Burns may be a factor

Two words are enough to send Tennessee football fans into a state of full-blown panic: mobile quarterback.

Historically, the Vols struggle against QBs who can run a bit – guys like Georgia's D.J. Shockley, Auburn's Jason Campbell, LSU's JaMarcus Russell, Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler and Florida's Tim Tebow to name just a few.

That's why Tennessee likely will see Auburn's Kodi Burns this weekend, even though the Tigers' backup QB hasn't played the past two games. Vol coaches anticipate seeing the fleet-footed Burns and are preparing for that eventuality.

"Yeah, you always have to," Tennessee secondary coach Larry Slade said. "With Kodi, it (big concern) is the scrambling, the discipline and preventing big plays in that way."

Tennessee also has struggled defending the option in recent years, and running the option happens to be Burns' specialty.

"They run enough option to keep you honest," Slade said. "That helps (slow the defense) when you're trying to blitz them and that type of thing."

Burns started Game 1 vs. Louisiana-Monroe and gained 69 rushing yards on just six carries before suffering a leg injury late in the contest. After playing sparingly in Game 2 vs. Southern Miss, he did not see action vs. Mississippi State and LSU the past two weekends.

While Burns has been getting healthy, junior college transfer Chris Todd has been tightening his grip on Auburn's quarterback job. In his three starts he completed 21 of 31 passes for 248 yards vs. Southern Miss, 14 of 26 for 154 yards vs. Mississippi State and 17 of 32 for 250 yards last weekend vs. LSU.

Whoever is playing quarterback, Tennessee's primary concern this Saturday will be containing Auburn's tailback tandem of Brad Lester (1,618 career rushing yards) and Ben Tate (1,574 career yards).

"Lester is really good," Slade said. "Tate is just a consistent guy that can break tackles and beat you some on the perimeter. Lester is a game-breaker."

Like Tennessee, Auburn is struggling with the adjustment to a new offensive coordinator (Tony Franklin) and a new offensive scheme (Spread). After managing just one Wes Byrum field goal in a 3-2 Game 3 defeat of Mississippi State, however, the Tigers showed some flashes in a 26-21 Game 4 loss to LSU.

"I think they rose up and played against a great opponent, played up to their potential," Slade said. "That's the danger; they'll play well against us."

Another danger: Kodi Burns. He is, after all, a mobile quarterback.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories