And the Envelope, Please...

Columnist Phillip Marshall analyzes the quarterback situation for the Tigers as Auburn prepares for its opener vs. Southern Cal.

Neither head coach Tommy Tuberville nor offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino is talking, but all signs point to senior Daniel Cobb being Auburn's starting quarterback against Southern California on Sept. 2.

It is yet another triumph over adversity for Cobb, who could have given up on college football long ago. And now, less than a week from his 24th birthday, he has one last chance to achieve the immense promise that was his when he signed with Georgia way back in 1997.

He was told as a Georgia freshman that his career was probably over because of a rare clotting disorder in his arm. He refused to accept that, undergoing surgery to have two ribs removed. He went to Butler County Community College in Kansas and won a national championship and finally on to Auburn.

Daniel Cobb calls a play during a spring training workout earlier this year.

Though he was clearly a candidate for a sixth year of eligibility because of his earlier healthy problems, it seemed at the end of last season that his career was surely over. He'd lost the job to redshirt freshman Jason Campbell in the preseason, won it after leading a 23-20 victory over Florida and lost it again for the regular-season finale against LSU and the Peach Bowl. But Cobb still wouldn't quit. He got that sixth year of eligibility. He worked harder than ever in the weightroom, getting himself in the best shape of his life. He stepped forward as a leader in summer workouts, earning new respect from his teammates. When it seemed Campbell had moved ahead early in preseason practice, Cobb kept right on fighting.

And now, if all is as it seems, he has won the job.

Anyone who appreciates guts, determination, dedication and refusal to give up when the odds seem so long has to feel good for Daniel Cobb. He got his degree last year and could have gone on with his life. Instead, he earned one more chance to pursue the goals he set for himself when he was a teen-ager and the future seemed so bright.

Daniel Cobb

Cobb brings some unique things to the Auburn football team. He is a grown man, six years older than some of his teammates. That maturity can be a very valuable thing. He will make bad plays, as all quarterbacks do, but he will not be afraid. Campbell, no doubt, will be disappointed, but he has many of the same qualities that Cobb has shown. He won't give up, won't hang his head and walk away. He'll keep fighting, too, determined to be ready if called. When this season is over and Cobb is gone, this will be Campbell's team.

Jason Campbell throws a pass during practice.

Those who would write off Campbell ignore history. Four quarterbacks have led Auburn to its five SEC championships. Lloyd Nix (1957), Randy Campbell (1983), Jeff Burger (1987) and Reggie Slack (1988-89) all became starters for the first time when they were juniors. Dameyune Craig, one of the great quarterbacks in Auburn history, didn't start until he was a junior. Same for Patrick Nix, who led big-winning years in 1994 and 1995.

The announcement of the starter will probably come Tuesday. It must be repeated here that the coaches have not said it will be Cobb. But anything else would be a shock. Cobb arrived at Auburn in the spring of 2000 believing he had a real opportunity to become an immediate starter. Instead, he had to wait his turn behind Ben Leard, who was immensely popular with his teammates. Cobb was not warmly welcomed by all of the older players, but those days are gone.

With the season opener less than two weeks away, Cobb is the team's elder statesmen. He'll laugh and tell you he gets hazed because of his age more than the freshmen. He'll also tell you that he is not the oldest quarterback in the SEC. That honor goes to South Carolina's Corey Jenkins, who will be 26 next week.

Cobb will also tell you how lucky he feels that he is still playing college football instead of working an 8-5 job like many of his friends. Those days will come soon enough, but first there is one more season to be played. Cobb is determined to have fun and to make it one to remember.

Only time will tell what Cobb will do as this season's starter. Some days will, no doubt, be better than others. He might win big and he might not. But whatever happens, he will know that he accomplished something special.

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories