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Monday, September 8, 2008

Chris Todd earns starting quarterback job

Resolution to Auburn's formerly restless quarterback competition was difficult news for newly-named backup Kodi Burns.

Chris Todd emerged as the Tigers' starting quarterback after he completed 21-of-31 passes for 248 yards during No. 9 Auburn's 27-13 win over Southern Mississippi.

Todd's 248 passing yards were the most an Auburn quarterback had thrown for since Nov. 4, 2006.

Conversely, Burns missed on all three passes and had an interception. He did rush for a touchdown, but it capped off a drive that Todd led to the USM 1-yard line.

Following the game, Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville named Todd the starter.

"Things happen, and I've just got to make the most of it," Burns said. "I'm going to stay positive, and I'm going to be happy about it, be happy that I'm still here for my team.

"Chris is a good quarterback, and (offensive coordinator Tony) Franklin made the decision that he needed to make and what he thought was best for the team. I'm just going to stay positive, and when my time comes, when my name gets called, hopefully people will get to see what I can really do."

In essence, that is Burns' reduced role. He now is the quarterback pinch-hitter, biding time and hoping for another opportunity.

It's a role Todd understands. In 2006, Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell beat him out for the starting position. Ultimately, Todd transferred to Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College before coming to Auburn in the spring.

"I went through the same process that he's going through," Todd said. "It's tough. You've just got to kind of keep going with it. I'm going to try to help him do that. He's got a lot to offer."

The decision to name Todd the starter ended a short-lived two-quarterback system.

Franklin seemed relieved to have a clear-cut starter named after he planned to use both quarterbacks throughout the season.

"It's been a really difficult thing for me because I thought I could do it," Franklin said. "I proved I couldn't. I think history probably has proven it, too, time and time again. You need to pick somebody and play him."

Franklin still plans to use Burns, but he doesn't know exactly in what capacity.

Burns started Auburn's season-opener, but he and Todd struggled with the every-other-series rotation. Burns finished with the better numbers of the two, but neither looked prepared to lead a top-10 team's offense.

Franklin said last week that he planned to stick with whomever got the hot hand. Tuberville announced Todd would start, and the junior college transfer came out hot.

He led two would-be scoring drives that ended because of running back fumbles. Then he led two more touchdown drives to give Auburn a 14-0 halftime lead.

Franklin inserted Burns into the lineup on the Tigers' first drive of the second half, but neither he nor Todd looked in sync when they started rotating again.

"I think I got a fair shot," said Burns, who was on the field for only six plays on Saturday. "They're not going to play favorites. They're going to put who they feel like's supposed to be on the field."

Burns met with Tuberville Sunday afternoon before the team practiced.

Tuberville said Burns could be used in goal-line situations but stressed that Burns is capable of more and has improved a great deal in the passing game.

"When you're competitive and want to play -- and it's not anything complaining," Tuberville said. "It's, 'What do I need to do to get better. Where am I at in your eyes? I hear what the coach is telling me, what do you think? What do I need to do?' Kodi's a competitor, and he's going to be there whether he's playing or not playing."

More importantly, Burns will be waiting for his opportunity and trying to crack the starting lineup.

Just like a pinch-hitter.

"He can put me in here and there or whatever he wants to do," Burns said. "Whenever he calls my name. All I can do is be ready when that time comes."

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