Healthier Cox Looking for Strong Finish

Quarterback Brandon Cox talks about his health, the health of the offense, and finishing the season with a bang.

Auburn, Ala.--Even Brandon Cox himself was surprised when a photo of his injured leg made the rounds on the internet and through e-mails to Auburn fans everywhere. The big question remains though is was that really Cox's leg. The answer is yes.

Taken by his girlfriend around Halloween, the photo was apparently placed on a Facebook account and was quickly circulated around the Auburn family. Cox says the photo shows a pretty gruesome bruised leg, but he says in reality at the time it wasn't that bad.

"It was from here to here (pointing from just above his ankle to his thigh) and black and blue," Cox says. "It just looked, bad but it didn't feel bad. Looks can be deceiving."

There is little question that while Cox downplays the injuries he suffered this season they clearly affected his play. The same can be said of running back Kenny Irons as well. Cox says that being back healthy is pretty exciting as the Tigers get ready to face Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl.

"Time has definitely helped," Cox says. "I feel a lot better out there and for the most part healthy. There is nothing wrong with me. I'm healthy now. I have gone down to smaller knee braces now. I have smaller ones on both knees. It took a little weight off and I can move around a little bit. It feels a lot better."

Despite hurting both knees and ankles this season Cox completed 61.2 percent of his passes for 2,087 yards. The completion percentage is the sixth-best year in Auburn history while his efficiency was the fifth-best year on the books.

For the first time since the season opener against Washington State most of Auburn's key offensive players are expected to be close to full speed. With players such as Joe Cope and Courtney Taylor, both of whom were banged up this season, that is encouraging.

Having tailback Kenny Irons back closer to full speed is a plus, too. "You could tell the whole season he was hurting," Cox says. "He didn't have that quickness. He was slow out of his breaks and things like that. Now he's got it back and he's healthy. He's back to how he was last year."

Irons' health is huge for Auburn's offense with the announcement on Friday that running back Brad Lester will miss the Cotton Bowl because of a violation of team rules. Without Lester's input on offense the bulk of carries will likely go to Irons, but Cox says they won't hesitate to share the wealth because of the confidence they have in backups Tre Smith, Ben Tate and fullback Carl Stewart.

"We have a slough of running backs," Cox says. "We'll be all right."

One of the big advantages for any team that makes a bowl game is the chance to get extra practice time on the field in advance of spring ball. Cox says something like that is huge for a team to get a jump on the next season.

"We've got 15 practices for the bowl game and like Coach was saying we've got an extra spring practice," Cox says. "Especially the first few days we're not even doing anything for Nebraska, we're basically going out there like spring practice and working with the younger guys and trying to get them some reps and ready for next year. It helps a lot."

Part of the reason for getting the young guys extra work is to see who is ready to step up on both sides of the ball. Offensively, that means at wide receiver and on the offensive line are two of the spots receiving extra attention. While it's harder to judge up front you can see the guys that make plays at receiver and Cox says both Tim Hawthorne and Terrell Zachery look like they'll be ready to help the offense in 2007.

"Tim and Terrell have both gotten more physical," Cox says. "They have gotten faster. Coach Yox (Kevin Yoxall) has done a great job with them in the redshirt workouts. They still have a ways to go learning everything, but physically their raw talent is there."

The Tigers are beginning game plan preparations for Nebraska this week with scout team work implemented for the first time. With four more practice days in Auburn before Christmas before starting again Dec. 27th in Dallas, Cox says he's looking for a healthy and rested team to play well and finish the season on a high note.

"I think we're going to actually have a clean slate going into this game where everybody is going to be healthy again," Cox says. "I think we'll show up and actually play the way we're capable of playing when everybody is healthy."


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