Auburn’s Todd showing signs of improvement

Published 10:42 pm Thursday, September 25, 2008

AUBURN (AP) – Maybe Chris Todd’s luck is turning.

No. 15 Auburn’s quarterback has started settling into the offense and finding a rhythm with his receivers, passing for a season-high 250 yards against No. 5 LSU. Off the field, Todd even managed to avoid getting a parking ticket at the football complex after practice early this week.

“I got lucky and caught the lady right before she gave me a ticket,” he said after racing outside to check on his car. “I got lucky on that one.”

He didn’t even have to mention his status as Auburn’s starting quarterback. “I don’t think they care too much,” he said.

Todd needed a lucky break leading up to Saturday’s game against Tennessee. He won a prolonged battle with Kodi Burns for the starting job, but has taken substantial criticism on talk radio and Internet message boards that heated up after he was intercepted twice in the loss to LSU.

That came on the heels of a 3-2 win over Mississippi State. Todd does his best to ignore the criticism and the attention he draws just walking to class.

“I try to stay away from that stuff because even if you’re playing great, you’re still going to have critics,” he said. “Even if you’re reading good stuff, you probably don’t need to hear that either.

“Sometimes you’re walking around campus and think everybody’s looking at you the wrong way. This week hasn’t been too bad. Last week I kind of felt like that. It’s not too bad. I just kind of enjoy the attention. I look at it in a good way instead of a negative way.”

The good: Todd displayed a willingness to run against LSU, even though he actually lost a yard on 10 carries thanks to sacks. He also appears to be building a stronger connection with receivers like Tim Hawthorne, Rod Smith and Robert Dunn. They combined for 220 yards against LSU.

The entire receiving corps had a collective 267 yards in the first three games.

Burns, meanwhile, hasn’t played in the past two games.

“I definitely think it’s a benefit just to have one guy calling the plays just to give him that confidence and knowing that if he makes a mistake he won’t come out of the game instantly,” Smith said. “I definitely think that’s been a good thing. Kodi’s still a guy that we can count on if Chris goes down, but overall Chris has been doing a great job. I’m looking for some great things from him still.”

Todd said his arm strength hasn’t fully recovered from a shoulder injury at junior college last season. Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin isn’t sure it will this season.

“I think every week that he plays you’ll see a little bit of improvement each week,” Franklin said. “I thought he threw the ball with some zip on it too. The ball looked more live than it had. It wasn’t perfect but it was good.”

Todd said he spent about 90 minutes studying clips from this season, studying the offensive changes from game to game and areas he needs to improve on.

“Instead of making most of the plays, I need to make all the plays — when there’s a chance to make a big throw, make it,” he said. “When you get to that point, I can lead this offense to where it will be really good and putting a lot of points up on the board. I’ll continue to work on that stuff to get better.”