Despite production being down from this time last season, Auburn's passing offense has been efficient and is coming off one of its best games last week against South Carolina. Attempting just 19 passes, quarterback Brandon Cox completed 13 for 180 yards. Those totals included key third down throws, plus one on fourth down to Dunn, to keep drives alive. Dunn says because of that he feels like the passing game is coming along at just the right time.
"We feel good with the progress," he says. "The receivers are making a whole lot more plays than we were. We're a lot more consistent with catching the ball and making the plays the coach expects us to make."
In particular the health of Cox is coming at just the right time for the Auburn offense as well. Bothered by a knee and ankle sprain suffered against LSU, the junior hasn't been able to plant effectively for the last two games. After having some time off last weekend to rest, Dunn says Cox is finally back to full strength and he believes the best is still ahead for the offense.
"Cox is really stepping up," Dunn says. "He played injured and kind of messed up his ankle a little, but he stuck it out and played top notch football like everybody expected him to play. All the hype about Brandon Cox, he's making believers out of people. We're just there to make him that much better. Our receivers are young, but we're very talented. The experience is going to come."
Robert Dunn tries to elude two Mississippi State defenders.
The time is now for many of the young guys, including Dunn. With Courtney Taylor the only experienced senior receiver on the team it has been up to players such as Dunn and Rodgeriqus Smith to make plays early this year. That was proven against South Carolina when Dunn dropped a third down pass from Cox, but came up big one play later when Cox looked his way for the first down. Dunn says that was important for him to get the ball because it showed Cox believes in him.
"It makes you feel real good knowing the quarterback has that much confidence in you,he says. "That's especially true when you have an older guy on the team like Courtney Taylor. The play was designed for him so it just shows he's got a lot of confidence and trust in me. I'm going to try to step up and make the plays I'm supposed to make."
This week Dunn and the wide receivers should get plenty of chances to make plays against a Razorback defense determined to slow Kenny Irons and the running game. Facing a team that plays a lot of press man coverage, Dunn says it's up to the the receivers to make big plays this week and keep the Arkansas defense honest.
"That's always in the back of your mind," Dunn says. "That's just a part of football. You've got to make that play. Their job is to get their hands on you and your job is not to let them. It's a back and forth battle. You're not going to win them all, but you try to win most of them."
Auburn will attempt to win this week without one of its most important offensive players as senior center Joe Cope is out with a sprained knee. That means sophomore Jason Bosley will be inserted into the starting rotation for the first time. Dunn says the addition of Bosley is something the offense is ready for and it just makes the other 10 guys on offense have to step up their game.
"This is a real big step for us," Dunn says. "We prepared for it all summer. When some of our starters go down who is going to step up and be a leader and who is going to step in and keep the team rolling without missing a beat? Guys are ready to step up and make the plays right now."
Ranked second in the country by the Associated Press and third by the coach's poll, Auburn is currently fighting to not only stay undefeated but to also impress the voters around the country every week. While it's something the fans think about daily, Dunn says the team is only concerned about taking care of business and moving forward.
"That's kind of how we feel right now," Dunn says. "We're not getting a lot of respect right now. We're kind of flying under the radar. As long as we play our game and worry about what we do as a team and Auburn University we're not worried about anybody else.
"We're not worried about Arkansas, we're worried about Auburn. You can't take anything for granted. Our team has been focusing on us. We're not looking towards the Floridas and Georgias and the games down the road. We're concentrating on us and game planning for Arkansas."