Auburn's Tony Franklin Stakes Career on QB
Shortly after Kodi Burns scrambled into the end zone to win Auburn the Chick fil-A Bowl in overtime last December, Head Coach Tommy Tuberville made the following remark about Kodi.
“He’ll go in as No. 1. He’s earned that.”
Of course, Coach Tubs was talking about spring practice, not the first game, but many Auburn fans saw Kodi as the heir apparent, and a perfect fit for the Spread offense.
Yet, almost immediately, Auburn's newly-hired offensive coordinator, Tony Franklin, countered Tubs in the media, stating, in effect, that there would be no No. 1 going into the spring.
When spring rolled around, Todd, Franklin’s long-time student from his days consulting with high-school football teams, injured his throwing shoulder, and it obviously affected his play. But still, Franklin refused to name Kodi the No. 1.
But even Franklin couldn’t deny that Kodi’s passing ability had improved a great deal during the spring.
In the final scrimmage of the spring, Kodi completed 12 of 15 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns. In fact, in that scrimmage, Kodi completed his first 10 passes and also ran for 39 yards. This came against the a very stout Auburn defense.
Coach Tubs said, “I am really proud of Kodi Burns. He is very much improved. I like the way he ran the offense, and that is what you are looking for in a scrimmage like this at the end to see the control your quarterbacks have, especially in a new offense.”
But Kodi would still not be named the No. 1.
I know some people are saying, “But that’s a scrimmage. What has he done in a game?”
That’s the problem.
Kodi has played very sparingly so far this season. After the first game, in which Kodi and Todd alternated every other series (until Kodi was pulled for a slight injury in the third quarter), Franklin excused Todd’s abysmal performance by stating that it’s hard to get into a rhythm when you’re alternating series. I agree.
So the next game, Franklin started Todd and let him play in all but two series in the second half of the game. It was after this game, against Southern Miss, that Todd was named the starter.
In spite of Franklin’s statement about getting into a rhythm, Kodi has not played in consecutive series at all this year. Not even once.
Just like that, the QB race was over. That’s tantamount to me binding Usain Bolt’s ankles together and giving myself a 50 meter head-start and pretending I’m a faster runner than him. (Incidentally, I think Bolt would still beat me, but I’m trying to make a point here.)
Why am I sold on Kodi over Todd?
Kodi is a better runner.
And, it’s not even close. Todd is about as mobile as a sitting duck. He is no threat to run. I’m not sure why we run the option-freeze play, because no one is thinking he’s going to run. Also, Kodi’s mobility can provide some semblance of rhythm and consistency while this offense matures.
Kodi has the stronger arm.
For all the talk about Todd’s passing ability, it is apparent that he can’t pass the ball much farther than 30 yards. There were several occasions in the Mississippi State game when Todd had open receivers and he just under-threw them—the TV announcers commented on it, too.
Even when Todd completed these passes, the receivers had to wait on the ball, thus denying the potential for even longer gains or touchdowns.
Typically, in a QB race of this sort, you have a guy who passes better versus a guy who runs better. After the Mississippi State game, I'm convinced that Todd is the worst of both worlds. He routinely under-throws or just plain misses receivers, and he is no threat to run.
In addition, Kodi has more upside. He has more room to improve. Todd is already intimately familiar with this offense, and still, this is all he can produce. Kodi is still learning the system, yet he is at least as good as Todd is now.
The bottom line is that Tubs gives his coordinators a lot of rope. But he is not afraid to hang them with it if they don’t produce. And, over Tubs' tenure at Auburn, he has demoted or fired two coordinators after only one year of service.
For whatever reason, Franklin has decided to stake his job (and Auburn’s season) on Chris Todd. I’m just not sure that’s the best career move.
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