Marshall: Cox A Different Player In 2006

Phillip Marshall talks about the difference between Brandon Cox his first season at Auburn and now four years later.

Ramblin' around in the summer heat …

To see and hear the Brandon Cox of today and remember the Brandon Cox of 2002 is striking.

Sitting at Sewell Hall in August 2002, Cox looked too slight to play college football. He talked softly and sounded anything but confident. Within days, he had been hit with a recurring illness, had a car accident and gone home.

Today, he is totally different. Cox, heading toward his second season as Auburn's starting quarterback, is a confident and respected leader. Physically, he cuts an impressive figure and is some 40 pounds heavier than he was as a nervous freshman. He is regarded by his teammates, by his coaches and by opponents as one of the Southeastern Conference's premier quarterbacks.

"You think you can go in and play your first year, but once you see the size of the players, the speed of the game and all there is to learn, you want a year or two," Cox said on Aug. 2, 2002. "I think a redshirt year will definitely help."

Just more than a week later he was gone, his college football career in doubt.

Contrast those days with last Wednesday, as Cox dealt with a swarm of reporters.

He talked about believing in himself, his coaches and his teammates. He talked about the confidence that comes with having a full year as a starter under his belt. He dismissed talk of postseason honors.

"I wouldn't be here without my team," Cox said. "It's all about the team. It's just my job to go out there and put our team in the best situation."

In the end, going home in 2002 was probably the best move Cox could have made. He rejoined the team in December, still with five years to play four. He redshirted in 2003 and played behind future first-round draft choice Jason Campbell in 2004.

When his time came, he was ready. He's a man now, a little over two months from his 23rd birthday, and still has a season to play after this one.

He is yet another example of the fallacy of believing that one can project what an athlete at the age of 18 will be like four years later. …

Despite widespread speculation that Chris Browder's move from defensive end to defensive tackle would be temporary, it appears to be permanent.

Browder says he weighed just 250 pounds at the start of spring practice. But after a summer of joyfully eating all the food he could get his hands on, he weighed in for preseason practice at 274 and brought new enthusiasm for his new position.

"It's been real fun putting on weight," Browder said. "It's helped a whole lot to have the weight and good technique. I think I'm going to be able to get it done. (Nose guard) Josh (Thompson) is helping me out with everything. It's a whole lot more fun."

It will be a significant surprise if Browder and Thompson aren't the starters on the defensive line's interior against Washington State. Behind them, if I had to guess, will be redshirt freshman Sen'Derrick Marks and rejuvenated junior Tez Doolittle.

Normally, five interior defensive linemen are on the traveling squad. Sophomore Pat Sims, who left the team last season and returned, should have the inside track on the fifth spot and should be able to put pressure on the players in front of him. Whether he will or not, remains to be seen.

Junior college transfer Greg Smith could have something to say about it all if he's able to get into school as expected and if he is in the kind of physical condition it takes to play in the SEC, which is not expected.

Of the freshmen, Bart Eddins probably has the best chance to get some playing time, but others could get into the picture when the contact goes live. …

It's kind of amusing to read and hear all the praise going to Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops for kicking his starting quarterback and a starting offensive lineman off the team for taking inflated salaries for little work at a Norman automobile dealership. What choice did he really have?

Has it not crossed anyone's mind that Stoops, if he didn't know, should have known something fishy was going on?

I can tell you beyond much question that it has crossed the minds of some folks at the NCAA offices in Indianapolis. …

Until next time …

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