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Tuberville covers the spread

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville speaks to the media at the SEC football media days in Hoover, Ala. on Friday, July 25, 2008.
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville speaks to the media at the SEC football media days in Hoover, Ala. on Friday, July 25, 2008.

Jason Bosley admits to having been a skeptic. The Auburn center had known only a running offense, so when the overhaul happened — before the season was over — his first reaction was basically: The spread? At Auburn? Really?

“My initial reaction was, ‘What are we gonna be doing?’ Because there’s a lot of different versions of the spread,” Bosley said. “After we went through bowl practice and the bowl game, I kinda became a believer that it can be successful.”

The adjustment to the new offense, along with how well the quarterback will play in it, are the two big questions for the Tigers. Everything else seems in order, which is why Auburn, and not defending national champion LSU, was picked by the media to win the SEC West.

Auburn has new coordinators on both sides of the ball, but new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin is getting the most attention. He brought the spread with him from Troy, and it helped Auburn beat Clemson in overtime in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Coach Tommy Tuberville made the move because he believed his team needed to improve its offense.

“It’s no-huddle, fast-paced, fast-tempo, involve your quarterback in running the football, spread the field, use a lot of wide receivers,” Tuberville said. “You know, really it’s a change for us.”

Auburn built its reputation on running the ball (think Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown and Kenny Irons), but Tuberville was tired of opponents stacking their defense to stop the run.

But the run is not going away. The difference between this spread and the one used by Urban Meyer at Florida, according to Tuberville, is that Auburn will make liberal use of tailbacks.

“There might be some games that we go into and find out, hey, you know something’s working in the passing game, and we might throw it 50 times,” Tuberville said. “But our game plan is to go into the season, use our running backs, use our offensive line (and) move the ball down the field.”

Of course, an offense needs a quarterback.

Kodi Burns has a leg up for the job after playing 10 games last year. As a true freshman, Burns was a running alternative to starter Brandon Cox, but Franklin has said Burns can throw more and be a good fit for his system.

True freshman Chris Todd is the other candidate. Tuberville said he expects to pick a starter in about a week, and that “we will have a true starter.”

Whoever starts, the results should be interesting. Tuberville crowed last week that this version of the spread has never been tried in the SEC.

“The offense puts a smile on their face,” Tuberville said.

If he is still saying that in November, Auburn likely will have lived up to its billing.

Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.

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