The Future of Kodi Burns
Message board chatter only really, but some Auburn fans have been wondering aloud if uber-recruit Tyrik Rollison would be able to come in and lead the 2009 Tigers.
Still others have been wondering aloud if Neil Caudle will take over the offense, or if Chris Todd will be healthy enough to take the reigns.
Has everyone forgotten about Kodi Burns?
If so, why?
It’s my opinion only, but if there is one thing Tony Franklin did at Auburn, that we will still be dealing as Auburn fans in the 2009 season, it’s the possibility that Tony Franklin absolutely destroyed Kodi Burns as a QB.
Perhaps “destroyed” is too strong a word. I’m mainly pointing to last year’s game vs Tennessee, which I believe was a turning point (and not a good one) for the team.
A couple of different takes on that game. First from ESPN:
Jake Ricks only had to fall on the ball, and backup quarterback Kodi Burns merely had to throw it a few yards.
They still provided the biggest plays for No. 15 Auburn.
A little reminder. This was when Todd was “the guy” even though he had a noodle arm and a penchant for throwing to guys in different colored jerseys.
Burns rolled right, spotted Montez Billings open on the right sideline to convert a third-and-5 and allow Auburn (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) to kneel on the final plays of the game.
It also might have helped renew a quarterback controversy for the Tigers.
"All I knew was we had to get a first down," said Burns, who hadn't played in the last two games. "Get a first down and we win this game. I rolled out and saw that cornerback back off and open up just a little window."
Yes. You read that right. No play in the previous two games (That would be the soccer game we called a 3-2 win against Mississippi State and the heartbreaker to LSU).
Burns' final pass capped an offensive performance that drew plenty of boos from the fans in the fourth quarter, and didn't exactly end what might be a brewing quarterback controversy with Burns and Chris Todd. Tuberville said the situation would be settled during the week and both would likely play.
Auburn fans offered one of their biggest cheers when Burns replaced Todd with 5:59 left. Burns wound up losing 2 yards on three straight quarterback keepers.
Again, you read that right, Auburn had just replaced its quarterback and instead of trying something different through the air, Auburn decided to run THREE STRAIGHT QB keepers.
Now to the Auburn reaction. Where instead of praising Burns for being thrown into the fire and not losing his cool, Franklin decided to, instead, throw him under the bus:
Both coaches said Burns let the adrenaline get the better of him at times in Saturday's victory over Tennessee. Franklin said Burns has been consistently improving in practice, but has not done as well in games(A).
"When the lights have flipped on, he's gone through one progression and taken off and run(B)," Franklin said. "I think he gets caught up in the enthusiasm and the hoo-rah and everybody is 'Kodi, Kodi, Kodi,' and the adrenaline takes over. You can't let it happen. As a quarterback, you can't ever get emotional(C). You've got to just be cool. You've got to be level all the way through. You've got to handle adversity and you've got to handle prosperity."
A) Whose fault is that? Again, straight editorializing and speculation on my part, but it could be the fact that he hadn’t seen the field in two games, had been mainly used a running back in the quarterback slot or the fact that he hadn’t been properly coached. More on this in a moment.
B) I can’t find the full game online, however, I can tell you two things about this and it’s evidenced in the clip below, the reason Kodi kept taking off during that game is because he got absolutely NO protection as the game wore on. However, he was still trying to read through his progression. (Pay particular attention at the 3:15 and 3:40 moments where, at least to me, at looks liked Kodi is going through more than a single progression)
C) This is one of the things that particularly irks me about Franklin’s evaluation about the game and about QBs in general. Not emotional? That’s malarky. This is a game, plain and simple. You’re allowed to show emotion. In fact, I like to see some emotion out of players instead of them becoming Robots in Riddel. Also, I know of one player who would disagree with the unemotional quarterback theory:
Back to the first issue. The theory that Tony Franklin screwed up Kodi Burns.
When we began 2008. We went in with the 2 QB system. Of course, that didn’t work:
Tony Franklin saw it too many times as he reviewed film from Saturday's game: With four receivers streaking down the field, quarterbacks Chris Todd and Kodi Burns held onto the football, choosing not to make the high-risk throws.
Franklin thinks he knows why.
"It's probably because (they're thinking), 'If I make a bad throw or a bad decision, it might be my last one.' I've got to get that out of their heads," Franklin said.
Franklin said he plans to scrap that rotation for Saturday's game against Southern Mississippi.
"We're going to play them both again,"
Which led to the “playing the ‘hot hand’ system”. In the Southern Miss game, Todd had the better day, and Burns still “injured” saw limited time, only attempted 3 passes (completing none) and rushed for a total of 2 yards.
Afterwards, of course, Burns was benched, Todd was named the starter, and Tuberville met with Burns’s parents. Then there were no signs of Kodi during the MSU and LSU games.
Then we arrive full circle, back to Tennessee. Where Burns came in. Essentially won the game, and was still being thrown under the bus by Franklin.
I’ll just go ahead and say this, and it could be completely with Orange and Blue glasses. It could be completely baseless, but, I feel, Tony Franklin never wanted Kodi Burns to be the QB. He wanted Chris Todd. Todd was his guy, a player he knew, that was originally going to be at Troy to play for Franklin, and was given the shot to play at Auburn. It’s just some gut reaction after re-reading quotes like this:
Franklin on why he didn't play Kodi Burns: ``I didn't think it was Chris. I didn't see him making a lot of mistakes. It wasn't his deal. Kodi has some talent. He has things he can do. This wasn't it."
Pump the brakes on that for a second. Franklin was correct that Todd didn’t make any mistakes (i.e. interceptions) but he also had some big incompletions during the MSU game. There is also the fact that he was 4 for 9 on 3rd Down Pass attempts (only 2 for 1st downs) and the bigger issue: 2 key fumbles.
But hey, Tony Franklin didn’t see him making a lot of mistakes.
There’s also the part about the Southern Miss game where Kodi was essentially brought in to fail and I wasn’t the only person who saw that:
I agree with truth hurts that Kodi Burns was set up for failure yesterday. I don't mean that Tony Franklin's goal was to negatively affect Burns' standing. It's just that he had a very slim chance to really help himself or his team when given the nod in the third quarter.
Auburn's offense was gaining momentum in the first half with Chris Todd under center. Then Burns comes in to open the third quarter, goes three-and-out and the offense really was never the same. I can understand what Franklin is thinking there -- he genuinely likes Burns and thinks he's a talent -- but the timing was detrimental.
Franklin almost admitted to as much in the post game:
Tony Franklin on his (curious) decision to play Kodi Burns more during the second half:
``I just felt at halftime: OK, if we get a stop I'm going to go with Kodi for a series and let him get in and see what happens," Franklin said. ``It never did click for him. We broke our rhythm in the second half. A lot of that was our fault for not doing things at the right time."
There is also the typical Franklin double speak as to why Kodi was brought in to the UT game:
Franklin says Chris Todd was "perfect" on 27 of 28 plays prior to Kodi being subbed in. So why did Burns replace Todd during the first half: "Because that was what the head coach wanted to do. He wanted to bring him in. We had only scored seven points – we had scored seven and the defense had scored seven."
Yet in most other accounts, Tuberville makes it a point to assert that, no, it wasn’t:
Although Franklin said he was directed by Tuberville to play Burns at the start of the second half, Tuberville was adamant that it was solely Franklin's call to put Burns into the game late in the fourth quarter.
"That showed me that Tony has more confidence in him," Tuberville said.
So which was it?
We also got Franklin after the LSU game the absence of Kodi:
``Kodi got a lot of reps this week in practice. Basically for me, it's a feel thing. I felt like Chris had played well and competitive all night and thought he gave us the best chance to win. There was a time in the second half where I thought about it for some of the zone-read stuff and just never did it.
Just speculating out loud, but it’s possible that Franklin decision NOT to play Kodi ultimately led to Tuberville FORCING Franklin to play him versus UT.
You get the point though with the quotes above. Ultimately, Auburn fans know, Franklin was gone, Todd’s role diminished, and Burns took over the team for the rest of the season.
Some sad facts remain. Kodi Burns has yet to win an SEC game as a starter and has only (the homecoming win against UT-Martin) win under his belt. That only increases the doubt in his ability and let’s the door remain cracked for folks to clamor for Rollison or Caudle.
But honestly, Burns hasn’t been given a fair chance to show that he can actually LEAD the team. For the first half of 2008, it was split between him and Todd. Where Todd got to feast on snacky-cakes likes ULM and Southern Miss and get his confidence up, Burns was left to deal with Alabama, UGA, and West Virginia.
While Todd got praise for doing very little by Franklin; Burns got berated for not having good mechanics or not progressing his reads.
While Todd in the first half of the season had the support of Tony Franklin and was familiar with his offense; Burns in the second half had to deal with his third system in less than a year (Borges/Franklin/Ensminger) and that “offense” was that weird “Nalsminger” Hybrid that made every Auburn fan die a little bit inside while we watched it slowly drag our season down.
I know Football isn’t fair, but good night Elizabeth, that would be a tough situation for even John Elway to succeed in.
So here we are, gearing up for the 2009 season. A new OC is at the helm (the 4th in 2 seasons for Burns).
Let’s look at the QB competition. I’m immediately DQ-ing Barrett Trotter and until Tyrik Rollison actually gets a 36832 Zip Code, I’m not including him. Todd? He’s also out.
It basically boils down to Burns vs Caudle.
Kodi is 6’2/209. While Caudle is 6’3/199. That 6’2 is a little generous for Kodi, so let’s just agree that Caudle has the height advantage.
Kodi has the edge playing wise. That can’t be argued. Good or bad. Kodi has more playing experience than Caudle.
Ultimately, however, it’s going to be Gus Malzhan’s call as to who’s name is called against Louisiana Tech. He’s at least familiar with Burns, having recruited him to come to Arkansas when he was the Razorbacks OC.
As with anything in the new coaching staff, trying to read between the lines and get some actual insider information is like pulling teeth.
CGM has said a few things on Kodi:
"I think he's familiar with what we're going to do. I think he's familiar with me. I know he's capable of being a very good quarterback. He has had three coordinators in two years, and that's tough on any quarterback."
CGM has at least said what he’s looking for:
"We're a quarterback-oriented system, and I think you've got to have a guy that's the leader," he said. "So that's what we're looking for."
"It's not just the physical part of execution, but it's the guy who helps you score points," Malzahn said. "I'm looking for a guy who's not only a good player, but a good leader, and somebody who makes the guys around him better than they really are."
Again, maybe I’m sunshine pumping, but that sounds like Kodi Burns to me. Burns running ability give him that extra threat and “helps you score the most points”.
As for the leadership? I’ve yet to see a Kodi Burns interview where he came off as brash, whiny, or discontent. Every time I hear him, at least in interviews, he seems calm and respectful. Ready to learn and ready to just do his part to help his team win. However, I’m sure Neil Caudle is the same way.
This A-Day game wasn’t any help in making the race any clearer:
Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who matched last year's five 40-yard-plus plays with five on Saturday, said the battle between Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle will continue through the summer. It's a draw, Malzahn said. Caudle had better passing stats Saturday. Burns was the quarterback for the first three touchdowns in a game in which the offense beat the defense 57-31 using a scoring system that awarded points for big plays.
He’s also weighed in on his initial takes on both QBs:
On Kodi Burns
``He's got a great attitude right now. He's ready to get to spring.''
On Neil Caudle
``He's a rhythm quarterback. He has a really good arm.''
But one thing DOES seem clear. There won’t be a two-headed monster behind center:
``Ideally, we'll go into the season with a `guy.' I can't say that will happen.''
But is it affecting Kodi the same way it did last year? When Franklin was riding him constantly?
Kodi Burns said he's at peace with whatever decision Malzahn makes.
"I'm really not too much worried about it," Burns said. "I know this position comes with that pressure and I've learned over the years to be able to handle that and have a strong head. All I can do is just leave it in God's hands. I know that I did my best and I can be pleased with that."
Mature words for just a junior. In a bit of blogging that seems to be oddly prescient from Jay Tate in 2007:
A few readers disagree with my assertion that Kodi Burns' best-cast career scenario now mirrors Jason Campbell's: Two years of badness, one year of pretty good play, one year of MVP play. Look, we're almost finished with Year One of Badness. Do you really think Burns will be mistaken for Andre Woodson or Matt Ryan next year?
I'm not trashing the kid. Not by a long shot. He's 18, I know that, and he certainly has a LONG time to refine his skills. What I'm saying is that Auburn (and others) talked about Burns like he was ready. The coaches chose to play him as a true freshman, which indicated that they thought he was ready to contribute in some way. Now Blake Field is the backup. Why not leave Burns on the scout team and let him learn like every single Tuberville quarterback before him?
If Field was good enough to be the backup all along, why burn a year of Burns' eligibility? It seems wasteful.
Well, we’ve now ended those “two years of badness”. So can we expect that “one year of pretty good play”? I hope so.
Here’s to hoping 2009 for Kodi Burns will keep Auburn thinking of this: