By Jay Coulter
What a difference a year makes. A year ago, Brandon Cox was the cover boy for an Auburn team poised to make another run at the SEC and national championship. He was on virtually every preseason All-SEC team. He was one of the most sought after interviews in the SEC.
Fast forward one year and Cox hardly gets a mention in the national press. Heck, he even got left off the Davey O’Brien Watch List for the nation’s top quarterback. There were 35 others chosen ahead of him. Even Troy’s quarterback, Omar Haugabook made the list. Yeah that Troy – as in Troy State.
What did Cox do to deserve this? Well, he went out and played his heart out in a win over LSU at home last season. He suffered a leg injury that should have sidelined him at least half the year (if you saw the pictures on the internet you won’t argue that point).
Cox continued playing on; leading Auburn to wins over Florida, Alabama and Nebraska among others. Did I mention that Auburn also won 11 games? Despite being able to hardly walk, Cox managed to throw for more than 2,000 yards and 14 touchdowns and was ranked fifth in the conference in passing efficiency.
Oh and by the way, he lost three receivers to graduation that had more than 3,000 yards in receptions while on the Plains.
Last year’s performance was one of the gutsiest we have seen in recent memory. As a starter Cox is 19-5 overall and an astounding 13-3 in SEC play.
Look me in the eyes and tell me he’s not one of the top 35 quarterbacks in the country. The last Auburn quarterback to be treated so badly by the media was a guy named Jason Campbell. He was also left off the O’Brien Watch List.
A quarterback’s senior season is make or break time. Regardless of how he’s fared in the past, it all comes down to what happens that senior season. There’s no doubt Brandon Cox knows this fact.
Auburn has had pretty good luck with experienced senior quarterbacks. We all know what Jason Campbell did in his last try. Ben Leard won nine games in 2000 as Tuberville was beginning to turn the Tiger program around.
Dameyune Craig won 10 games as a senior in 1997. And who can forget Stan White’s performance during the 1993 campaign. 11-0.
History says that Cox will have a good season. However, he does have several big hurdles to overcome.
With a red-shirt freshman and a true freshman starting on the offensive line, Cox will be thankful that he has his mobility back. What will help him is the return of Cole Bennett at tight-end. Not only is Bennett a solid blocker, but he’ll help open up the play action pass for Cox. That’s something that all but disappeared a year ago.
Cox will also have to deal with a group of wide receivers who are talented, but lack receptions. Rod Smith and Prechae Rodriguez spent a lot of time on the field last season, but most of the passes went to Courtney Taylor. Add to this the inconsistent play of the receiving corp in fall practice and you have to be concerned.
Despite all this, you can’t put a value on having a senior quarterback line-up in the SEC. Brandon Cox is good for 7-10 points a game just by stepping on the field. Offensive Coordinator Al Borges has promised to open up the offense and finally showcase all of Cox’s skills.
With the road schedule Auburn is facing, matching 11 wins again this year is nearly impossible. But that still won’t mean that Cox isn’t one of the top quarterbacks in the conference and country.
You can bet the O’ Brien snub has not been lost on Cox or Borges. You can also bet on Cox being one of the top quarterbacks in the country come November.