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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Todd won't be judged on few mistakes

The Chris Todd era has begun for no. 9 Auburn's offense and it won't change based on one mistake.

Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville made that clear during his weekly press conference on Tuesday.

"He's going to be the guy given the reins," Tuberville said. "It won't be a short leash."

Todd was named the Tigers' starting quarterback after a lengthy competition between he and Kodi Burns for the top spot.

Tuberville said Burns would still have a role in the offense.

"Kodi is going to be ready to come in at any time, special situations, and crucial situations when things aren't going too well," Tuberville said.

Todd was considered the favorite entering spring camp, but missed a significant portion of practice while still recovering from a shoulder injury he suffered while playing for Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.

Burns made a late push during spring practice and finished with impressive performances in both Auburn's spring game and the team's final scrimmage.

Both quarterbacks played in the first two games, but neither played well against Louisiana-Monroe in the alternating-series rotation. Todd started against Southern Mississippi and played very well, throwing for 248 yards.

Todd's performance prompted Tuberville and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin to name him the starter.

"I'm glad that we've got two quarterbacks, but I'm also glad that we've got one guy that everyone can look at as the guy that's going to play well for us and lead this team," Tuberville said.

Tigers getting healthy

Last week, Auburn had to wonder if it would have any players left by the end of September.

Now, the Tigers are near full-strength as they prepare for Mississippi State.

Tuberville said receiver James Swinton is healthy and will play this week.

Another receiver, Montez Billings, made his return to the lineup on Saturday. Tailback Tristan Davis also played after missing the season-opener.

The only players who won't be available this week are offensive lineman Kyle Coulahan (recovering from pneumonia) and fullback John Douglas (knee).

McKenzie still wants to play TE

Three weeks after Gabe McKenzie moved from tight end to defensive end, he said he has adjusted well to defense.

McKenzie admitted Auburn's schemes are significantly more complicated than the ones to which he adhered during high school - especially the gap assignments.

"I can say I'm almost there," McKenzie said. "On film, Mike (Goggans) does stuff like a half-step faster than me. I've just got to get a little bit quicker and then I'll be OK."

McKenzie said he has no regrets about moving to defense, but he wants to have a chance to play offense as well.

"I want to play a little more tight end," McKenzie said. "I'll put that out there. They told me they'd put me there when they need me over there."

All in the hands

Zach Clayton has made the most of his limited playing time through Auburn's first two games this season.

The Opelika native earned his first sack of the season on Saturday and he has two other tackles for losses. All three of Clayton's tackles have been for loss this year, meaning he's doing exactly what he's supposed to - helping the Tigers control the line of scrimmage even when the reserves are in the game.

Clayton said his handwork is the biggest reasons he's seeing immediate results.

"I think I'm using my hands a lot better," Clayton said. "I was really bad about using my forearms and not using my hands real well. I think it's come a long way, but it still has to improve a good bit."

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