AUBURN, Ala. — Chris Todd paused for a second under an imaginary center, drew back a fictitious snap and rolled to his left, cocking his right arm — a once-proud cannon — to throw the ball.
But he didn’t, not Thursday or any time in the foreseeable future, transferring it carefully to his left arm before slowly mocking a throwing motion to finish the drill.
This is the Auburn quarterback’s road to recovery, a little more than three months removed from surgery to fix his throwing shoulder, which has bothered him for over a year.
“It’s real hard,” the senior said, his T-shirt bulging from the ice pack on his shoulder. “You want to be in the heat of stuff; you want to be in competition. It’s frustrating, but I just got to keep doing rehab and get back as soon as I can.”
Todd’s future seemed bright a year ago, when the Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College transfer upgraded a scholarship to Troy into one at Auburn after Tommy Tuberville hired Tony Franklin to run his offense.
But in his second-to-last game at Hutchinson, Todd injured his throwing shoulder. He elected not to have surgery that offseason.
“I probably should have,” he said in retrospect.
Instead, he wanted to compete immediately for a chance to run Franklin’s system, something he had been familiar with since his time at Elizabethtown High in Kentucky.
Todd beat out Kodi Burns for the starting job, but his rocket arm — the one Franklin said could throw a ball through a car wash and not get it wet — never lived up to its billing. Todd’s passes had a tendency to flutter, more often than not falling well short of their intended receiver.
The problem became more pronounced as the season progressed. Todd started five games but threw six interceptions and five touchdowns, becoming the focal point of boos from an impatient Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd.
Todd didn’t play after the Arkansas game Oct. 11, sitting out the last five contests, partly because the coaching staff, sans Franklin, wanted to give Burns a shot and partly because of the injury.
“I knew something was wrong all the time,” Todd said. “There were throws that I could make my sophomore year of high school that I couldn’t necessarily make all the time last year. … It got to the point where I had to fix it.”
He finally did Dec. 23, going under the knife of renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who shaved off the end of Todd’s damaged clavicle, drilled a hole in the AC joint and tied everything back together.
Todd has hit his rehab hard, using tubing, weights and push-ups to regain strength in his shoulder in a routine that involves three to four hours of work per day. He has resumed a throwing program but still isn’t allowed to go live in spring drills, a major problem for someone trying to learn Gus Malzahn’s offense and stay relevant in a quarterback competition Auburn’s coaches have declared wide open.
“That’s a big thing, just to watch as much as I can, just learn everything,” Todd said. “Every time somebody goes, I try to watch, and if (Malzahn) corrects them, I’m trying to sit there and watch them. I try to do as much of the footwork as I can. Just so when I get back, I don’t have to think about that. My steps are good, so all I have to do is throw the ball.”
Todd doesn’t have a specific timetable for a complete return. “Hopefully sooner than later,” was all he offered.
He also doesn’t know whether he ever will regain the arm strength he had, but he is itching at the opportunity to simply drop back, wind up and let one loose.
“It’s really frustrating,” he said. “But the thing is, this time around, hopefully I’ll have my arm back. If it does come back, it will be a drastic difference.”