"That guy is really big," Dunn said with a big smile. "He also looks like a really good one, too." Dunn's observation was shared by other coaches and players who got to see the junior college All-American in action for the first time on the Auburn practice fields on Sunday.
At 6-4 1/2 and currently weighing 253 pounds, Jacobs' much-anticipated debut as an Auburn football player on Sunday was an impressive one. Offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino said he liked what he saw as did head coach Tommy Tuberville. "He is big," Petrino said with a big smile. "He has got real good movement. He didn't get a lot of work today, but it was fun. I think when he carried the ball everybody was watching him. He is a big man, moves real well. It will be fun to see what happens."
Brandon Jacobs is shown at his first Auburn practice.
Jacobs showed that he could be a force for the Tigers in 2003 and will challenge Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown and Tre Smith for a starting job. As an early graduate from Coffeyville, Kan., Community College, he has been able to join the Auburn football team for bowl practice. In addition to learning Petrino's offensive system, he will do some work preparing the Auburn defense as he plays the role of Penn State star tailback Larry Johnson. In fact, he is wearing Johnson's jersey No. 5 for bowl practices.
After earning All-America honors as a sophomore at Coffeyville, Jacobs had his choice of colleges from around the country. However, he said that Auburn is where he wants to be because the Tiger coaching staff had done a strong job of recruiting him going back to his junior year at Assumption High in Napleonville, La. Jacobs says the AU coaches suggested that when it became clear he would not qualify to play Division I football after his senior year that he should enroll early in junior college, play two seasons of football there and get his academic situation in order. That is exactly what happened and starting with the 2003 season he will have two years to play for Auburn, but he will not play in the bowl game on New Year's Day.
Remembering his senior year in high school, Jacobs says that he gotten too far behind academically to qualify for freshman eligibility so he realized that there was no way he could play SEC football or at any Division I program. "It was a big disappointment because I had plenty of friends leaving going to Division I schools playing either football or basketball," he says.
With the help of Auburn assistant coach Greg Knox, who recruits Louisiana for the Tigers, along with head coach Tommy Tuberville, Jacobs made the decision to drop out of high school in the spring of his senior year and travel north to Coffeyville, Kan., to get a head start on his junior college academics. The decision worked out nicely because Jacobs graduated early in December with honors and now has an opportunity to get a head start on the 2003 season at Auburn.
"I went to Coffeyville, I would say in March, after basketball season was over," Jacobs says. "When I was younger I used to follow the bad crowd. I would get in a lot of trouble and get put out of school here and there. As you get put out of school, I would have absences and miss too many days of school. I did that for three or four years straight and they just kept failing me, and failing me and failing me. I was a smart kid. I could have done the work. I chose not to so they put me in a special education class so I couldn't get the credits I needed to graduate high school so that is basically how that went."
Jacobs said he actually got serious about school before he left Assumption, but had gotten too far behind to pull out his academic situation. However, given a second chance at junior college he earned his high school equivalency diploma and a degree at Coffeyville and says he plays to graduate with an Auburn degree in communications before he leaves AU. "Everybody has got my back on the situation," Jacobs says of earning his Auburn degree. "It is really important to me and my family."
"Once I got the chance to be motivated to get up and do it, I didn't think I was going to have a chance until these coaches at Auburn came through for me with the coaches at Coffeyville," Jacobs says. Once he learned that he could take an alternative path into college football, Jacobs says he made the decision not to fail. "I got after it and I tried as hard as I can," he says. "I busted my butt and it all came to me."
After a two week layoff since his last game at Coffeyville when he rushed for just under 250 yards on 22 carries, Jacobs said he was a bit out of shape for his first Auburn practice on Sunday, but added, "It came out better than I thought it would.
"I am going to try to get myself better and get used to the tempo because playing here in the SEC is a hard task," he says. "If you complete it you are a man. They are going to give me some reps this week and try to get me used to the running plays and stuff like that. Whenever we go up against the first defense I want them to look at me as Larry Johnson and get used to hitting a big back."
Jacobs says he is still learning what to do in the Auburn offense, but says he thinks he handled his first day well, including a big shot from middle linebacker Mark Brown in the 11 on 11 work during Sunday's practice, the second of six practices in Auburn before the team breaks for Christmas. Jacobs and the rest of the Tigers will reassemble on Christmas night in Orlando, Fla., and resume practice on the 26th in preparation for the New Year's Day bowl game vs. Penn State.
Jacobs is obviously not afraid of a challenge because he signed with the Tigers even though Auburn returns three tailbacks who had strong seasons in Ronnie Brown, Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and Tre Smith. "Me, Ronnie, Cadillac and Tre are four good backs," Jacobs says. "All I am looking for is for coach to give me a chance and I know he will and I will prove it from there. We are going to have probably the best backfield in the country on Auburn's football team. We have four tough backs. We can all put our body on the line and have another one in the closet. We are going to come out and work hard in the spring to get ready for the fall to try to come out and win the SEC and national championship.
"I could have went to plenty of places where they didn't have too many backs, but I didn't too much trust the coaches like I trust the coaches here. These coaches were honest to me in my junior year in high school and they recruited me hard and have been honest to me and did everything they did to help me out." Because of that help, Jacobs said he felt a loyalty to the Auburn staff and that was the reason he decided to stick with his original pledge as a high school senior and play for AU.
"The way things were headed in life, I wasn't supposed to be here (in Auburn) sitting in this chair," Jacobs said Sunday night after his first practice and first Kevin Yoxall weight workout. "I worked hard, busted my butt, scratched and clawed up the wall just to get here. I came a real long way because I didn't have the grades in high school or the correct classes to get a diploma. Auburn and Coffeyville were there for me to help me out."
Tony McClain is expected to start practice on Monday morning for the Tigers. Also from Coffeyville, the defensive end will enter Auburn with three seasons of eligibility.
Tiger Ticket Special: Jacobs was featured on ESPN2 last week on a television show focusing on how he had become a major success story at Coffeyville. "I am really happy with that because I wanted everyone to see what I had been through and if there is anybody else out there like me to don't give up because there is always a chance for them to go somewhere."...Jacobs says that he heard rumors that Auburn coaches planned to move him to another position, but says he didn't believe them during recruiting and is confident he will not be moved to another position. "I never saw myself playing anything else," he says. "I have always played running back." Considering that he was considered the top junior college running back in the country, it would be hard to imagine why any coach wouldn't want to put the football in his hands. "If I got slower I wouldn't care if coach moved me somewhere else, but a 4.42 (40-yard dash)--that is pretty fast. I think I can be a running back here in this conference and be a great one, but I have my work cut out for me here though. I am just going to try to come in and get a lot of reps and prove myself to a lot of people."