Brandon Cox hopes to stay healthy in 2007

HOOVER, Ala. - Brandon Cox wants more than anything for Auburn to win football games. A close second, however, is staying healthy for 12 to 14 games in 2007.

Last season with the Tigers, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound quarterback was injured in two different games - a strained left knee and a sprained left ankle against LSU and a burst bursa sac in his right knee vs. Ole Miss.

This season, his fifth on the plains, he wants to make it through without so much medical attention. He blames last season's stumbles by his team on his health. The Tigers lost only twice (Arkansas, Georgia) while winning 11 including the Cotton Bowl over Nebraska. Still, Cox says if he stays healthy, his team has a shot to do more special things.

"Last year me being injured was the reason we had a lot of sacks," said Cox, who completed 60 percent of his passes in 2006 with 14 touchdowns. "You might not think it, but throwing the football has a lot to do with your lower body, moving around and trying to avoid sacks. I just wasn't able to run the offense because I couldn't use my lower body. It really hurt us because we only were able to use 70 percent of our offense. That made it tough."

He also says he's been able to get some of his strength and conditioning back throughout the spring and offseason.

"My legs are stronger and I've gotten my strength and agililty back," he said. "So I'm looking forward to a healthy season."

But not many preseason polls picked him as one of its All-SEC quarterbacks. Cox says he understands.

"Those are based a lot on last year, and statistically I didn't have that great a year," said Cox, who averaged 169 yards passing a game but had nine interceptions. "That had a lot to do with it, and hopefully I can have a better season (than expected) this year."

Head coach Tommy Tuberville said Cox, who has been at Auburn since December, 2002, and has already graduated, should have been on more of those preseason lists. But he, too, understands why.

"He went through a lot last season, and we asked him to do some things he's not used to doing," Tuberville said. "He is 19-5 over the past two seasons, so he's done a lot of good things. He has a chance to have a really good season for us."

Tuberville believes Cox will play more football after his last season at Auburn.

"He'll make a good pro quarterback. He'll play at the next level. First we want him to have a great fifth year for us, and we believe he'll do that.

"He's stronger and quicker. Of course, he couldn't have gotten any slower," quipped Tuberville. "He's a coach on the field, and he throws a perfect spiral. He just needs to stay healthy."

Auburn averaged 24.8 points per game in 2006, averaging 320.9 yards per game. Cox says he was able to throw the long ball again in the spring which helped the Tiger offense.

"We've got a great group of backs that can run the ball. Our passing game can open up that running game. With the talent we have at receiver, we can move the ball. In the spring we started throwing the ball deep and that loosened up our defense which opened holes for our running backs. We should be more productive offensively this year than last year."

Cox, a Trussville, Ala., native who admittedly grew up an Alabama fan but wasn't offered by the Crimson Tide out of high school, says he hopes to keep the winning streak going at season's end.

"We've got two clocks we're counting down," said Cox of the upcoming season. "One for the Kansas State game (the season opener on Sept. 1) and one for the Iron Bowl. Since I've been there, I've never lost to Alabama. Not many people who've been through Auburn can say that. That's going to be a big game for me and for the team, my last home game in Jordan-Hare. Hopefully we can come away with that big No. 6 in a row."

But Cox has lofty aspirations for the whole season.

"I can see us winning all our SEC games and making it to Atlanta," he said. "It will be hard for us to do with four road games (at Gainesville, Fayetteville, Baton Rouge, and Athens). But we play well on the road. We have the talent to do it, we've just got to have some luck here and there, and play our best day in and day out."

And Brandon Cox staying healthy would help a lot as well.

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