Should AU Consider A Freshman Quarterback?

Phillip Marshall discusses a variety of subjects in his Monday column for Tiger Ticket subscribers.

Noted in passing...

Now it will begin. Former Hewitt-Trussville quarterback Brandon Cox, who will be an Auburn Tiger soon, led the Alabama team to victory over Mississippi in Saturday night's All-Star game. There will be calls for him to get early playing time as a freshman. Forget it. Barring cataclysmic injuries at the quarterback position, the odds against Cox being the starter are so long they aren't even worth talking about. If you want to bet on something, bet he will be redshirted.

True freshman quarterbacks are a rarity, to say the least, in the SEC. Casey Clausen is the most recent true freshman starter, but he participated in spring practice and didn't become the starter until late in the season. There was Peyton Manning, of course, but he didn't become the starter until the two in front of him were lost to injuries. Technically, you'd have to count Georgia's Quincy Carter, but he was a 21-year-old man who had already played professional baseball.

Brandon Cox is shown in Mobile on Saturday night at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game.

I haven't looked it up and somebody might correct me, but I have to go all the way back to 1980 to remember a true freshman quarterback, other than Carter, who started for an entire season for a team that had an outstanding season. That was John Bond at Mississippi State. He ran the wishbone and the Bulldogs won mostly on defense. Truth is, if you start a true freshman quarterback, you're probably not going to have an outstanding season.

Brandon Cox runs the ball in all-star practice last week.

There is every reason to believe Cox will be an outstanding quarterback at Auburn, but to throw him into the fire as a true freshman would not be fair to him and wouldn't make any sense. Does anybody truly believe that, in three weeks of practice, he could learn enough and execute well enough to beat out Jason Campbell and Daniel Cobb? If he can, then by all means he should be the starter. But he can't.

Cox knows the score. He has said all along that he plans to give it his best shot, compete the best he can and that he expects to be redshirted in the end.

TIGER, TIGER, TIGER

How good is Tiger Woods? He is, in my opinion, the most dominant athlete of my lifetime. Woods won the U.S. Open on Sunday, beating the world's best golfers with ease. He's halfway to the elusive Grand Slam now. I wouldn't be shocked if he pulled it off.

I saw Michael Jordan. I saw Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Jimmy Brown and so many others. But nobody since Babe Ruth has dominated his sport the way Woods dominates golf. Making it more amazing is that he's doing it at a time when there are more golfers on tour capable of winning than ever before.

Is he the best ever? I believe he is, but there is still an argument to be made for Jack Nicklaus. That's only because Woods hasn't done it for as long as Nicklaus did. If he keeps up his interest, which must be hard when you already have more money than you could possibly ever spend, Woods will one day stand alone as the greatest ever to play the game.

WATCH OUT FOR T.J.

Cox wasn't the only future Auburn player who stood out in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game. Opelika's Tommy "T.J." Jackson had a big game, too. With help needed on the defensive front, don't be surprised to see Jackson getting some snaps against Southern California on Sept. 2. He has a chance to be a great one before his days are done.

T.J. Jackson is shown at Saturday night's Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Football Game. Jackson's Alabama squad took a 29-17 victory.

TOUGHEST STRETCH EVER?

Has Auburn football ever had a tougher stretch, at any point of a season, than playing four games in 17 days? It's quite a challenge that has been put in front of next season's Tigers.

The Sept. 2 opener at Southern California will be emotionally and physically demanding. When it's over sometime around midnight CST, there will be a cross-country airplane flight. Five days later, there will be a home game against Western Carolina. Even the Catamounts might prove a worthy foe for a team that is sure to be exhausted. A week later, Vanderbilt visits. Five days after that, it's on to Starkville for a Thursday night game at Mississippi State.

You can't turn down a national television opportunity like the one against USC on Labor Day night, but had I been making the decision, I would never have agreed to play Mississippi State on Thursday.

SETTING IT STRAIGHT

Several weeks ago, I reported in a newspaper story that former Auburn assistant Mike Wilson left for Richmond because he'd been told by head coach Cliff Ellis to find another job. I wrote that because a source I was certain at the time was credible told me that's what happened. Ellis and assistant head coach Shannon Weaver say it didn't happen that way. In fact, they say they tried to convince Wilson not to leave.

If they say it, that's good enough for me. They are men of honesty and integrity. Wilson, who turned down an opportunity to go to Cincinnati the previous year, is highly regarded as a coach and a recruiter. He'll, no doubt, be a valuable member of the Richmond coaching staff.


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