifice ourselves.

Smith (22) goes into pass protection mode during practice.

"We will be watching film of other schools and their running backs don't block very good and they will get their quarterback hit all of the time," Smith adds. "Coach Gran will be in there yelling at them like they are his running backs. He will say, ‘They are so terrible they would be fired if they were my running backs.'"

Smith says he is excited to see how Cox does in his first start. "I think Brandon is doing great. He is making good throws. He is making good reads. I like playing with him. I feel comfortable with him back there at quarterback."

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