Because of the play of backup Jason Campbell not only Saturday against the Florida Gators, but the two weeks before in a win over Syracuse and a loss to Arkansas, the starting spot is not a given now for Daniel Cobb. All that remains now is an announcement on who the starter is, but Petrino said that might not happen until later in the week, if at all.
"We haven't made a decision," Petrino said. "I'm not sure exactly what our time table is on that." The first-year coach isn't ruling out that he might not even name a starter before the LSU game, something that would make the Bengal Tigers prepare for both Cobb and Campbell. "That might be it," he said.
Something that LSU won't have to prepare for is the running of sophomore Carnell Williams, who is out for the season after breaking his fibula Saturday night. He is scheduled to have surgery Monday morning at HealthSouth in Birmingham with Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Larry Lemak performing the surgery. In his absence sophomore Ronnie Brown filled in admirably with 163 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns, including a 54-yard reception for a score. Petrino said Brown had a good all-around game in addition to running well.
"We had them worn down," Petrino said of Brown and the running game. "In the fourth quarter we were really running the ball well. Ronnie did a nice job, not just running the football but other plays Ronnie was involved in he had some great hits running around. When the players watch the video they'll see that they had their best effort and were probably more physical than we've been to date. We just didn't make enough plays early in the first quarter to get the job done."
With Brown taking over the role of workhorse for the Tigers it now remains to be seen how much work he can handle. While Williams was a back that seemed to get better with each and every carry, because of his lack of work so far this season that is an unknown with Brown. However, from what he saw Saturday night, Petrino said he doesn't think Brown will have a problem carrying the ball when they need him late in the game. Still he wants to get Chris Butler and Tre Smith more involved in the offense beginning this week in practice.
"I think it's going to be important that all three of them play," Petrino said. "We were kind of looking at that in the second half a little bit the other night to see if Ronnie was getting tired because he hadn't carried the ball that many times. But when he came off and we visited with him and talked to him he still had a tremendous amount of energy. He wanted the ball in his hands and he played like he wanted it in his hands. If he can do that, that's great but I think if you look at the other weapons we have we need to get Chris Butler and Tre involved somewhat."
The reason why the Tigers were able to control the football game from the middle of the second quarter on was because of a strong effort up front by the offensive line. Led by veteran center Ben Nowland and powerful guard Monreko Crittenden, Auburn controlled the line of scrimmage and the game, particularly in the second half. Petrino said it was very encouraging to see that out of a group that had some drama even before kickoff when redshirt freshman tackle Taylor Bourgeois injured his shoulder in warm-ups.
"We had some of the best effort that we've had all year long," Petrino said. "That was very encouraging. Marcus McNeill I thought played real hard. He was going into the game thinking he was going to backup and would be playing about half of the snaps. In pre-game he found out he was going the whole time. Taylor ended up not being able to go.
"Monreko Crittenden had his best game so far this year. He did a good job and really helped our running game, particularly on the inside. He did a real nice job and was real powerful. He played very, very hard. It was probably the best effort he's had to date. That was encouraging, too. I thought both of our older tight ends in Robert Johnson and Lorenzo Diamond did a nice job. They both did a nice job in the run game in the second half. They gave us a lot of leadership, which was good to see in the second half."
In addition to Bourgeois, the Tigers also could be without redshirt freshman tight end Cooper Wallace, who injured his shoulder during Saturday's game. Coach Tommy Tuberville said they will evaluate him throughout the week before making a decision on his playing status for Saturday. Also wide receiver Silas Daniels continues to be bothered by a strained groin and didn't practice Sunday. Other than that the Tigers should be healthy on offense for Saturday.
No matter what happens at the quarterback position, the players expect no change in practice this week and that started Sunday with what Cobb called a quiet but good practice. Saying that all the quarterbacks had a good day throwing the ball on a rainy day, the senior said he'll prepare just like he always does whether he's the starter for Saturday or not.
"I'll just go to practice and get ready," Cobb said. "The way that Coach Petrino has brought both Jason and I along is that he wants every quarterback to prepare like he is going to be the starter, even Josh (Sullivan). Everybody prepares the same way and everybody tries to watch as much film as they can during the week as if they were going to be the guy taking the first snap because everybody is just a snap away. It's not even on my mind. Today was about just coming in, getting some good work in, and watching the film from yesterday."
The Tigers will take Monday off before continuing practices for LSU on Tuesday. Kickoff for the LSU game is set for 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and can be seen on Jefferson Pilot television.