Veteran Quarterback Focusing On Winning

Auburn, Ala.--Going into his sixth season as a college athlete, you can call <b>Daniel Cobb</b> the veteran, you can call him gramps or you can even call him a collegiate football dinosaur. However, none of that will really bother him as long as you can call him a winner when the 2002 season is completely done.

For Cobb and redshirt sophomore Jason Campbell, there are similarities and differences to 2001 as they prepare for a new season. As was the case last year, they finished spring practice with their quarterback race too close to call after Cobb got off to a slow start, but finished spring with a flourish. Head coach Tommy Tuberville made the decision to wait until preseason drills to pick No. 1 in 2001. That is what is happening again this year after neither quarterback showed enough consistency last fall or in spring 2002 to take command of the No. 1 spot.

Daniel Cobb

Although the scenario is certainly similar, there are major differences in Cobb vs. Campbell Part II. Both players are making the adjustment to a new offense put in by a new quarterback coach/offensive coordinator. Noel Mazzone is gone and Bobby Petrino took his place and is calling the shots on offense now. He, along with Tuberville, is the man that the quarterbacks have to please.

Both Cobb and Campbell have been on campus all summer diligently working out with the wide receivers, tight ends and running backs getting ready for the season. Petrino says he can tell the two are really battling to do whatever it takes to be number one and Cobb says that the competition has been a positive experience. "If anything I think it has made both of us better," he says. "When you have someone pushing you, there is no time to relax or let up. You always know that there is another guy that is just as capable as you and could have your job so I think it has led us to work even harder, and push each other and, through the competitiveness, made each other better."

Daniel Cobb (in orange) runs the offense during spring drills as linebacker Mayo Sowell (57) waits for the snap.

The sixth year senior possesses all of the tools that are necessary to help him reach his goal of being the starter on opening night vs. the USC Trojans in Los Angeles and holding it through the season finale. However, Cobb says that one part of his game that has nothing to do with physical skills should be his best asset.

"I see my greatest strength being experience," he says. "I mean, I'm a freaking dinosaur in college football. And as much flak as I get from my teammates about that, and we joke about it, I think that is one of my strengths. I know what is going on out here and I feel like I understand Coach Petrino's schemes. I also feel like I have a very good handle on the timing that is needed to be successful in this offense and I am looking forward to putting that to use in two-a-days and in the season."

Heading into two-a-days the players are participating in voluntary summer workouts. For Cobb that means drilling on specific skills with his receivers to prepare for the upcoming season. "We're working on accuracy, timing with the receivers--especially these new guys--and maintaining what we established over the spring with the tight ends," Cobb says. "Then, we are continuing to become more comfortable in the offense and more comfortable in Coach Petrino's system."

During summer workouts the coaches cannot be out on the field instructing the players, but Cobb has stepped up his leadership role and basically been a player/coach during the throwing sessions. It has not always been easy, but Cobb says that it comes with the territory. "Sometimes it is tough," he says. "Hey, summer's long and your out there throwing three times a week and the offense is running all the same routes during the day and it is easy for guys to get sidetracked," Cobb explains.

"I enjoy it and I think the guys respect me and expect that of me and that is what I'm going to give them--to make sure that we all get out of each day what we need to get out of it. And if we don't, we're going to make it up the next day and even go twice as hard. I've enjoyed it and I think the other guys have enjoyed the summer and practice."

Cobb says that after working with Petrino's offensive scheme over the spring and summer, he believes it will offer a much simpler approach to the game for himself and the entire offense. "To be honest, I really like it," he says. "It is very cut and dry. I really like the way the plays are set up and the reads that are involved. There is really no guess work in there. I think it is really going to benefit the offense since it is so cut and dry and very progression oriented."

Even with the shiny new offense, the Tigers have questions about who will get the nod at positions other than the quarterback spot. Wide receiver is definitely one of those areas. With the Tigers losing their top two receivers from last season (Tim Carter to the NFL and Deandre Green who transferred to Murray State after being kicked off the team), many expect the slack to be taken up by an extremely talented group of freshmen. Cobb says he is not sure who will be the starters on September 2nd.

"I think they all have got great potential," the quarterback says of the newcomers. "There has been so much talk about it, you know, it is really all speculation. Everything is speculation until two-a-days and then when we get to actually see them in live pads. Not just catching and running the ball, but blocking, blocking downfield and knowing their assignments. It is tough to say what is going to shake down and who is going to play."

Cobb notes that the freshmen have already made an impact on this year's Tiger team. "One thing is for sure, I think they are all capable," he says. "I think they are all eager to learn. I think they have all come in and created a great competition at wide receiver and made the guys that are here better because of it so we will see what happens in two-a-days. think it will be fun to watch. And we are going to put three or four great receivers on the field that can make plays out there no matter who it is."

Daniel Cobb is starting his third season at Auburn after spending two at Georgia and one in junior college.

Another area where questions are looming is on the offensive line. However, the senior quarterback doesn't seem concerned that the Tigers must replace three of the five starters. "I am confident in the guys that we are going have up front," Cobb says. "I am confident that Coach (Hugh) Nall is going to put the best five linemen in there no matter what it takes.

"I am confident in the scheme that Coach Petrino has brought in for the offensive line and I think we have got capable guys here," he adds. "And I am confident in the guys we have got. I think they are going to be able to step up and do what they have to do."

Cobb says the issue for him in his sixth season as a college football player is not how many yards he passes for or how many touchdown passes he throws. He helped lead Butler County, Kan., Community College to a junior college national title in 1999 and he knows the feeling of a being a champ. He wants no repeat of last year's 7-5 season.

"Wins, just put wins on the board and beat Alabama," Cobb says when asked what his goals are for 2002. "I want to play well, and I know if I play well that we have a great defense. If the offense can take care of business, then I think we can put some W's on the board. I have never set numbers for myself, but in this offense I feel like I can be pretty successful, especially with the kind of weapons that we have around the quarterback."

However, to get a chance to lead the Tigers he will have to finish number one on the depth chart. The competition for the starting spot will be the highlight of preseason that starts with the first full squad practice on August 8th.

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