Borges choreographs three-headed attack

Updated: January 3, 2005, 7:50 PM ET
Associated Press

AUBURN, Ala. -- Al Borges has only been around for a fraction of the careers of Jason Campbell, Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown.

But as the man who draws up No. 3 Auburn's offensive game plans, he knows precisely where they fit.

"Everything we do from a game plan perspective is centered around making sure those kids touch the ball," said first-year offensive coordinator Borges.

Campbell, Brown and Williams wrap up their college careers with Monday night's Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech, the finale for a backfield that has been the backbone of the Tigers' offense for four years.

They've collectively racked up 90 starts while compiling 15,739 yards and 129 touchdowns in passing, rushing, receiving and returns. All three took different paths, though.

Williams was a star from the moment he stepped on campus, Brown sandwiched two terrific years around two mediocre ones and Campbell went from Auburn fans' favorite goat to the centerpiece of a Southeastern Conference champion.

"That's what makes us appreciate this season even more, because everything we've done, we've had to earn it," said Campbell, the SEC's offensive player of the year. "When you do things that way, you're more proud of it."

They were good enough that the Coaches All-SEC team included an all-Auburn backfield, a first for the league. Borges' primary mandate from coach Tommy Tuberville was to find a way to get the most out of both Brown and Williams, instead of one or the other.

He did, lining Brown up at receiver, fullback or tailback and often letting them share the backfield.

"I acquired more brain cells and my intellect went up 60 to 70 points when I got Jason Campbell, Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams," Borges quipped. "It's just incredible how that can happen."

Campbell has benefited from the more efficient use of his star tailbacks, a system that better fits his talents and a more consistent receiving corps.

Nicknamed "The Future" before he arrived at Auburn as a Parade All-American, he ranks among Auburn's top two in six career passing categories including yards, touchdowns and completion percentage.

But he easily established career-highs in all those categories this season.

"I'm proud of all of our football team, but what Jason has had to endure in the last couple of years with inexperienced players around him -- his progress and accomplishments this year are really what college football is about," Tuberville said.

Williams arrived as Alabama's Mr. Football, such a prized recruit that Tuberville took along most of his coaches on a recruiting visit to lure him to Auburn.

He missed considerable time his first two seasons with injuries, but still will finish behind only Bo Jackson on Auburn's rushing charts with 3,770 yards. The second-team Associated Press All-American is Auburn's career leader in rushing touchdowns (45) and scoring (276 points) and is also one of the league's top punt and kick returners.

"Carnell is a great stop-and-go runner, but he breaks a lot of tackles," Borges said. "He makes absolutely no concessions to the defense. He's not going to run out of bounds or do any of those things.

"He runs with a great deal of heart, toughness and a hell of a lot of talent."

Stardom didn't come quite so easily for Brown. He struggled in limited action as a redshirt freshman and junior, but ran for 1,008 yards despite starting just six games as a sophomore with Williams sidelined with a broken leg.

This season, Brown has run for 845 yards and caught 34 passes -- 10 more than he had his first three years combined. He shrugs off his receiving ability as "something that's natural" even though it wasn't exploited much the previous three years.

Williams and Brown both could have been fairly high NFL draft picks after last season. They opted to return and have done nothing but improve their stock.

Williams said they had other things in mind in returning.

"To win a championship -- that's why I came back to school," he said. "I thought, 'Just imagine, if I come back, Maybe I'll have a chance to play for an SEC championship and what a great feeling that would be.'

"That's why I'm here."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press