- QB Kodi Burns, Jr., 6-2, 209
- QB Neil Caudle, Jr., 6-3, 199
- QB Chris Todd, Sr., 6-4, 214
- QB Barrett Trotter, rFr., 6-2, 201
- QB Brent Poole, rFr., 6-2, 205
For the entirety of Brandon Cox‘s senior season, most Auburn fans wanted to see the three-year starter run out of town. Well, once he graduated they got their wish — a brand new starter. It wasn’t pretty. The quarterback situation last year was a mess of monumental proportions. Reports that Todd and Burns were so good in the preseason that Tony Franklin would be foolish not to play them both were greatly exaggerated. As it turned out, it wasn’t that they were both so good, it was simply that there was no separation between the two. Eventually, Franklin’s dismissal and Todd’s shoulder injury gave the starting job to Burns, who showed signs of promise in the final six games but still went 1-5 as a starter down the stretch. But it wasn’t enough for him to be handed the reins once Gus Malzahn was named Auburn’s new offensive coordinator. Now, the competition is still open.
Say what you will about Burns’ throwing ability, he has all the intangibles of a quarterback in terms of presence and leadership. He talks like a quarterback. He has that attitude. And for anyone who thinks that’s not part of the equation, you’re greatly mistaken. It counts. Caudle , after three years in limbo, finally has his shot at earning the job and doesn’t appear to be shying away from it. He’s neck-and-neck with Burns and showed a strong arm with some of his throws in the spring game. Despite playing against second- and third-team players, both Burns and Caudle appeared to have a decent grasp of the offense at A-Day, a positive sign coming just three and a half weeks after the team began installing Malzahn’s system.
There is still no clear starter, which isn’t a good sign. While Malzahn was extremely tight-lipped about getting too specific about the competition, it was clear that nobody wowed him enough in the spring to be given that No. 1 title heading into the summer. That kind of uncertainty can have a lasting affect, although this year’s coaching staff claims it will not go to the eve of the season to name a starter like last year’s group. Trotter, once a factor in the competition, tore his ACL in a non-contact drill late in the spring, making a comeback in time for the 2009 season a long shot. And Todd wasn’t able to throw throughout the spring after having offseason shoulder surgery. While the senior claims he’s learning the offense in team meetings and film work, it’s not the same as learning it on the field.
Auburn signed two quarterbacks in February, Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley. Rollison is the more physically gifted of the two, a dual-threat quarterback who put up some ridiculous numbers at Sulphur Springs, Texas. He would be a unique talent to join the roster if he qualifies (he told AuburnSports .com last month that he should be in but he’s taking the ACT one more time to be sure). Coaches claim Moseley, Alabama’s Mr. Football, is more similar to Rollison than people give him credit for, able to move and throw the ball. I doubt either of them play, however. The challenges of being a true freshman quarterback are simply too great. Auburn has four weeks of practice during two-a-days once these players arrive. That’s not much more than the three and a half weeks of spring practice it took to install the base offense. It’s one thing to know the offense. It’s another to be proficient in it.
Not many names to choose from here, but I’ll go with Caudle, simply because he’s the least established of the quarterbacks competing for the job. Caudle was never really given a chance by the previous coaching staff (they nearly bypassed him for Trotter during the second half of last season, after all) and looks like he’s enjoying being in the heat of the competition. He showed off a pretty strong arm on A-Day and claims he’s cut down on his interceptions, a persistent problem during his career. Malzahn wants a quarterback that is quick with his decisions, accurate with his passes and able to stretch the field on occasion. I think those criteria favor Caudle more than Burns right now.
BATTLE TO WATCH
There is no position battle more crucial to the team’s success than at quarterback. Burns and Caudle are the frontrunners, though I wouldn’t necessarily rule out Todd once he comes back from shoulder surgery (although it’s unlikely his shoulder returns to the strength where he can throw a football through a car wash without it getting wet). Malzahn has said he doesn’t want to rotate quarterbacks, so there will be one guy taking the snaps. It will certainly make for an interesting August.
THEY SAID IT
“I think you would like to have a guy but at the same time it’s a process. So the job’s still open and we’ll get to fall camp and we’ll find a guy and we’ll go from there. ” — Malzahn, reiterating the same thing he said at the beginning of the spring
7 — Passing touchdowns by Auburn last season, fewest in the SEC. League leader Florida has 33
THE END OF THE DAY
Auburn’s biggest question of the spring — who will start at quarterback? — did not have an answer, a predictable conclusion to a spring practice during which Malzahn took stock of the quarterbacks he had and installed the base elements of his offense. Naturally, it was going to be a process (one of the coaching staff’s favorite phrases when it comes to the quarterbacks), but you still would have liked someone to stand out. That Burns, a quarterback who has considerable starting experience, didn’t blow past Caudle, a quarterback with barely any game experience, tells me this might not be the most exceptional group next year.