On Thursday, at least one candidate made a serious push to re-enter the race.
After missing nearly two weeks with a sore throwing shoulder, Chris Todd made the most of his first scrimmage Thursday morning. Todd completed 17-of-25 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns during the Tigers’ scrimmage and seemingly broke the serenity of Burns’ lead.
“There are some things I still want to go back and look at,” Todd said. “(Thursday) went all right. There are still some things I want to go back and improve on, though.”
Todd made some difficult throws on Thursday, but was better at finding the open receiver.
Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said Todd’s arm is still only at 50 or 60 percent, but that was good enough to draw compliments from the coaches.
“He’s physically getting better, which is the biggest thing,” Franklin said. “I was real happy with his leadership. He’s got a great presence in the pocket. He understands the game and doesn’t panic. He’s going to make the competition that much better.”
Burns led a scoring drive on the first possession, but struggled through most of the scrimmage.
Part of the problem, Burns acknowledged, was the no-contact rule means when a defender puts a hand on Burns it counts as a sack.
Franklin agreed that made a big difference.
“It’s a whole different set of dynamics of a ballgame when you’re playing touch with a quarterback like (Kodi Burns),” Franklin said. “He’s dynamic when he can run and pass. He’s not as dynamic if all we’re doing is dropping back and throwing every play.”
After completing 4-of-5 passes to start the scrimmage, Burns finished 7-of-19 for 122 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw an interception into double coverage in the end zone. Jerraud Powers came away with the interception.
While Burns wasn’t especially happy with his performance, he knows starting strong is very important and was proud of his first drive.
“I was seeing a lot of grass and was just throwing it to the receivers and letting them make plays,” Burns said. “It felt good that we came out and started fast.
“Although we did kind of slow down after that first drive, that’s the thing we’ve got to work on. We’ve got to come out and start fast and keep playing fast until we go to the second half.”
Neil Caudle was given higher marks from the coaches this week after he completed 10-of-14 passes for 142 yards and three touchdowns.
Franklin might have delivered the line of the day when asked about Caudle: “The biggest thing with Caudle was he didn’t throw to the other team,” he said.
Franklin said the Tigers “might be in trouble” if the season started tomorrow.
“Thank God the season doesn’t start tomorrow,” he added.
Wide receiver Terrell Zachery didn’t see the field last season until he grabbed a cameo appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Whenever anyone asked Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville about Zachery, he gave the same answer: “He’s in the doghouse.”
That’s Tuberville’s code for academic trouble.
Now Zachery has his grades in order and he has quickly made his way out of the doghouse in just two scrimmages.
For the second consecutive scrimmage, Zachery hauled in two touchdown receptions.
“I don’t know what it is (about the scrimmages). I guess I just keep getting open and the quarterback keeps finding me,” Zachery said after registering four catches for 46 yards and the two scores on Thursday. “I love the spread offense. It gives everyone a chance to show what they can do.”
Zachery has quickly established himself as a rising star from the slot receiver position in the new spread offense.
The coaches have taken note as well.
“I think he’s getting more confident,” Franklin said. “He now knows that he’s made plays and we expect him to make plays and you saw today that he continues to make plays. You just hope other people step up to make plays the way he has.”
Zachery and another slot receiver, Robert Dunn, have been the two most productive receivers during the spring.
That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, though.
Last spring, Tim Hawthorne seemed to have a coming out party.
He caught four passes for 47 yards last year.
Zachery’s determined not to let that happen to him this year. He’s still on a mission to redeem himself for missing last season.
“All last year, I thought that when I got a chance I had something to prove since I missed the whole last year,” Zachery said. “This is just my chance right now, showing what I’ve got to prove this year.”
Tight end Tommy Trott proved to be the other play-making pass catcher Thursday. He caught four passes for 90 yards and a pair of scores.
Trott has emerged as a good target for whoever will play quarterback next year, catching passes in traffic over the middle and finding open spaces deeper in the secondary.