Decision Time for Chizik and Malzahn

Remember the days when Auburn fans used to complain about Brandon Cox? Little did anyone know those would be fondly remembered as the good ole days. Auburn's quarterback controversy begins its second third year on Wednesday when new Auburn Coach Gene Chizik opens fall camp on the Plains.

Rivaled in length only by Minnesota's senate race, Auburn Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn promises a decision on a starter will be made in the next week or so.

"With the situation we're in we have to find a guy as soon as possible," Malzahn said. "It's hard to say a certain time right now -- a week or two weeks -- but there will be an evaluation stage fairly quick, ideally, to name a guy as soon as we can once we know 100 percent that's our guy so you can start to develop that timing."

Raise your hand if you believe Malzahn will really settle on one quarterback.

No offense coach (and no pun intended), but Tiger fans have been hearing this talk since way back in the day when Al Borges was considered a brilliant offensive mind. Has it really been three seasons since Cox imploded against Miss State and the first of many quarterbacking controversies erupted? Time does fly when you are circling the drain.

The off-season has been focused on the usual suspects, Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle. And then there's Chris Todd, who the very mention of his name induces illness in Auburn fans similar to a case of summer camp Swine Flu. If there's ever been someone guilty by association more than Todd, then I haven't met him.

The money is on either Burns or Caudle, but don't discount freshman Tyrick Rollison. Malzahn seemed to open the door for him (perhaps ever so slightly) this week when asked whether or not he'd start a freshman. "I am familiar with starting a true freshman but at the same time, in this league, you got to have a guy that's not only extremely talented but has to have a little extra as far as leadership and character. It's pretty rare you find a freshman that's capable of doing that," Malzahn said.

And let's not forget, he's done it before.

You'll remember Malzahn's last visit to Jordan-Hare Stadium back in 2006 when he brought heralded freshman Mitch Mustain to campus. Despite the off field issues, Mustain succeeded in ways he hasn't since, leading the Razorbacks to an 8-0 record as a starter.

The big question remains: Will Malzahn make a decision in fall camp and stick with it through the season or will the announcement of a starter be written in pencil and subject to change each week? You have to believe he has an idea already of who he's going to select. After spring practice and eight months of film watching, it's doubtful another week is going to make a difference.

On paper Burns is the prototypical quarterback. This offense was made for his abilities. Watching him play last season and this spring tells you something else entirely. Many like to point to the breakout season Jason Campbell had his senior campaign with a new offensive coordinator.

That analogy is like comparing apples to Martians. Campbell was in an entirely different league from Burns heading into his final year. Whether its game pressure or lack of confidence, Burns is beginning to show signs of a bust not seen since Leon Hart left campus.

Talk about Caudle and you must talk about his backup in the same breath. The highly recruited Spain Park quarterback has been more fragile than peace in the Middle East. After missing most of his senior year of high school because of wrist and knee injuries, Caudle has continued to suffer from nagging ailments. 

His stock shot through the roof with fans following his solid A-Day performance. It's probably a good idea for all of us to take a dose of reality and realize that Ted Roof's defense was in a base formation all day and not allowed to blitz. Caudle's performance was promising but must be tempered with reality.

Regardless of who gets the opening day nod, the road is likely to be rocky. Not having a lot of talent to throw to can pose problems even for Tim Tebow. We'll learn a lot about this coaching staff in the next couple of months. When the going gets tough will they stick with the plan or change like the wind?

The same question can be asked of Auburn fans. It will be real easy to jump off the train this year. We need to all remember this one has just left the station and there are plenty of mountains still to climb.

The coming weeks are what makes college football great. Are you ready?

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