The Five I'm Watching: Part I
Thanks for your patience.
We're starting a new series today we like to call The Five I'm Watching, which highlights ... exactly what you think it highlights. Media Days, the unofficial start to college football in my world, begins on July 21.
That's only 13 days.
So let's start assessing what the Auburn Tigers have in store for the 2010 season. We'll begin by examining Cameron Newton.
- Age: 21
- Class: Junior
- Size: 6-foot-6, approximately 250 pounds
- Previous role: Starting JUCO quarterback
- Theme song: ``I Am The Highway," Audioslave
- Relevant lyric: "I am not your rolling wheels; I am the highway."
THE GOOD: The scouting reports we've all heard on Newton is that he's big and fast and commandeering. I haven't seen much of him because of Auburn's semi-restrictive access guidelines. I have seen enough to know he's faster than you'd expect from someone of his size. I know he has plus arm strength. I know he's bright and has the kind of fire one would expect from a top-tier college quarterback. He's in an offense that made a (compromised) Chris Todd pretty doggone effective. Imagine the kinds of numbers a healthy, thoughtful quarterback could amass. I don't say this often about athletes' parents, but Newton's father is a huge plus in my mind. He knows the game. He provides a certain thrust, I guess you'd say, that gives Newton proper large-scale vision.
THE BAD: His performance in the A-Day game did little to soothe questions about accuracy. To be fair, coaches asked almost nothing Newton in that game. It's a smart decision. A great game would have stoked expectations beyond where they are right now. I'm also wary of hype here. I'm not saying he's Greg Smith or even Eltoro Freeman, but the expectations being heaped upon Newton seem out of proportion given his lack of top-level experience. Was he good in junior college? Absolutely. Two rival JUCO coaches who spoke with me earlier this year made it clear, though, that Newton thrived primarily because of overwhelming play-making ability. Defenders at that level couldn't handle that. The Southeastern Conference is home to the best college defenders, pound for pound, in the world. Look at NFL rosters and tell me I'm wrong.
THE REALITY: He's going to be 80% of what you think he'll be -- at least initially. I expect his play-making ability to work well in this league. He'll create on the fly. He'll run away from some good linebackers, which will make you think: Damn, he's good. He'll improvise more often -- and more effectively -- than you think. I just get this sense that Newton's accuracy will wane beyond 20 yards. Gus Malzahn craves those long passes, too, so Newton will be forced to improve dramatically. My guess is that he will. It may take some time.
What do you think? Speak your mind!