Things haven't turned out quite the way Rodriguez and the offense expected in 2006 after he struggled in the preseason and lost the starting job to Rodgeriqus Smith. Through nine games Rodriquez has just 11 catches for 111 yards with his longest play covering 19 yards. He says that this season has been a tough one for him, but it has also taught him a valuable lesson.
"It has been tough and a learning process," Rodriguez says. "I would love to have more playing time, but this is a team game. When my number is called I have to make sure I make the play because the ball rarely comes my way. It's a team game and everybody has to make plays."
Rodriguez is looking to finish the season on a high note.
Something that has helped his adjustment to a backup role this season has been his understanding of the offense and the teaching of Coach Greg Knox. While he hasn't played as much as he would like this season Rodriguez says that he has learned that if you just keep striving to improve something good will happen.
"Coach Knox is a great coach and the way he teaches us is to compete every day," Rodriguez says. "That's what we do. When it comes game time we make plays when the ball comes our way. People will talk but they'll say that Auburn's receivers are very competitive."
Rodriguez has been more productive in recent weeks for the Tigers with six catches for 61 yards in the last three games after going through a stretch of three games in which he had just one reception. The Tampa native says that he's not the only one coming on strong because he feels like the offense is just beginning to hit its stride.
"At practice we've been doing real well," Rodriguez says. "Everybody is really picking up the offense and the assignments and making less mistakes. I feel like we're becoming a better offense and we'll continue to produce with the opportunities we have."
Perhaps the biggest reason for the improvement on offense has been in the play of quarterback Brandon Cox. Healthier than he's been since the LSU game in week three, the junior has 647 passing yards and four touchdowns in his last three games and has completed 55 of 80 attempts. Rodriguez says that he's glad to see Cox back to form because he's so good at spreading the ball around and getting everyone involved.
"Brandon has been banged up and he was fighting through the pain he's going through," Rodriguez says. "He's a good quarterback. I believe he's back to his old self and getting better.
"Brandon is not a selfish quarterback," he adds. "He's going to throw to the open receiver. He has trust in all of the receivers and we just have to make plays when our number is called."
In the Top 10 and still fighting for a shot at the SEC Championship and a BCS berth, Auburn goes out of the conference this weekend for the final time to face Arkansas State. Playing for the 10th consecutive week it's getting tougher and tougher for the players to push through practices to get to Saturday, but Rodriguez says that this team is focused on their goal and thanks to the work they've put in they are physically ready to get the job done.
"It's overwhelming to be in that position," Rodriguez says of the ranking. "As hard as we worked in the offseason trying to get to this point we just want it to pay off. Coach Yox (Kevin Yoxall) is a great strength and conditioning coach. He prepared us for this season and I feel well prepared. All of us on this team are fighting. We're all warriors out there. We can't be tired now, it's not an option."