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Auburn players say true freshman quarterback Kodi Burns is seeing more action in practice this week.
AP photo by Todd Van Emst
Auburn players say true freshman quarterback Kodi Burns is seeing more action in practice this week.

Burns practicing
as running QB

Auburn looking for offensive
punch after lackluster start

By Ross Dellenger
sports@decaturdaily.com 340-2462

AUBURN — Two days after suffering a stunning home loss to South Florida, Auburn's offensive game plan became more interesting Tuesday.

According to receiver Robert Dunn, true freshman quarterback Kodi Burns has been practicing with the team this week in a role similar to how Florida used quarterback Tim Tebow last season.

"They are kind of giving him the same treatment that Florida gave Tebow last year," Dunn said, "kind of putting him in and letting him run a couple of draws."

Auburn's practices have been closed since Aug. 16, and reporters were told Tuesday that Burns had a morning class. He never showed in the interview room.

Burns said in early August: "I feel like I could do what Tebow did — come in the game and give the defense a different look every now and then."

Tebow, now a starter for the Gators, came off the bench in 2006, sporadically replacing starter Chris Leak. The thick-framed freshman was utilized as a running back more than a quarterback, rushing for 469 yards on 89 carries and scoring eight touchdowns.

"If the coaches feel like he's ready, I don't see what's wrong with giving him an opportunity," Dunn said.

Even before preseason practice kicked off, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville alluded to Burns in a scrambling type of role, saying "we'll run a little bit different offense at times if we were to use Kodi."

It looked for a while like Auburn would use Burns, especially after an impressive scrimmage Aug. 11, but that idea has diminished.

Tuberville said Sunday "a couple more games go by, Kodi will be looking at redshirting for sure."

But given players' dubious comments Tuesday, Burns seems to be back in the mix, at least in practice.

When asked if Burns will play Saturday, defensive end Quentin Groves said, "That's confidential."

And backup quarterback Blake Field, who won the No. 2 job over Burns, refused to divulge any information when asked about the distribution of snaps in practice.

"I'm not at liberty to say right now," he said.

"Brandon's still our starter right now. That's all I am going to say. I am still working to be his backup if something happens."

Asked why he is hushed on the issue, Field said, "We're just trying to keep everything within the football team."

About two hours after player interviews, Tuberville had his regular news conference. He didn't mention Burns at all, but he adamantly defended his starting quarterback in his opening address.

"I know Brandon Cox has taken a lot of heat," Tuberville said. "Brandon Cox is our quarterback. He will be our quarterback. He is our starting quarterback."

Cox took the podium to answer questions shortly after Tuberville stepped down. His message was authoritative.

"I am the starter," he said. "Nothing's been said about it, so I am just approaching it that way."

The peak of Burns' 6-week-long Auburn career came during that first preseason scrimmage, when he awed players and coaches with his 40-yard dash speed of 4.5 seconds, scrambling from the pocket for several long runs.

But Groves said Burns also displayed a strong arm.

"Everybody knows he has a cannon," Groves said Tuesday. "(In the scrimmage) when he stopped and threw an 80-yard bomb, that's kind of hard to do if you don't have arm strength."

Groves got just a glimpse of Burns during Tuesday's practice, saying, "He looked pretty good."

He said he thinks Burns could alleviate the pressure on the more static Cox, who coaches say has been forcing passes. But still, Groves stands behind Cox.

"You got to realize, Kodi's a true freshman. You can't take a fifth-year senior and replace him with a true freshman," Groves said. "It's just not going to work. You can't make up for experience with athletic ability."

Despite his comments about Burns, Dunn also stood behind the embattled Cox, who has thrown four interceptions during the first two games.

"He's the quarterback. He's the man here," Dunn said. "I feel like he's the leader of the offense."

The 6-foot-1, 199-pound Burns threw for 1,903 yards and 23 touchdowns, while running for 835 yards and scoring 13 touchdowns as a senior last year at Northside High School in Fort Smith, Ark. He was ranked the No. 8 dual-threat quarterback in the nation by Rivals.com.

"I feel like everybody deserves a fair opportunity to get their share of playing time," Dunn said. "If he's ready, if he can get in and keep things rolling, then I say: 'Why not?' "

Mississippi State at Auburn

Saturday
11:30 a.m.
WZDX-54

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