Auburn's Chris Todd belies the blogs

The digital doomsayers among Auburn fans circled back on Chris Todd, the Auburn quarterback, in October. The Tigers had started 5-0, then lost three straight (Arkansas, Kentucky, LSU) and, just as they did in 2008, many blog commenters started insisting that Auburn banish Todd to the sidelines.

They got their wish Saturday. Todd was on the bench.

Only this time, it was after he completed 17 of 18 passes to fuel a 63-31 rout of Furman and he wasn’t needed any longer. If the haters were not impressed, then what about the week before when Todd completed 12 of 22 passes for 212 yards in a 33-20 victory over Ole Miss?

“It’s part of it, there are expectations,” Todd said in a telephone interview when asked about the demands of SEC fans. This was territory he had explored in 2008 when he was benched, his offensive coordinator was fired, his head coach resigned and his team imploded (5-7).

The rollercoaster that Todd has been riding for four years stops in Athens on Saturday when the Tigers (7-3) play Georgia. He has gone from being a sensational high school quarterback to backup at Texas Tech to junior college star and, finally, starter/backup/starter at Auburn.

“It’s been a different path, it’s been a different road, I learned a lot and gained a lot from each experience I have been in,” said Todd, who has completed 143 of 244 passes for 17 touchdowns and just three interceptions this season. “Going through those situations I think I have become a stronger person and it's made me a better player, too.”

Todd, 23, a senior who already has a degree in business finance, played the 2008 season with an injured right shoulder that prevented any consistency, which resulted in boos cascading down on him.

“The hardest thing for him, and the hardest thing for me last year, was I could call a play and his brain would have this doubt whether he could make the throw,” said Tony Franklin, Auburn’s offensive coordinator for six games in 2008 before he was fired.

“I remember the Vanderbilt game where there were times I would call a play that would have a wide side to the field throw as the primary, and he wouldn't even look there because he was scared to death that it might be a pick.”

Todd ended up not playing the last five games of the 2008 season and had shoulder surgery in the off-season. He came back healthy, and the Tigers started 5-0, capped by his solid performance against a good Tennessee defense (19 of 32, 218 yards) in a 26-22 road victory.

Then came the losing streak when the Auburn defense collapsed and Todd’s numbers sagged. The howls started again.

This offense, however, is not a quarterback-centric scheme where Todd is easily pegged as hero/culprit. Sure, the Tigers work out of a shotgun formation in a hurry-up scheme, and there are receivers spread out, but it is a downhill, power-based run game, with misdirection and gimmicks thrown in. The idea is to get the safeties out of the middle of the field, to complete throws and get one-on-one situations in open grass.

Nonetheless, Todd is an easy target when things go bad. But he has been steadfast.

“He did what we always talk to kids about: Don't quit, keep fighting, do the best you can. And he did it,” Franklin said. “It's a real compliment to the way he was brought up. He was tough enough not to quit when he had the medical part that gave him a reason to quit.”

Added Todd, “My advice is keep working hard, no matter how far along you think you have gotten. Take situations as they come about to become stronger.”