Why it feels like no SEC player has a wider range of 2020 outcomes than Jamie Newman
Take your pick.
I’m confident that I can spin any preseason narrative about Jamie Newman. Try me.
“He’s gonna be the missing piece for Georgia and then be a top-5 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.”
Thank you for that take, Greg McElroy and essentially every Bulldog fan on social media.
Of course the 6-4, 230-pound quarterback with deadly downfield accuracy is going to thrive in Todd Monken’s Air Raid offense and assert himself as the most polished SEC quarterback. Why wouldn’t he take off?
After all, no returning quarterback in America was better fitting balls thrown into tight windows than Newman in 2019. His ability to throw the deep ball will separate him from his predecessor, Jake Fromm. Newman is a much more willing runner, too. Even better is the fact that Newman is going to play alongside the likes of talented sophomore targets George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock. No wonder there’s a belief that Newman isn’t very far behind Justin Fields, who was only slightly better passing as a scrambler last year.
PFF’s top five QBs in college football:
1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
2. Justin Fields, Ohio State
3. Jamie Newman, Georgia
4. Sam Howell, UNC
5. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota pic.twitter.com/VKEfWIp8QA
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 31, 2020
Let’s try the other preseason take on Newman.
“He’s the most overhyped quarterback in America.”
Thank you for that take, Cole Cubelic and essentially every Gator fan on social media. Of course the quarterback with 0 SEC snaps is going to struggle playing against tougher competition with a new offensive coordinator in a new system. Why wouldn’t he stumble?
After all, Georgia ranks No. 99 in percentage of returning offensive production after a year in which it failed to reach 28 points in 8 of its final 9 games. Unlike his predecessor, Fromm, who won 7 of his final 8 games of 2019, Newman lost 4 of his final 5 contests — with 47% passing and 7.1 yards per attempt — and couldn’t even finish with a winning record in ACC play. Newman is much less experienced than Fromm in big-time games, too. Even worse is the fact that in his lone start against Clemson, Newman had 41 passing yards and 2 interceptions on 6-of-14 passing in a 52-3 loss. No wonder there’s pushback to him being in the same conversation as Fields, who nearly led Ohio State to a semifinal win against Clemson.
Jamie Newman hype reaching incredible heights this offseason. He completed 6 of 14 passes for 41 yards and 2 interceptions against Clemson’s defense last season.
Justin Fields completed 30 of 46 passes for 320 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions against Clemson. https://t.co/fYVBJ8xxjJ
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) March 8, 2020
See what I mean?
Newman’s range of outcomes for 2020 is extreme, and for good reason. For every take that he’s going to become the 2020 version of Joe Burrow, there’s another take that he’s going to be the most overhyped quarterback in America. Where you stand on that issue could depend on your allegiances. And since I don’t have any allegiances — other than my bias that Uga is an elite mascot — perhaps it’s my duty to state the obvious.
How Newman is perceived 5 months from now is a total mystery with an unordinary amount of outcomes.
The 2 outcomes presented above were the all-or-nothing scenarios, but there’s obviously a lot of places in between where Newman could fall. He could turn into another version of Fromm. That is, a quarterback who does some next-level things, but also looks like a bit of a liability who you don’t want leading a 2-possession comeback. That version of Newman can still potentially lead a 4th consecutive SEC East title while not living up to the loftiest of preseason expectations.
Perhaps it’s fitting that a quarterback like Newman came along a year after Burrow blew grad transfer expectations out of the water like nobody ever has. Burrow’s historic season will forever be the counterargument for someone saying “Quarterback X” can’t reach new heights.
Like Burrow, Newman enters his second year as a starter and as a senior, he’s entering a new system with a new offensive coordinator. That’s after Newman was statistically better than Burrow in several major categories.
Unlike Burrow, of course, is the difference in Newman’s surroundings. Burrow returned to an LSU offense that had 82% of its returning production back, not to mention he got an entire offseason to learn Joe Brady’s offense. Newman had his spring wiped out because of COVID-19 and he’s going to get 7-on-7s with a 6-week fall period to learn the offense and get on the same page as his receivers. That’s a best-case scenario that would include Georgia’s starters avoiding a positive COVID-19 test that would quarantine them for multiple weeks.
For those questioning the importance of receivers and their quarterbacks getting to know one another, look no further than last year with Fromm, who was as experienced as any SEC quarterback but had his worst season to date after losing his top 5 pass-catching weapons from 2018. That matters.
Fromm went from a Round 1 prospect to a Day 3 draft pick despite the fact that he led Georgia to its 3rd consecutive season with an East title, 11-plus wins and a New Year’s 6 Bowl berth. There’s a scenario that involves Newman winning 11-plus games with a draft stock that tumbles as the season goes along. Georgia returns a wealth of production from the No. 1 scoring defense in America, which could fuel its fair share of 21-7 victories.
And hey, there’s even a scenario in which Kirby Smart decides that J.T. Daniels is his guy. The USC transfer was a surprise offseason addition, and there’s plenty of reason to believe that the former 5-star recruit has a bright future in Athens. Whether that future is even allowed to begin in 2020 remains to be seen because Daniels was an undergraduate transfer, and if he doesn’t get an NCAA waiver for immediate eligibility, he’ll be required to sit the 2020 season.
That’s how unpredictable Newman’s future is. We don’t even totally know who’s going to be putting pressure on him in that quarterback room if he does get off to a rough start.
Shoot, for all we know, D’Wan Mathis will make a full comeback after his brain surgery last year and dominate in the new offense. Perhaps true freshman Carson Beck will pull a 2017 Fromm and supplant the more established starter if the opportunity presents itself. I’m not saying I expect Newman to get hurt, but with all of those new starters on the offensive line learning a new system and trying to protect a mobile quarterback in the SEC, we’re going to find out a lot about his durability.
Or, you know, there’s the thing that Georgia fans are praying for. That is, Newman is the real deal.
There’s a scenario in which all of those metrics showing how well he throws the ball downfield and how much trust he puts in his receivers to make plays in traffic will allow him to be a revelation in Athens. There’s a scenario in which Newman puts it all together and proves that with the right skill players around him in an offense that keeps defenses guessing, the hype was justified.
Why wouldn’t a proven, 6-4, 230-pound quarterback who makes all the throws in an Air Raid offense have Round 1 upside? If Newman’s current ceiling is capped simply by him being unproven against SEC competition, what will we say about him if he doesn’t show a drop-off transitioning to a new league?
It’s OK to ask those questions right now. There’s nothing wrong with being cautiously optimistic about Newman becoming an elite SEC quarterback, nor is there a problem with saying you think he’ll be a top-5 pick at season’s end. You can acknowledge that Georgia’s offense itself is such a mystery and that a weird offseason doesn’t bode well for the Newman hype train. And if you simply want to reserve all Newman judgment until the SEC sample size is greater than zero, you’re also entitled to do that.
It’s funny because it almost feels like Newman is being talked about like Jordan Love or Josh Allen (the Wyoming one) were right before their respective drafts. There was still such a split opinion on Love and Allen because of the competition they faced and the rather pedestrian numbers they put up, yet their believers cited their unteachable physical talents.
Fortunately for us, Newman’s decision to transfer to Georgia instead of leaving for the NFL means that his level of competition won’t be in question at season’s end. Well, here’s hoping there will be a “season’s end” in the 2020-21 school year.
If there’s not, I suppose the Newman debate is just getting started.