Healthy Cox a key for Auburn

He has a 19-5 record as a starter, yet Auburn's Brandon Cox is rarely mentioned in discussions of the SEC's top quarterbacks. Heck, he's even the butt of jokes by his own coach.

"He's gotten a little stronger, a little quicker," Tommy Tuberville said at the recent SEC Media Days, smugly adding: "He couldn't have got any slower."

Cox might have slow feet but he has a quick mind and a tight spiral on his throws.

"He's got a chance to be a heck of a quarterback for us," Tuberville said. "He knows the offense. He's a coach on the field. He spins the ball as good as anybody I've ever seen. He never throws a wobbly pass, and he's very accurate."

In spite of these attributes, Cox might be the most unsung player in the Southeastern Conference. He missed the 2005 Western Kentucky game due to illness but guided the Tigers to eight wins in his 11 starts that fall. Last year he led his team to an 11-2 record and handed eventual national champ Florida its only loss.

Moreover, he ranks second in Auburn history in passing efficiency (137.90), fourth in completion percentage (59.2), fifth in touchdown passes (33) and sixth in passing yards (4,879).

Cox's numbers would be even more impressive if he hadn't played in pain throughout most of 2006. Assorted injuries kept him from throwing much the second half of the season.

"Brandon was a little bit beat up," Tuberville said, "so we pulled the plug (on the passing game) about mid-season and just started pounding it and trying to win with defense and the kicking game.... Now we want to put the (passing) offense back in."

Even with the injuries in 2006, Tuberville thought Cox would get more recognition heading into 2007. That hasn't been the case, however.

After noting that he is "not really upset," the Auburn coach said he understands that preseason laurels are based on statistics. In Tuberville's mind, though, the key statistic is wins and losses.

"I understand why Brandon's not a preseason favorite to be one of the better quarterbacks in the league," the coach said. "But, you know, he has won 19 and lost five.... When a guy's playing his fifth year and he's won as many games as him, (you think) surely he'll get a little bit more publicity."

Cox appreciates his coach's support but insists he isn't at all concerned that he was left off most preseason All-SEC lists.

"I really did not have a great season last year," he said. "I was injured and I did not put up the same kind of numbers the other guys did. But it's just preseason. I hope that by the end of the season things will be different."

Tuberville believes they will be. He sees Cox having a big senior season, followed by a solid career in the NFL.

"He'll make a good pro quarterback," the coach said. "He'll play on the next level. He has the ability, the mentality and the smarts to get that done."

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