Sunday Football Notes I

News, notes and quotes from Tommy Tuberville's Sunday teleconference are featured.

A struggling Brandon Cox started the first three games of the year before Kodi Burns got the nod against New Mexico State. Cox came in early in the game and completed 13-19 passes without and interception and played his best game of the year. Head coach Tommy Tuberville said on Sunday that Cox will be the starter heading into the Florida game on Sept. 29. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. CDT on ESPN.

"Brandon will be our starter," Tuberville noted. "He played too good and he's a fifth-year senior. Hopefully he's gotten the cobwebs out. We've made some changes on the offensive line, which will also help him, and we're getting back to running the ball a little bit better. He knows more of the offense and he gives us a better chance to win right now... We've had full confidence in Brandon and that was his 21st game to win here as an Auburn Tiger, and hopefully he'll win a few more.

About Cox's positive attitude after getting pulled, Tuberville said, "Taking him out last week helped him recognize some stuff on the sideline on how he can do better. While he was on the sideline he was the perfect leader for us. That's what you expect out of him.

"It says a lot about his perseverance. He had the disease and has struggled with that over the years and overcome that, which is even tougher than what he went through last week. He works real hard and he understands this offense. He's worked too hard to now drop his guard and let him pass everything by. He's got a good future ahead of him and I think he can play on the next level because of how he throws the ball. He's just got to have some help."

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Cox and Rod Smith were named the team's offensive players of the week. Smith had three catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns--one from both quarterbacks. However, the overall play of the receivers was again a problem with several more drops.

"We catch more balls in practice than anybody in football," Tuberville explained. "We didn't have a great year catching last year. We caught them all summer long and caught them in two-a-days, but the guys have to be accountable. When you have one hit you right in the chest on third and nine for a 12-yard gain you've got to catch it. Greg Knox has done a good job of coaching these guys. He pushes them harder than anybody else, but sooner or later we've got to have guys step up and make catches in crucial situations. At times we haven't done that. We'll go out today, catch many, many balls today and we'll do the same thing Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and hopefully have our focus much better."

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Tuberville was pleased with the running game with three true freshmen on the offensive line. Left tackle Ryan Pugh and right guard Chaz Ramsey made their first collegiate starts against the Aggies.

"We saw these guys practice during the week and we knew they were going to make mistakes," Tuberville said of Pugh and Ramsey. "But they've got a long future in front of them. It's not that we've given up on the season or anything because we lost two games, we're looking for someway and somehow to run the football more consistently. Fundamentally they weren't great, but it was a great learning experience in that type of atmosphere and getting behind, long drives, holding blocks. It was great to see. This is going to be a good group, it's just going to take them a while to age and work together. They've got tons of potential."

The head coach also singled out junior Tyronne Green for his play in the 55-20 victory.

"I thought Tyronne Green really played well at left guard," he said. "The entire offensive line got stronger as the game went on."

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The Auburn defense allowed 20 points in the first half and gave up several big plays. However, in the second half the Aggies were extremely limited trying to move the football and didn't score in the final 30 minutes.

"Defensively the game plan was excellent," Tuberville said. "We didn't blitz a lot. We tried to defend and take away the running game. We made some mental errors--about four or five mental errors that really cost us in the first half. We settled down in the second half and played a lot better."

Jerraud Powers and Zac Etheridge were named the defensive players of the week.

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Patrick Tatum had a 45.5-yard average and all four of his punts were inside the NMSU 20-yard line. Ryan Shoemaker was also back in action after suffering a separated elbow against South Florida.

"Both punters did a good job and we'll start competing this week with Shoemaker and Tatum," Tuberville said. "I thought Tatum did an excellent job. He's going to be hard to beat out, but then you bring Shoemaker in and he kicks a 62-yard punt."

Tatum and Josh Herbert were the special teams players of the week. Quindarius Carr and Michael Slade were named scout team players of the week.

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Michael McNeil and Chris Evans are schedule to have MRI's done on their knees and the extent of their injuries is uncertain. Defensive end Quentin Groves is fine and linebacker Tray Blackmon is probable for the Florida game. Merrill Johnson is unlikely to play with a rotater cuff injury. With all of the injuries to the linebackers, Eric Brock could be moved down from safety this week. Tristan Davis will have more X-Rays on his toe on Monday. His status for next Saturday is uncertain.


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