Updated: August 27, 2003, 6:39 PM ET

AUBURN, Ala. -- Jason Campbell is tired of being regarded as Auburn's question mark, a potential weak link in a team with few shortcomings and high hopes.

The sixth-ranked Tigers' quarterback doesn't have a string of heroic comebacks or 300-yard games to his credit, but nobody at the school has ever completed a better percentage of his passes.

"With the completion percentage that I have, I don't understand where people get these questions," Campbell said. "If I threw the ball as much as everyone else, I think I'd do the same thing."

He won't likely get that chance in Saturday's season opener with No. 8 Southern California as the Tigers' main offensive focal point remains tailbacks Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown.

Campbell certainly hasn't been bad, helping the Tigers beat three Top 10 opponents last season and completing 63 percent of his passes while starting 14 games the past two seasons.

He is often relegated to footnote status in an offense that is more Fun 'N Run than Fun 'N Gun, throwing downfield infrequently.

"I don't think people really know that I can throw the ball," he said. "If I threw the ball as much as some of the other teams do, I'd probably have the same numbers. With the backs that we have, I don't have the luxury to throw the ball as much.

"I think we're very effective when we do throw the ball."

Campbell has never thrown 30 passes in a game and topped 20 only once last season. In Auburn's three biggest wins -- over LSU, Alabama and Penn State -- he was a combined 27-of-46 for 352 yards with three touchdown passes.

That's a day's work for some quarterbacks, but the biggest number concerning Auburn might not be Campbell's throws but the number of hits he takes.

He's the team's only quarterback with college experience, backed up by former walk-on Josh Sullivan and Wesley Hill. Both are redshirt freshmen.

The 6-foot-5, 228-pound Campbell knows opponents would like nothing more than to knock him out of the game, a potential knockout blow to Auburn's title hopes.

"I know people are going to try to do that," he said. "I've just got to be smart with the football and if something's not there, just throw it away.

"I'm not going to be timid and afraid to make plays. I'm still going to run around and make plays and try to get the yardage. But taking hits that are not necessary, that's something I'm going to try not to do."

Campbell, a former Parade All-American, began his Auburn career as an understudy to All-SEC passer Ben Leard. The past two seasons, he and Daniel Cobb took turns winning and losing the job.

Campbell started eight games as a freshman, getting benched for two games and most of a third before winning the job back. Cobb, now graduated, reclaimed it before last season and Campbell came off the bench in the first seven games.

The Tigers went 5-1 after his return to the starting role, which he doesn't figure to relinquish anytime soon.

"He's got more confidence and you can just see it in him everyday, him learning the offense more and more and more about the players around him," coach Tommy Tuberville said. "It's been good to watch Jason grow.

"He's learned from every quarterback that's played in front of him and everybody that's been around him. I think that this is going to be a great year for him."

Campbell's teammates are banking on it.

"That's going to be the key this year," linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "I think Jason's ready for the challenge. You can see a big change in him right now. He's grown up. I think he's ready."

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index