Marshall: Senior QB A Big Plus for AU

Phillip Marshall writes about Auburn football and basketball plus other topics in his column for

Tuesday morning ramblings...

Just how important is quarterback Brandon Cox to Auburn's football team? The answer lies in recent history.

Consider the records of last 10 senior Auburn quarterbacks who have returned as full-time starters:

*Charlie Trotman, 1979, 8-3.

*Randy Campbell, 1983, 11-1, SEC championship, Sugar Bowl.

*Pat Washington, 1985, 8-4, Cotton Bowl.

*Jeff Burger, 1987, 9-1-2, SEC championship, Sugar Bowl.

*Reggie Slack, 1989, 10-2, SEC championship, Hall of Fame Bowl.

*Stan White, 1993, first 11-0 season in Auburn history.

*Pat Nix, 1995, 8-4, one of more prolific offenses in school history, Outback Bowl.

*Dameyune Craig, 1997, 10-3, West Division title, SEC Championship Game, Peach Bowl.

*Ben Leard, 2000, 9-4, West Division title, SEC Championship Game, Capital One Bowl.

*Jason Campbell, 2004, 13-0 record, SEC championship, Sugar Bowl.

Not since 1976, when Phil Gargis was asked to lead a team woefully lacking in SEC talent, has a returning senior starter won fewer than eight games at Auburn. All three of the seasons in which Auburn won 11 or more games were led by returning senior starters. Four of Auburn's six SEC championship teams were led by senior quarterbacks. The only exceptions were 1957, when starter Lloyd Nix was a junior, and 1988, when Slack was a fourth-year junior.

Interestingly, those 10 quarterbacks combined for an 8-2 record against Alabama and 10-0 against Georgia as seniors.

Cox's very presence will make Auburn a threat in the SEC West next season. No other West Division team has a returning senior starting at quarterback.

Cox is being so widely dismissed in preseason speculation. Last August, he was considered one of the SEC's top quarterbacks. He received a large number of votes for preseason All-SEC at Media Days after a very good sophomore season.

Cox is coming off a strong performance in spring training.

Then came 2006. Instead of getting credit for showing remarkable toughness and resilience in Auburn's 11-2 season, Cox now seems to be considered by many to be among the lower tier of SEC quarterbacks.

Honestly, that's puzzling.

Cox played the last 10 games of last season on painfully injured legs. Not only could he not move in the pocket, his throwing motion was out of kilter. He played on, earning the undying respect of his teammates and coaches. He became the third Auburn quarterback to win 11 games in a season.

Now he's an also-ran, just another guy? I'll be surprised if that's the case.

Cox had a terrific spring. Like any other player, he'll need to stay healthy to have terrific fall. If he does, history says Auburn's season will be a good one, maybe even a great one...

Am I the only one who wonders how poker games and spelling bees became viewed as "sports" to be televised by ESPN?...

Speaking of quarterbacks, it's going to be interesting to watch Florida sophomore Tim Tebow this fall. There's no doubt he has remarkable talent, but being the starter is going to be far different than his very limited role of last season. Don't be surprised if he struggles...

A proposal to give all college football players five years of eligibility seems to be gaining momentum. Even NCAA president Myles Brand has offered his support. The idea would be to do away with redshirting for any reason. Every player would have five years if he chose to use them.

Makes sense to me...

In less than three weeks, the Auburn Board of Trustees will approve the building of a new basketball arena at a cost of more than $90 million. It will be, by far, the most expensive building project in Auburn athletic department history.

The only real question remaining is how long it will take to build. Most projections have it opening for the 2009-2010 season...

Until next time...

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