Tigers still seeking QB to turn season around

Published 7:29 pm Sunday, October 12, 2008

AUBURN – The Auburn Tigers didn’t figure they’d be in this position: Unranked, desperately trying to salvage a once-promising season and still seeking a quarterback solution seven games into the season.

The good news for the Tigers (4-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) is they have an open date to find answers before West Virginia, following Saturday’s 25-22 loss to heavy underdog Arkansas. The bad news is seven games and one firing couldn’t supply a cure for the preseason SEC West favorites.

“We haven’t given up,” quarterback Kodi Burns said. “Just for Auburn to be 4-3, it’s not Auburn. Guys know when they come to this school that we’re a winning team and we should have a winning record and we should be going to a great bowl, and an SEC championship is on your mind at all times, every single year.”

Not this year. Not anymore.

The Tigers have lost back-to-back games for the second straight year, and have fallen from the polls both times.

The most pressing concerns are finding a quarterback who can get the offense going and getting a laundry list of injured players back.

Tuberville said he is exploring other possibilities besides Burns and Todd.

That could mean little-used third-teamer Neil Caudle or freshman Barrett Trotter, who is in line for a redshirt season.

“We’re going to look at all options,” Tuberville said. “I’ve got to talk to Neil Caudle and see his frame of mind. Obviously we’ll look at Barrett. If we did decide to do that and he wanted to do it, we wouldn’t play him four or five plays. We’d put him out there and let him go. He could help.

“There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge the next couple of days to see if that’s going to happen.”

Burns and Todd combined to throw three interceptions and complete 10 passes.

Burns had consecutive plays on an early drive where he overthrew a wide-open Tim Hawthorne deep in Arkansas territory and couldn’t connect with Rod Smith in the end zone. He also failed to produce a go-ahead touchdown on four consecutive plays from inside the Razorbacks’ 5-yard line in the final minutes and was intercepted on his last pass.

Todd also was picked off after forcing a ball into heavy coverage.

Tuberville said Burns still has to figure into the Tigers’ plans. He was more noncommittal about Todd, who had shoulder surgery last year.

“We wouldn’t be talking about these other things if we thought Chris could get it done,” Tuberville said. “That doesn’t mean he can’t. I just think Chris’ arm, if you look at it, isn’t 100 percent.

“He made a couple bad decisions (Saturday) night. I’m not down on Chris. He’s got to understand, if you play like that, you’ve got to work your way back in.”

The Tigers, meanwhile, fell to 108th nationally in total offense and only five spots better in passing yards.

Limping tailbacks was one problem. Ben Tate was limited with a hamstring injury, and Lester was hit twice on his sprained knee, Tuberville said.

The defense was hobbled without cornerback Jerraud Powers (hamstring) and linebacker Tray Blackmon (wrist). Receiver Robert Dunn and defensive ends Antoine Carter and Michael Goggans were also limited by ankle injuries, Tuberville said. Tuberville said doctors plan to X-ray Blackmon’s wrist this week, and it might require surgery. He said Powers and Carter were “50-50” for the West Virginia game.

Besides the injuries, Tuberville fired offensive coordinator Tony Franklin in the middle of last week.

He said he’s not worried about the team’s focus slipping away.

“We’re not going to lose this team,” he said.

Tuberville, whose 49-19 league mark since 2000 trails only LSU, has already been asked if he feared his job was in jeopardy following losses to Vanderbilt and the Razorbacks. It’s the first time the Tigers have lost back-to-back SEC games since 2003.

“That’s the nature of this business. That’s the nature of this state,” Tuberville said. “We’ve lost a few games. We’ve won a lot around here. I think that goes a long way. I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about this team winning and keeping them focused.”