The physical similarities are striking, along with the statistics.
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton (6-foot-6, 245 pounds) led his team to a BCS national championship by dominating the college football landscape as a dual threat in 2010. Newton, a junior from College Park, Ga., threw for 2,854 yards, rushed for 1,473 and accounted for 51 touchdowns (30 passing, 20 rushing, 1 receiving) while leading the Tigers to a 14-0 record and a 22-19 victory over Oregon in the BCS title game.
Five years ago, a dual-threat quarterback with a similar build _ Texas’ Vince Young (6-5, 230) _ carried the Longhorns to a BCS national title by excelling as both a rusher (1,050 yards, 12 TDs) and passer (3,036 yards, 26 TDs). Young emerged as the No. 3 pick in the 2006 NFL draft and paid immediate dividends for the Tennessee Titans, leading the team to a playoff berth in his rookie season and earning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Young’s five-year career has had its ups and downs, however, and Titans officials are preparing to release him rather than pay an upcoming $4.25 million roster bonus.
In college, Young faced minimal distractions during his final season at Texas while leading the Longhorns to a 13-0 record and a national championship. Newton, on the other hand, played amid ongoing reports about a pay-for-play scandal involving his father that prompted an NCAA investigation (which is ongoing) while the Tigers were putting together a 14-0 season capped by a 22-19 victory over Oregon in the national title game.
So, how does Newton rank as an NFL prospect compared with Young from yesteryear? We asked three people with keen insights into the situation and all three voted for Newton. Their thoughts:
Todd McShay, Director of College Football Scouting for ESPN Scouts, Inc., favors Newton’s intangibles. “Vince Young did not face adversity until he got to the NFL. And he didn’t handle it well once he got there,” McShay said. “Cam Newton handled adversity beautifully (at Auburn).”
Gil Brandt, personnel analyst for NFL.com and former Dallas Cowboys director of player personnel, gives Newton an edge in physical attributes. “I think he throws a better ball (than Young did in college),” Brandt said of Newton. “He’s thicker (than Young was in college). There’s no comparison that way. And his movement is just as good. I think he’s got all the talent you want in terms of physical skills. And he’s got great leadership abilities.”
Keith Jackson, former ABC college football broadcaster, called Newton “the best quarterback” he’s seen who came from a junior-college background. And he likes Newton’s decision-making skills, as well as his apparent coachability. “I think this fellow has a better head on him than Vince does because Vince … doesn’t take criticism well,” Jackson said.
_ Jimmy Burch