One alum who could help Auburn the most in 2016
Despite all his accomplishments, the guy Auburn could use the most this fall is now nationally recognized more for doing “the Dab” than maybe anything else.
It’s been six years since Cam Newton led the Tigers to the SEC championship and a victory over Oregon in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game, but he’d be the alum in the latest installment of this series who could best help this year’s Tigers if he had any eligibility remaining.
Newton’s ability to consistently read defenses and make plays with his arm and his feet would help any football team, especially this year’s Auburn squad that enters the 2016 season with questions at quarterback.
One of two incumbents – either Sean White or Jeremy Johnson – will likely be the starter when the Tigers open their season with a home game against 2015 national runner-up Clemson, but neither player excites the fan base, and both are coming off disappointing years. Johnson never recovered after throwing six interceptions over the first three games, and White managed just one TD pass in 143 attempts.
While incoming recruit John Franklin III might not have much experience, he certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of confidence. Franklin, who played for East Mississippi Community College last season, took to Twitter earlier this year to say that he considers himself the fastest QB in America.
But running the ball has not been an issue lately at Auburn. The Tigers are in the midst of a seven-season streak with at least one 1,000-yard rusher, and running back Jovon Robinson could very well extend that run to eight straight this year.
If Franklin wins the starting job, he’ll likely have more success running the ball than he will throwing it. Backing up EMCC starter Wyatt Roberts last season, Franklin passed for 733 yards and ran for 451 while averaging a whopping 10.5 yards per carry.
During his Heisman Trophy-winning season, Newton was the epitome of a dual-threat quarterback. He completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 2,854 yards, 30 TDs and 7 INTs while also rushing for 1,473 yards and 20 more scores in one of the greatest individual seasons in SEC history.
Expecting Newton-like production from any of Auburn’s current quarterbacks is totally unrealistic. In a perfect world, a QB with Johnson’s arm and Franklin’s legs would maybe remind us of Newton.
Some may argue why go with Newton and not someone such as Nick Marshall, who led Auburn to a 21-3 first-half lead in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game before the Tigers eventually fell by a field goal? First and foremost, Newton got the job done, carrying AU to its first national championship since 1957.
Yes the “pay-for-play” scandal involving Newton was messy, and the quick downfall of Gene Chizik was a disaster. But if there were a second coming of Newton, Gus Malzahn would pounce on it in a heartbeat.
During his championship season on The Plains, Newton was listed at 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds. Johnson also checks in at 6-foot-5, weighs about 240 and has a similarly strong arm, but he clearly doesn’t have Newton’s running ability, although he did rush for 6 TDs on just 47 carries last season.
Some Auburn faithful might be excited about the potential Franklin – or fellow incoming recruit Woody Barrett – might have, but running an offense in the SEC might be the toughest job in college football. Franklin comes in with talent, but if Malzahn hands him the reins, the former Florida State backup QB no doubt will make his share of mistakes as he gets reacquainted with the faster FBS game.
Auburn also goes into the 2016 season with questions at linebacker and wide receiver, not to mention its third defensive coordinator in three years in Kevin Steele. However, quarterback is obviously its biggest question mark, one that Newton would answer definitively.
As we approach the sixth year following arguably the greatest season in Auburn football history, flashing back to how great Newton was in his one year on The Plains is a fun nostalgia trip. Imagine how exciting things might be if he could still play for another year.