Auburn has two quality candidates to replace 2006-07 starter Brandon Cox. Kodi Burns is a mobile QB known for his running skills. Chris Todd is a junior college transfer known for his passing skills. They could provide a nice 1-2 punch ... or they could provide a coach's worst nightmare – a quarterback controversy.
Both quarterbacks looked good in the spring game. Of course, quarterbacks USUALLY look good in spring games because of the restrictions placed on the defenses in terms of scheme and blitzing. Burns completed 14 of 21 passes for 142 yards and, discounting sacks, ran for another 37 yards. Todd completed 18 of 27 for 190 yards.
As always, Auburn has a stable of good running backs – Ben Tate, Brad Lester and Mario Fannin (who missed the spring game with an injury) being the most notable. The Tigers have their usual array of monstrous offensive linemen, also.
This Auburn team may not be nearly as run-oriented as its recent predecessors, however. With the 2007 Tigers ranking 101st out of 119 Div. 1-A teams in total offense, coordinator Al Borges resigned under pressure last December. He was replaced by Tony Franklin, widely known for the explosive no-huddle spread option he ran at Troy University.
Franklin was Hal Mumme's offensive coordinator at Kentucky in 2000, when the Big Blue finished second nationally in passing and 11th in total offense. After a stint as a head coach in the Arena Football League, Franklin returned to the college ranks as coordinator at Troy two years ago. Inheriting an offense that averaged just 12 points per game in 2005, Franklin improved the scoring to 25 ppg in 2006 and 34 ppg in 2007. His '07 attack averaged a whopping 453 total yards per game.
Hired by Tommy Tuberville immediately following Borges' resignation, Franklin spent eight days installing his attack on The Plains. Auburn promptly piled up a season-high 423 total yards in its 23-20 Chick Fil-A Bowl defeat of Clemson.
In addition to a new offensive coordinator, Auburn has a new defensive coordinator for 2008. Will Muschamp left to take the same position at Texas, so Tuberville replaced him with Paul Rhoads, whose Pittsburgh Panther defense ranked No. 5 nationally last fall by allowing just 297.7 yards per game.
Auburn recently lost four quality defenders to the NFL Draft – end Quentin Groves and cornerback Patrick Lee in Round 2, junior defensive tackle Pat Sims in Round 3 and cornerback Jonathan Wilhite in Round 4. Still, the Tigers' stop unit should have plenty of bite in '08.
Auburn is not likely to be a great team this fall but it may not have to be to win the SEC West. National champ LSU suffered heavy losses to the NFL Draft and recently dismissed its best quarterback, Ryan Perrilloux. Everyone else in the division is rebuilding.
Clearly, Tuberville's Tigers have a good chance to win the West ... if they get quality play at quarterback.
Wonder if Tommy plays the lottery?