It's still the most popular question among Auburn fans concerning the 2009 football team: Who is going to be the starting QB for the Tigers when they take the field for the Sept. 5 opener against Louisiana Tech? The three front runners seem to be Neil Caudle, Kodi Burns and Chris Todd with hotshot freshman Tyrik Rollison having a small window of opportunity followed by fellow freshman Clint Mosely, who almost surely is a lock to redshirt and try his hand again next year. Chris Todd and Kodi Burns both have starting experience under their belts, which gives them an advantage over Caudle and Rollison. Neil Caudle is thought to be an accurate passer having good zip on the ball with the question marks being his decision making and game management. Rollison may have been the prize recruit of the 2009 recruiting class. He has all the accolades: a four-star recruit out of the football hotbed state of Texas (Sulphur Springs, TX). No. 2 ranked dual-threat QB in the country. A throw-first QB that has pin-point accuracy to go along with a strong arm, but can pull it down and run if he needs to. 74% completion rate as a senior at Sulphur Springs High School. U.S. Army All-American.
Let's look at all the contenders a little bit closer:
1. Kodi Burns - I think it's time for the coaches to move on from Burns. If coaches have seen the same thing that we, as fans, saw in the games last year and in the videos of the spring practices as well as the first four fall practices, I honestly don't see how this guy is still in the running for the job. Burns has had two and half years to win the job and show that he can be the man to lead this offense and he has yet to do it. His mechanics, from what I have seen on the videos of practice, have gotten no better than last year. The guy can't throw the ball, and I just don't think the team can win football games in the SEC with him at QB. Not to mention that Caudle's A-Day performance blew Burns' out of the water (I still don't know how Caudle didn't separate himself more after that performance...Weird.) Maybe the videographer just catches all of Kodi's bad throws at practice and the rest are good, but I just can't see him being the QB of the team. Maybe Gus Malzahn sees something in Kodi that we don't. He is watching him everyday at practice.
2. Neil Caudle - This is the guy that has all the Auburn fans excited. An Elite 11 QB coming out of high school, Caudle was redshirted his freshman year and was going to be the next great QB at Auburn once Brandon Cox left. However, Caudle suffered many nagging injuries that kept him on the sideline and he slowly fell out of favor with the previous coaching staff. Now a new regime is in town, and that means a fresh start for Caudle. Caudle is hands down a better thrower than Burns, showing good accuracy to go along with a strong arm. The knock on Caudle, other than injuries, is his decision making. Sometimes he develops Brett Favre syndrome, thinking he can fit a pass into any size window when really he should just dump the ball off to his checkdown or throw the ball away. That's a big no-no in the SEC, and that will lead to a lot of INTs. Caudle seemed to make better decisions in the A-Day Game, and after his performance in the game, I really thought he was going to be named the starter. But the coaches were hesitant because he wasn't playing against the greatest defense in the world, and they wanted to give Chris Todd a fair look in the fall. Todd missed all spring recovering from shoulder surgery.
3. Chris Todd - This guy is the wild card. Todd started half the season last year, and his performance was very hard to watch (as was Burns' performance). Todd originally committed to Troy, where Tony Franklin was the offensive coordinator, but previous head coach Tommy Tuberville hired Franklin away from Troy to be the Tigers' new OC and Todd followed Franklin to Auburn. Todd hurt his throwing shoulder while in junior college, and it was very clear by his performance that his shoulder was still nowhere near healthy. However, word from Auburn is that Todd's shoulder is as healthy as it's been in a while and he is throwing his passes with more zip. Of course, this is the same thing we heard last fall when anybody would ask about Todd's shoulder. I'm sorry, but I'm taking the wait-and-see approach with Todd. Until he proves that he can fit a ball into a tight window with some zip and can throw a deep ball that doesn't stay in the air for more than what seems like ten seconds, I won't be in favor of Todd being our starting QB. But, then again, Malzahn is there to watch practice everyday and maybe Todd's shoulder really is healthy now. But he continues to ice his shoulder constantly so I highly doubt that his shoulder is where it needs to be to be a starting QB in the SEC.
4. Tyrik Rollison - If Neil Caudle has Auburn fans excited, then Rollison has Auburn fans freakin' ecstatic! As previously mentioned, he comes in with all the accolades, and I think this kid has the makings of something special for years to come. The scouting report on him is that he is a deadly accurate passer with a stong arm and good footwork. From the small sample size I've seen on video of him in fall practice so far, I strongly agree. This guy is a quarterback, not an athlete. He may be one of the best if not the best thrower on the team already. But the learning curve will be steep as a true freshman and learning Malzahn's complex playbook in a short amount of time will obviously be Rollison's biggest challenge. But this kid will be the real deal in the future ( if not now).
Why can't Tyrik Rollison be the starting QB of the Auburn football team this season? Fans and coaches say that it is hard for a freshman to come in and play right away, especially at the QB position, because he has to learn the playbook in a short amount of time as well as get used to the speed of the college game, and I totally agree with that. I would love for Tyrik to redshirt, add some weight to his frame and really learn the playbook. I would love for one of the more experienced QBs to step up, be a leader of this team and take the reigns of this offense. However, my question is this: If one of the more experienced QBs hasn't stepped up yet and separated himself from everybody else as "the guy", then what does that say about our QB situation? This group of QBs as a unit is not exactly Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez. In fact, I would go far as to say that we have one of the worst QB units in the SEC if not the worst. You can call me a basher if you want to, but I'm just looking at things realistically based on what I saw last year. The talent level of the QBs of the upperclassmen is weak, and Rollison isn't being blocked by anybody. My gut feeling is that Caudle steps up and has a good year for us as the starting QB, but if not, I could see Rollison making some noise at QB.