The thud you heard Thursday night wasn’t from the storms rumbling across the South, but from Auburn’s fanbase reacting to the naming of Chris Toddas quarterback. Todd’s claim on the job was the biggest upset since – well, Gene Chizik. What’s next? Kodi Burns moves to wide receiver?
If there was one player that was the poster child for the 2008 debacle it was Todd. When he went down with a shoulder injury in the second half of last season most believed they’d seen the last of Kentucky’s all-time leading high school passer.
In case you missed it or didn’t care at the time, Todd was absent from spring practice recovering from shoulder surgery. No big deal, right? Did anyone really believe he’d have the guts to take another shot at the job?
Like a bear that lurks in the woods while you walk, Todd remained in the shadows during summer workouts. He was hardly mentioned the first week of camp and was relegated to practicing with the freshmen while Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle practiced with the upper classmen. What was this guy thinking?
Auburn coaches sensed that maybe, just maybe the Chris Todd story had a few more chapters to go. After the first week of practice they were sure of it. The first clue came following Tuesday’s scrimmage. Quarterback Neil Caudle said he was pleased with his play after going three and out on his first drive and throwing an interception on the second. Peterno is not my middle name, but I can tell you that didn’t sound good.
While Todd was making his move like Y. E. Yang on Sunday at the PGA, Burns was doing his best Padraig Harrington impression, fading off the depth chart for perhaps the last time. While Burns will likely see some snaps in the Wildcat formation, his career as quarterback at Auburn is done.
So why not Chris Todd?
Auburn coaches promise the limp passing arm is a thing of the past. Players have talked all summer about the new zip he puts on the football. And all of us can learn from his perseverance. How many of you gave him a punchers chance of ever setting foot on the field again? I had him buried long ago.
Of course there are no guarantees for Todd. He’s been named starter for the Louisiana Tech game. That’s the only promise he’s got. Neil Caudle may be running second team, but most people close to practice say Tyrik Rollison is closing fast. Should Todd stumble don’t be surprised to see Rollison get his shot. If Southern Cal can start a true freshman, Auburn certainly can.
Burns Earns The Respect of His Team
Burns story continues to be one of peaks and valleys. It seems like he’s been on campus for a decade. There’s little doubt he’s officially broken the record for the number of times an Auburn quarterback has won and lost his job. We just thought former Auburn quarterback Pat Washington’s career was a roller coaster.
But give Burns credit: He’s handled this recent adversity like a champion. I’ve said it here before: One of the things I love most about college football is the players and the lessons we learn from them. As hard as it is for me to believe, I graduated from Auburn before many of these guys were born; yet they continue to teach me lessons.
Burns may never end up an all-time Auburn great, but the way he handled his move to wide receiver last week is something I’ll never forget. In one of the finest acts ever by an Auburn player, Burns addressed the team following the announcement of Todd as starter and gave a rousing endorsement of his rival and teammate. He publicly endorsed Todd for the job and asked his teammates to get behind the senior.
“This year, the coaching staff came in and everything was fair,” said a disappointed Burns following the announcement. “I’m just thankful that I had a chance.” Burns actions left an impression on Chizik. “He wanted to say some words to our team – truly, truly inspirational, very heartfelt,” Chizik said. “He showed truly who he is today – just a guy with a lot of character and what a great competitor. I couldn’t be more proud of a player (Burns) today, accepting the decision the way he did.”
Imagine working your entire life for something and falling short. How would you handle it? Would you quit? Would you be bitter? Truthfully, I’m not sure how I would deal with it. But after watching a 20 year-old kid last week in the most public of situations, I now have the template on how to do it.