Kodi or Chris: who will it be?

Published 10:08 pm Thursday, July 31, 2008

AUBURN – Now, Auburn’s real quarterback competition can begin.

Contenders Chris Todd and Kodi Burns settled little over the spring, partly because Todd was having shoulder troubles. They resume the race for the starting job when fall camp opens Saturday.

It’s the biggest question facing the Tigers: Who will operate Tony Franklin’s new spread offense? None of the principles seem particularly concerned, and Auburn was nonetheless the popular pick to win the Southeastern Conference Western Division.

Franklin said he doesn’t have a timetable for picking a winner.

“I hope that one of them separates himself and says, I’m by far the best, and you need to play me most of the time if not all the time,” Auburn’s new offensive coordinator said. “If that happens, it’s good. It makes it easier for me. If it doesn’t happen, they both have their strengths, and I see them both playing. I see it as being a good problem, not a bad problem.”

Coach Tommy Tuberville said Burns is the tentative No. 1, but that he wouldn’t be surprised if Todd overtakes him. Tuberville doesn’t want an either-or situation heading into the season.

“I’m a true believer that your quarterback is the leader of your football team in terms of your locker room, your sideline – not just for your offense but for your defense and your kicking game,” he said. “We will have a true starter.”

Tuberville estimated Todd’s right, throwing shoulder was only “80 percent” healthy during the spring, which didn’t give coaches a fully accurate look at the junior college transfer.

Todd said his arm has held up well as he increased his throwing regimen into the summer.

“From where it was in the spring, it’s a drastic difference,” he said. “I think a lot of it was working out again and being able to get some strength back in it and being able to throw and just build it back up. I can make all the throws now, especially the deep stuff and the stuff on the sidelines that I couldn’t quite make during the spring.”

Burns was mostly used as a runner last season in alternating with starter Brandon Cox. He attempted only 26 passes while logging 54 carries in nine games.

Both contenders said having the competition helped serve as motivation during the summer. Burns said he’s not stressing about the situation.

“Everybody wants to be the starter, but he’s a good quarterback and having him here to push me just makes you better,” Burns said. “There’s always going to be pressure at the quarterback position. The good ones are able to handle pressure and I believe I’m able to handle pressure.

“All I’m worried about is making the team better and trying to be a better quarterback for my team.”

He said Franklin has stressed that he needs to improve his footwork and develop a quicker release. “I feel like I’ve gotten my release a lot quicker, but I’ve got to keep working on my footwork,” Burns said.

His role didn’t change much in his debut under Franklin. Burns completed only one pass against Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl but rushed for a team-high 69 yards while alternating with Brandon Cox.

Burns is more of a scrambler than Todd, who started his college career with pass-happy Texas Tech before transferring to Hutchinson Community College.

Franklin thinks this is not a starter-by-default scenario.

“It’s one of those things people sometimes say if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one,” he said. “I think in this situation we really have two. They’re uniquely different.

“That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”