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August 13, 2009Mark Johnson
Special to AuburnSports.com
AUBURN, Ala. - Chris Todd had no idea what to expect when fall camp began.
The senior quarterback knew he was behind in the starting competition after he missed all of spring practice while recovering from shoulder surgery.
He knew the time frame for him to enter the quarterback race wouldn't be long.
Thursday, Todd found out he did enough during the first eight practices for coach Gene Chizik and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to name him Auburn's starting quarterback.
"I really didn't know what to expect," Todd said. "I knew what Coach Malzahn's expectations were. I knew what he wanted to do, but I knew it would be hard. I knew it would be a really short window of opportunity to win the job. I knew I'd have to come out and compete hard."
Malzahn said before the Tigers opened camp that Kodi Burns and
Neil Caudle would open as the leaders. Malzahn also remained committed to giving all newcomers a chance.
That gave Todd's shoulder a chance to regain the strength that once led former offensive coordinator Tony Franklin to say he could throw a ball through a car wash without it getting wet.
Todd cautiously avoids saying it's as good as it ever was, but he says it's as strong as it's been since he came to Auburn from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.
Just two days after the first scrimmage, Chizik had seen enough to name Todd the starter.
"In the evaluation process, we had to throw all the factors in there," Chizik said. "He hasn't played 15 days in the spring, has done some really good things up to date and we can't keep repping all these guys. We've got to make decisions and go with them. Some of them are tough.
"His shoulder feels good. He's throwing the ball well. We had to narrow it down and we had to narrow it down sooner rather than later to get these repetitions built up. Again, we just feel like the limited time he's been in this offense, he's shown the flashes that we need to see to give us what we think is the best chance to win."
Todd received word about being the starter during a meeting with Malzahn and Chizik. He said he has no idea the news was coming.
Though Todd has been named the starter, he said he must continue to work hard to keep the spot.
Chizik is just happy to have found his starting quarterback.
"At the end of the day we're going to make the decision that we feel gives us the best chance to win," Chizik said. "So that's what we did."
Chizik said they haven't settled on a No. 2 quarterback between Caudle and true freshman Tyrik Rollison.
"We're really repping Tyrik right now to see how fast he can come along," Chizik said. "Obviously he wasn't here in spring practice. He's shown some flashes of being a very good quarterback just like he was in high school, but we need to know more."
With Todd now the starter, Kodi Burns, who started seven games at quarterback last season and also was battling for the starting position, said he plans to help the team in other ways this season. At Thursday's practice, he was working as a slot receiver.
"We feel like we can play him at some Wildcat - do some Wildcat things on offense - as well as put him over there at wide receiver," Chizik said. "He went over there tonight, did a great job. Obviously he understands that position, being a quarterback. He's very athletic and we want to give him every opportunity to help our football team win football games."
AuburnSports.com publisher Bryan Matthews contributed to this report.