Dallas Colleges: Cam Newton

Manziel in same category as AU's Newton

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
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Gus Malzahn knows a thing or two about prolific quarterbacks. He coached former Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton when he was the offensive coordinator at Auburn in 2010.

On Saturday, Malzahn will face the reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel when his Auburn team visits Texas A&M.

“I would say probably those two are probably two of the best that ever played the game in college football,” Malzahn said. “We only got to see Cam Newton for one year, but this guy, he’s in the same element. They’re different, but they’re still some of the best to every play.”

Newton, who originally began his college career at Florida, played just one year at Auburn and led the Tigers to the 2010 national championship. He threw for 2,854 yards and 30 touchdowns, rushed for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdown, and he even caught a touchdown.

Last year, Manziel did his best Newton impression with 26 touchdowns through the air and 21 on the ground. He already has 19 combined scores this season.

“Johnny is a great football player, and he’s playing at a level that people don’t even really see, as well as Clemson’s Tahj Boyd,” Newton said. “There are a lot of players across the nation that are playing great football at the quarterback position.”

Still, Newton thinks Auburn will the game Saturday.

(Read full story)

The Heisman should be Manziel's to lose

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
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Johnny ManzielBrett Davis/US PresswireWhen it comes to Heisman candidacy, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel has compiled a strong platform.
There’s one last weekend for Heisman voters to scout any remaining candidates for college football’s most prestigious award.

But after 13 weeks of action, the winner is clear, and voters don’t need any more time to think about it.

It was Johnny Manziel a week ago. It’s Johnny Manziel today. And it should be Johnny Manziel when the Heisman Trophy is presented on Dec. 8.

In 12 straight weeks (Texas A&M didn’t have a bye week) the slippery Manziel racked up 3,419 passing yards with 24 touchdowns to eight interceptions and rushed for 1,181 yards and 19 more scores. He’s second in the SEC in passing yards and first in rushing. He also guided Texas A&M to a 10-win season in its first year in the SEC and was undefeated on the road.

His 4,600 yards of total offense (and counting) topped Cam Newton’s mark of 4,327 yards, which used to be an SEC record. He already has more passing and rushing yards than Tim Tebow did during his Heisman season in 2007 and has thrown for 565 more yards than Newton did during his 2010 Heisman season. He won’t touch Robert Griffin III’s 4,293 passing yards from his 2011 Heisman year, but he crushed him in the rushing department by 482 yards.

Manziel has had three games in which he had at least 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards, the most for any player in a single season since 2000. The rest of the nation has had eight such games the entire season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Manziel has also gained 784 rushing yards on scrambles. That's 43 more yards scrambling than Collin Klein, Braxton Miller and Marcus Mariota combined. He has also scrambled for 35 first downs this season, including 20 first downs on third down, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Not voting Manziel No. 1 at this point is almost comical when you look at the way the fabulous freshman phenom has done all of this in his first year on the field with a brand-new offense and coaching staff in the SEC.

“His numbers speak for themselves against anybody who has played not only this year but who has [ever] played the game,” said Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, who has been very actively captaining the Johnny Football Heisman ship. “As we’ve gone through this process, he’s been a catalyst for this football team in the first season in the SEC.”

While his 43 total touchdowns are lower than his three predecessors, Manziel has way more total touchdowns than the other two dual-threat quarterbacks still alive in this race.

Klein, who has had a superb season, has 34 total touchdowns and Miller has 28 total.

People will knock his two losses (something neither Klein nor Miller have) to Florida and LSU at home. Both are currently ranked within the top seven of the BCS standings and both own top-10 defenses. In those games, Manziel threw for 449 combined yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions. He also rushed for 87 yards and one touchdown, averaging 2.6 yards per carry.

Not Heisman-worthy at all, but you have to dig deeper than just his two poor performances against top-notch defenses. Look at the growth from Manziel after his losses. Since the LSU game, he has averaged 382.2 yards of offense with 19 touchdowns.

One of those opponents was Alabama ... on the road. Talk about growth.

He had his true coming-out party in front of the entire nation when he torched Alabama’s top-ranked defense for 345 yards of offense and two touchdowns. He never wavered and sliced up the Tide with his arm and legs. Some of the Playstation moves he pulled didn’t seem possible.

He then showed out in his final outing with a bevy of twists and turns that amounted to 439 yards and five touchdowns against Missouri with a brace on his knee. Willis Reed and Paul Pierce had nothing on Johnny Football.

Manziel has made Texas A&M one of the nation’s hottest team. The Aggies aren’t close to where they are without Manziel. People talk about how much Manti Te’o, Manziel’s only real remaining Heisman competition, has meant to Notre Dame. He’s been fantastic, but take Manziel off A&M’s squad, and the Aggies aren’t nearly the same.

Being a freshman should only help his defense because it makes what he’s done that much more impressive. His two losses shouldn’t hold much weight because Tebow and Griffin both had two losses before winning.

What matters is his body of work, and no one else equals him. No one else equals his excitement or importance.

The Heisman Trophy should be as good as his.

"It's something you dream about as a kid, when you’re sitting there playing all these NCAA [video] games when you're a kid and you create a player and you win the Heisman as a freshman because you just put up crazy numbers," Manziel said. "It's something that you can only sit back and dream about. It's the biggest, most prestigious award in college football, so it would definitely be a dream come true."

Manziel is living the video game life, and there’s no reason his dream shouldn’t become a reality.

Putting Manziel's numbers in perspective

November, 13, 2012
11/13/12
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Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel had his Heisman Trophy moment last Saturday with his performance against Alabama in the Aggies’ 29-24 win.

Kansas State’s Collin Klein remains the Heisman Trophy front-runner, but don’t rule out “Johnny Football.” He made the kind of late-season splash on a huge stage that’s so important in the Heisman voting.

Robert Griffin III probably won the Heisman a year ago with his performance against Oklahoma on the next-to-last weekend of the regular season.

If you look at Manziel’s statistics to this point, he’s right there on par with the last two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks to come out of the SEC -- Auburn’s Cam Newton in 2010 and Florida’s Tim Tebow in 2007.

Manziel also compares very favorably to Klein and has faced three teams ranked in the top five nationally in total defense -- No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 LSU and No. 5 Florida.

Here’s a breakdown of Manziel’s numbers through 10 games compared to what Newton and Tebow had done through 10 games during their Heisman Trophy seasons:

MANZIEL
  • Total offense: 3,794 yards
  • Touchdowns accounted for: 33
  • Rushing: 1,014 yards, 15 touchdowns, 6.5 yards per carry
  • Passing: 227-of-336 (67.6 percent), 2,780 yards, 18 touchdowns, six interceptions
NEWTON
  • Total offense: 3,171 yards
  • Touchdowns accounted for: 36
  • Rushing: 1,281 yards, 16 touchdowns, 7.3 yards per carry
  • Passing: 123-of-183 (67.2 percent), 1,890 yards, 19 touchdowns, five interceptions
TEBOW
  • Total offense: 3,250 yards
  • Touchdowns accounted for: 42
  • Rushing: 718 yards, 19 touchdowns, 4.2 yards per carry
  • Passing: 173-of- 255 (67.8 percent), 2,532 yards, 23 touchdowns, five interceptions

Johnny Manziel is a real Heisman contender

November, 13, 2012
11/13/12
11:18
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Johnny ManzielMike Zarrilli/Getty ImagesWith a win against No. 1 Alabama, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel moved closer to Heisman candidacy.
In a year in which the Heisman race has really lacked pizzazz, one player is bucking the lackluster trend.

Small in stature but big in plays, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel proved yet again over the weekend he deserves a seat at the Heisman table in New York next month.

The redshirt freshman has been too exciting, too productive and too darn good not to get some real Heisman love. If the season ended today, it would be an absolute crime if Johnny Football wasn’t a Heisman finalist.

If what he’d done heading into the Alabama game didn’t win you over, Saturday inside Bryant-Denny Stadium had to.

He was thrown right at one of the nation’s best defenses from the start, accounting for 16 of Texas A&M’s 27 plays in the first quarter and collecting 150 of the Aggies’ 172 first-quarter yards (passing/throwing). All three drives ended with Aggies touchdowns.

He made defenders look sillier and sillier with each scramble, such as his nifty 29-yard scamper on the first drive to put the ball at the Alabama 14-yard line, and his clumsy-turned-slippery 32-yard pass on the second drive that set up the Aggies’ second touchdown.

He pulled off another jaw-dropping 32-yard run on the third drive just for fun.

He even fumbled a ball in midair, only to catch it, roll out and find a wide-open Ryan Swope for a 10-yard touchdown in the first.

After struggling in the second and third quarters, he led the Aggies on two fourth-quarter scoring drives. On A&M’s final scoring drive he threaded a pass to Swope for 42 yards down the right sideline before tossing a perfectly thrown flag pass to Malcome Kennedy for the go-ahead 24-yard touchdown.

Manziel finished with 345 total yards and two scores. It was reminiscent of another dual-threat quarterback who walked out of Bryant-Denny Stadium with a shocking win. His name was Cam Newton, and he left with two more touchdowns, but 90 fewer yards.

Given the Herculean task of besting Alabama’s defense, Manziel came through and never wavered. Defensive stops didn’t stun him. He stunned the Tide.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Manziel completed all six of his passes outside the pocket and scrambled for 94 yards when forced out of the pocket. Before Saturday, Alabama’s opponents were completing 35.7 percent of their passes outside the pocket and had scrambled for 12 total yards in nine games.

He also completed 4-of-5 passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield. In previous games, Alabama allowed nine completions on 41 pass attempts thrown 20 yards or longer downfield and hadn’t allowed a quarterback to complete four such passes since the start of the 2009 season, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

He ran the nation’s No. 1 team out of its own stadium and momentarily knocked the SEC off it path toward a seventh straight national championship appearance.

That right there should get voters outside of the South giddy about Johnny Football, but there’s so much more to him than just Saturday’s stellar outing.

Manziel doesn’t look like he can do much, but even with his generously listed 6-foot-1 height and his awkward and graceless scurrying, Manziel constantly finds ways to make plays. You can’t bring too much pressure because he’ll just sidestep his way outside and sprint for a big play. Don’t bring enough, and he’ll burn you over the top.

He’s third in the SEC in passing (2,780), first in rushing (1,014) and has combined for 33 total touchdowns. He’s averaging 379.4 yards of total offense per game and is the second freshman in Football Bowl Subdivision history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 yards in a single season.

People harp on his two home losses to Florida and LSU, but plenty of Heisman winners have lacked perfection. Tim Tebow and Robert Griffin III both lost three games before hoisting the bronze trophy. And if Manziel & Co. keep winning, he might play in a BCS bowl game -- something Tebow and Griffin didn’t do during their Heisman years.

When compared to Tebow, Griffin and Newton, Manziel is right in line. He won’t pass for Griffin’s 4,293 yards and 37 touchdowns, but he’ll surpass Newton’s passing yardage and needs 507 yards to beat Tebow’s. He also has rushed for more yards than Tebow and Griffin and needs 460 yards to surpass Newton’s SEC quarterback record of 1,473 he set in 2010.

So when it’s time to cast those Heisman ballots and pick those worthy candidates to suit up in the Big Apple, Manziel can’t be left out. He has done too much already, and still has time to do even more.

Five Big 12 QBs up for O'Brien Award

July, 19, 2012
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The Davey O'Brien Award, given annually to college football's best quarterback, has released its 34-man preseason watch list, and five Big 12 QBs made the list.

Here they are:
Great list there. Don't be surprised if Nick Florence cracks the list of midseason semifinalists, but for now, based on his efforts in 2009 (and one half last year), he didn't deserve a spot on the preseason list. I'm expecting a big year from him, but the five guys on this list should all have big years, too.

The Big 12 has won three of the past four Davey O'Brien Awards. Baylor's Robert Griffin III won it last year, two years after Texas' Colt McCoy took it home. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford won the O'Brien and the Heisman in 2008. Auburn's Cam Newton broke up the Big 12 streak in 2010.

Oklahoma's three O'Brien Awards are tied for second-most nationally, behind only BYU, with four in the award's 20-year history.

Richardson tops solid Heisman quintet

December, 6, 2011
12/06/11
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My Heisman Trophy ballot has changed every week for the last couple of months.

I'm not surprised there are more than three players going to the trophy presentation.

Five players were invited to New York for Saturday night's Heisman Trophy presentation -- quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor, tailbacks Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Trent Richardson of Alabama and cornerback Tyrann Mathieu of LSU.

It's a shame the Heisman Trust didn't have room for three more quarterbacks because Houston's Case Keenum, USC's Matt Barkley and Boise State's Kellen Moore were just as deserving.

With five finalists going to New York, it figures to be one of the closer votes in recent Heisman Trophy history.

The closest vote in Heisman Trophy history came just two years ago, when Alabama tailback Mark Ingram edged Stanford's Toby Gerhart by only 28 points. Ingram received 227 first-place votes, Gerhart got 222 and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, the second runner-up, received 203.

Given the number of finalists and their geographical regions, we could have another really close finish on Saturday night.

Luck, the runner-up to Auburn's Cam Newton last season, entered the 2011 season as the Heisman Trophy favorite. His performance didn't slip much this season, as he completed 70 percent of his passes for 3,170 yards with 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

I still feel Luck might be the most valuable player on any team in the country. Without him, there's no way the Cardinal is ranked No. 4 in the country and playing No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Luck has done more with less, as Stanford lacks the game-changing playmakers that other teams have.

But Luck might still be the second-best quarterback in New York. Griffin, who is widely known as RG3, completed 72.4 percent of his passes for 3,998 yards with 36 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 644 yards with nine touchdowns.

Without him, the Bears wouldn't have beaten TCU, Oklahoma and Texas. Griffin's one drawback: He had a late interception that sealed the Bears' fate in a 36-35 loss at Kansas State on Oct. 1 and threw two picks in a 59-24 loss at Oklahoma State on Oct. 29. But with everything else RG3 has done this season, it's easy to give him a mulligan for the miscues.

LSU defense
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesRunning back Trent Richardson has been at his best in Alabama's biggest games.
I still believe Richardson is the best player in the country. He looked like the best player on the field in No. 2 Alabama's 9-6 loss in overtime to No. 1 LSU on Nov. 5. He had 89 rushing yards and 80 receiving yards in a game where every yard mattered. He finished the season with 1,583 yards with 20 touchdown runs and three touchdown catches. He's also Mr. Dependable, not losing a fumble in his past 520 touches and only once in 614 career touches.

Ball has been a scoring machine for the No. 10 Badgers this season, running for 1,759 yards with 32 touchdown runs and six touchdown receptions. His 38 total touchdowns are one shy of matching former Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season record of 39 set in 11 games in 1988. Ball's production helped lead the Badgers to a Jan. 2 date against Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

Mathieu fell off my ballot after he was suspended from playing in the Tigers' 45-10 victory over Auburn on Oct. 22 for smoking synthetic marijuana. But his big plays helped the Tigers overcome deficits in each of their last two victories, over Arkansas and Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Mathieu -- aka the "Honey Badger" -- is the best player on the top-ranked team. He leads the Tigers with 70 tackles and has forced six fumbles and recovered five. He also is the most dynamic punt returner I've seen since Florida State's Deion Sanders. Mathieu has scored four touchdowns -- two on fumble returns and two on punt returns.

To penalize Mathieu for one foolish mistake wouldn't have been right. After all, Newton was briefly ruled ineligible at Auburn last season and 2010 Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James of Oregon was suspended from playing in last season's opener.

Andy Dalton brings TCU work ethic to Cincinnati Bengals

November, 18, 2011
11/18/11
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Andy DaltonJim Brown/US PresswireAndy Dalton's quiet leadership has helped turn things around in Cincinnati.
Andy Dalton got married in July and reported to the Cincinnati Bengals in August when the NFL lockout ended. There is no sign of either honeymoon ending soon.

The understated former TCU quarterback who led the underdog Horned Frogs to consecutive BCS bowl games and a riveting Rose Bowl championship as a senior is applying his humble, hard-working approach to the Bengals. He is orchestrating one of the major surprise stories of the NFL season, quickly and remarkably restoring credibility to one of the league’s more chaotic -- and downtrodden -- franchises.

In the Queen City, Dalton is dubbed the "Red Rifle" for his fiery red hair and an arm that isn’t exactly a cannon. It’s certainly been steady enough to lift the Bengals to a 6-3 start after winning just four games all of last season.

Remember, this is a franchise that has stumbled through a mindboggling number of arrests and suspensions; that regrettably joined Terrell Owens with Chad Ochocinco; whose franchise quarterback, Carson Palmer, became so disenchanted with the organization’s chronic dysfunction that he walked away after last season vowing never to play another game in tiger stripes.

Could a more volatile situation exist across the NFL for a rookie quarterback with no option other than to start?

“I wasn’t worried about anything that happened in the past. I was coming into a new situation where there was basically just open competition for the quarterback job,” Dalton said in a phone interview this week. “I was just trying to be myself and try to do what I can to help this team. I think that’s the attitude everyone’s kind of taken here. We have a young team that’s really hungry and wants to be really good. It’s the practice we put in and the effort and time, and I think that’s helped with our success.”

Whether Dalton and the Bengals can keep this going and contend for an AFC playoff berth will unfold over the next seven weeks. They lost a tough, 24-17 decision for first place to North Division rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Dalton threw two touchdowns through three quarters, but was picked-off twice in Pittsburgh territory in a scoreless fourth quarter.

Sunday’s divisional opponent is another difficult defensive draw and first matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, also 6-3. That Dalton’s favorite target, rookie A.J. Green (41 catches, 635 yards and six touchdowns), left last week’s game with an injury and might not play Sunday doesn’t make the task easier.

Andy Dalton
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireAndy Dalton's work ethic and humble demeanor convinced Bengals coach Marvin Lewis to keep coming back "You could tell that they were very high on what he could do and how he did it and how he handled himself," TCU coach Gary Patterson said.
“If you really want to see what it’s like to be a quarterback, go play the Ravens and the Steelers with the way they play defense,” said Gary Patterson, Dalton’s TCU coach and one of his biggest promoters. “He’s got his hands full, so let’s see how he does. He’s probably going 24 hours [a day] doing what he’s doing.”

That’s how Dalton operated even before he became the Red Rifle. His study habits are legendary at TCU and a week rarely goes by when Patterson doesn’t reference “Dalton’s teams” as an example of discipline and determination that he doesn’t always see from this season’s younger bunch of Frogs.

Patterson tells stories of Dalton sitting in a darkened film room on the team’s day off or of firing up his laptop to break down the road game he just completed before the bus driver can find his keys to whisk the team to the airport.

“My time is devoted to football and there’s a lot that goes on, and it’s not just while I’m here,” Dalton said, speaking of the Bengals’ practice facility. “I’ve got a laptop at home that I watch film on, and it’s kind of fun because I get my wife watching it, too, and I try to teach her what’s going on. It’s definitely been a lot of fun and I’m definitely enjoying it.”

Dalton’s work habits, demeanor, steadiness and dedication convinced Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to keep coming back to the TCU campus to work him out. They’d open the playbook to the new West Coast offense they’d install when the lockout ended and let Dalton familiarize himself with it by running plays on TCU’s practice field.

A group of TCU’s talented senior receivers and defensive backs joined him and, each time, the Bengals walked away more impressed with his accuracy and understanding. The 6-2 Dalton is shorter than most NFL quarterbacks, and he certainly isn’t the physical specimen that is fellow rookie Cam Newton, whose Carolina Panthers have matched last season’s win total of two.

But the Bengals concentrated on the qualities that allowed Dalton to lead Katy High School to the state championship game and then rewrite TCU’s record books as a four-year starter. They focused on a quarterback that didn’t have his best day in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl loss, and then who dedicated his senior season to making amends. His teammates followed. The Frogs beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl to finish undefeated and No. 2 in the nation.

“I think their coaching staff took the right approach. They were the last team here before the draft. I mean they had five coaches here,” Patterson said. “I’m standing out there with the Bengals head coach and their offensive coordinator and a couple of other assistant coaches and they’re throwing the ball all over the place. And you can tell that they were very high on what he could do and how he did it and how he handled himself. So, it was not a surprise to me that the Bengals took him.”

He has delivered as advertised: smart, accurate, decisive, even-keeled, competitive and even dangerous. Dalton has provided stability for a franchise in desperate need of a rudder at the game’s most important position.

“I came in with an open mind and I came into a great situation getting drafted here,” Dalton said. “I felt like the coaches trusted me and had confidence in me early on, so I was just trying to be myself.”

Through nine games, no rookie quarterback since the 1970 merger has thrown more touchdowns than Dalton’s 14. Dan Marino and Jim Plunkett both had 13. Dalton is on pace to break Peyton Manning’s rookie record of 26 touchdown passes in 1998.

Dalton has completed 173-of-287 passes, a 60.3 completion rate with just nine interceptions. His accuracy and ability to manage the natural ebb and flow of a 60-minute game helped the Bengals win five consecutive games for the first time since 1988. He says each time he steps on the field he gains a greater understanding of what the NFL’s more complicated defensive schemes are attempting to do and how they try to disguise what they do.

“The style of our offense [at TCU] and the things that we were doing, the way we called plays and the way I was able to make checks at the line of scrimmage are very similar to what we’re doing here,” Dalton said. “The way I was coached and all that stuff really helped me out to get to this point. And, when I came in I feel like the coaches had a lot of confidence in me.”

Quickly and quite remarkably, Dalton picked up in the NFL where he left off at TCU.

“It was just going out and being myself, doing what I can to learn everything, to come in and show everybody that they can trust me,” Dalton said. “I think I did a good job of that.”

LSU's D sets its own blistering pace

August, 31, 2011
8/31/11
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Everybody talks about Oregon’s speed and explosiveness.

The Ducks are fast, and they play even faster. When a lot of teams are just trying to catch their breath at critical junctures in the second half, Oregon is trying to figure out a way to squeeze in a few more offensive plays.

“If you let them get on a roll, they’re usually going to run you into the ground,” LSU senior safety Brandon Taylor said.

The Tigers’ defenders are confident they can match the Ducks’ speed on the field. LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis thinks this might be the fastest defense he’s ever coached.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Taylor
John Reed/US PresswireSlowing down Oregon's offense will be important for Brandon Taylor (15) and LSU.
It’s not just in the secondary, either.

“We’ve got defensive ends who run like they should be playing back there with us,” said Taylor, entering his third season as LSU’s starting strong safety. “I think we match up with these guys in speed.

“What it’s going to come down to is making sure we get our plays in and getting lined up on time.”

LSU geared a portion of its offseason conditioning program to handling Oregon’s blistering offensive pace and actually worked against two different scout teams. That way, the defense was always working against a fresh offense that was at the line and ready to snap the ball as soon as the last play ended.

One of the other things Taylor says this LSU defense has going for it is a keen understanding of Chavis’ system, not to mention a deep bench. This is Chavis’ third season in Baton Rouge, and if the preseason was any indication, Taylor said this defense will be the Tigers’ most proficient yet.

“We know this defense inside and out now,” Taylor said. “There’s no hesitating on this defense. If you’re out there hesitating and playing slow, you’re going to get pulled, and the next man behind you is going to be in there.

“We’ve all seen what happens if you hesitate against Oregon. You better hit them before they hit you.”

The Tigers have worn out the game tape from last season’s BCS National Championship Game.

Oregon averaged 303.8 yards rushing in its first 12 games last season, but was held to 75 yards on the ground against Auburn in the championship game.

“Auburn’s front seven did a great job of pursuing up the field and tackling the backs and quarterbacks,” Taylor said. “If you don’t tackle these guys, they’re going to break a long one.”

Nobody in college football was better last season than Oregon at scoring from long distance. Oregon tied with Auburn nationally for the most touchdown plays of 25 yards or longer (27).

The Ducks’ 45 touchdown drives of two minutes or less last season were nine more than the No. 2 team nationally. Boise State had 36.

“It’s an offense that commands your attention every snap,” Chavis said.

One of the best things the Tigers did on defense last season was keep teams out of the end zone. They finished 11th nationally in scoring defense. They also led the SEC and tied for eighth nationally in forced turnovers (32).

What the Tigers didn’t do as well was eliminate the big play, and it caught up with them in their two losses.

In fact, three big plays in particular might have cost them a shot at the national championship. In the Auburn game, Cam Newton scored on a 49-yard touchdown run, and Onterio McCalebb broke a tie game in the fourth quarter with a 70-yard touchdown run.

Then in the regular-season finale against Arkansas -- and with Taylor sidelined after injuring his leg against Alabama -- the Hogs hit the Tigers with an 80-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the first half.

If that wasn’t enough, Arkansas also scored on touchdown passes of 85 and 39 yards in that contest.

Taylor’s absence was a huge blow, and Chavis said the LSU defense also was never the same after end Sam Montgomery went down with a knee injury at the midway point of the season.

“We’re all ready to go now, back to 100 percent,” Taylor said. “I feel like I’m faster than I was last year.”

The Tigers also get another shot at a spread offense after being shredded for 440 rushing yards by Auburn and Newton last season in that 24-17 loss on the Plains. It’s the most rushing yards ever allowed by LSU.

“That’s a game we didn’t tackle well in, so we know what can happen if we don’t get guys on the ground when we have a chance to make a play,” Taylor said.

Chavis likes to play his “Mustang” package, which makes an already fast LSU defense even faster with six defensive backs on the field.

A former safety, Karnell Hatcher, is also playing some at middle linebacker for the Tigers.

“We’ve got enough depth that we’re going to be able to rotate players in,” Taylor said. “We know they’re going to keep coming at us, but we’re going to keep coming at them with a lot of fresh legs.”

Breaking down the Big 12 QB derbies

August, 9, 2011
8/09/11
9:00
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Today is all about the QBs here at ESPN.com, and here's a look at each of the quarterback races in the Big 12.

IOWA STATE

[+] EnlargeJerome Tiller
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireJerome Tiller is expected to open as Iowa State's starting QB.
The safe bet: Jerome Tiller. Tiller, a junior, has filled in for Austen Arnaud much of the past two seasons, but struggled late last season after Arnaud suffered a season-ending knee injury. Tiller quarterbacked a win at Nebraska in 2009, but didn't look much improved in the game time he earned in 2010.

The wild card: Steele Jantz. Jantz is a speedy transfer from junior college in California who also arrived at Iowa State with his top receiver from the City College of San Francisco, Aaron Horne. Jantz will have to keep learning the offense, but can he inject life into the offense with his legs like Taylor Martinez did for Nebraska? Iowa State's version of The Decision is set for Aug. 20. Who will be taking their talents under center at Jack Trice Stadium? Give me the underdog in this race.

The dark horse: Jared Barnett. James Capello, a fourth contender, transferred, but Paul Rhoads says Barnett still has a chance. Can he make enough noise in fall camp to make that a reality?

KANSAS

The heavy favorite: Jordan Webb. Webb started seven games as a redshirt freshman in 2010, and appeared to take control during the summer, but he struggled last season. He should learn from experience, too. Last year's opening-day starter, Kale Pick, is now a receiver. Webb will almost certainly get the call for the season opener, but if he doesn't improve, that could change fast.

The underdog: Quinn Mecham. Mecham started four of the final five games for the Jayhawks, but the senior and junior college transfer might not be the best long-term option for Kansas. Webb learning on the go could pay off in the future, while any lessons Mecham learns will be out the door after the season. Mecham as the backup might be a better role for the team's greater good.

The wild cards: Brock Berglund and Michael Cummings, a pair of true freshmen. Cummings enters with a bit less talent but much less baggage. Berglund was a blue-chip recruit from Colorado, but legal issues stemming from an April assault charge have him spending much more time back home than anticipated. Berglund also missed summer voluntary workouts because of the charge and went back to Colorado before spring practice began, despite enrolling at Kansas in January, a semester earlier than the rest of the freshman class. Expect a redshirt for one of the two, but the two quarterbacks in front of them haven't exactly set the bar high. If the favorites struggle, don't be surprised to see Cummings or Berglund get a chance.

KANSAS STATE

The heavy favorite: Collin Klein. Coach Bill Snyder has already given Klein the status as Day 1 starter, but the Wildcats have played two quarterbacks before under Snyder, and Klein's backups could benefit from a similar strategy this season. The only rumors surrounding Klein are those of vast development during the summer, but he'll have to prove it during fall camp and early in the season to get a stranglehold on the job.

The hype man: Justin Tuggle. Tuggle replaced Cam Newton at Blinn Junior College and transferred to Kansas State before spring practice after originally playing for Boston College out of high school. Tuggle sounded like a strong contender entering spring practice, but didn't make it happen. We'll see if his status changes during fall camp.

The backup plan: Sammuel Lamur. Lamur was the No. 3 quarterback last season, and took over the No. 2 spot on the depth chart ahead of Tuggle during the spring. We haven't seen much of Lamur during his career, but this might be the year.

TEXAS

The favorite: Garrett Gilbert. Gilbert, despite his struggles in 2010, never got pulled and started all 12 games for the Longhorns. He looked unimpressive in the spring game, but indications from his teammates are that he's embodied the leadership aspect of the job, something coach Mack Brown covets. That might earn Gilbert the job, but if he doesn't look like a vastly different player this season, he'll lose it.

The wild card: Case McCoy. McCoy, the younger brother of that other McCoy kid you might have heard of, has taken on a bit of a fan-favorite role after his performance in the spring game, when he outplayed Gilbert. Despite his good numbers in the spring game, however, he looked uncomfortable and must make up for his lack of experience to oust Gilbert for the reins of the offense.

The mystery man: Connor Wood. Wood is a former high school All-American, but redshirted in 2010 and played sparingly in the spring game. Outside of a few snaps in spring, no one outside the locker room has had much of a chance to see Wood play, but if he starts making noise during fall camp, you'll hear it.

The young gun: David Ash. Coaches lauding true freshman quarterbacks in the spring is rare, but Ash arrived in Austin early and got a lot of compliments from the new Longhorns coaches. He's the long shot in this race, and Brown apologized to him for not getting him enough snaps in the spring game, but the coaches indicate he's still alive in the race.

Big 12 position rankings: Quarterback

June, 20, 2011
6/20/11
10:45
AM CT
We'll kick off our look today at the position rankings for each team in the Big 12 before looping back around to rank the top 10 at every position in the Big 12.

We'll start at the most obvious position: Quarterback, a position that I'd argue is more important in the Big 12 than in any other conference.

Depth will be a huge factor in these rankings, though at quarterback, it's the toughest to gauge, considering how little we see of backup quarterbacks.

Here's how each Big 12 team ranks at the quarterback position:

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireLandry Jones leads the Big 12's deepest and best group of quarterbacks.
1. Oklahoma

Oklahoma learned the hard way in 2009 about the importance of the backup quarterback, but even in his limited experience, Drew Allen has impressed Bob Stoops after narrowly losing out on the backup job behind Sam Bradford in 2009. Landry Jones is a great one, and with his opportunities, has become a Heisman Trophy favorite. Could Allen have done the same if he had beaten out Jones in 2009? Blake Bell, the nation's No. 3 quarterback in the 2010 class, will likely be Oklahoma's No. 3 in 2011.

2. Oklahoma State

Brandon Weeden's profile spiked when he led the Cowboys to a comeback win over Colorado on a Thursday night game in 2009. He took over as the starter shortly after, but going into that game Weeden was a third-stringer. Alex Cate transferred after it became evident that Weeden would be the starter in 2010, and behind Weeden is Clint Chelf and two solid recruits: Johnny Deaton and J.W. Walsh, who was the nation's No. 10 QB (just outside the ESPNU 150) in 2011 and enrolled early.

3. Texas A&M

Ryan Tannehill is entrenched at the starting spot, with a lot of youth behind him. Matt Joeckel and Jameill Showers will try to hold off incoming freshman Johnny Manziel for the No. 2 spot this fall. Manziel was impressive during the spring, and will contend for the starting job in 2012, but he'll likely redshirt unless he wins the backup job.

4. Texas Tech

Seth Doege looks ready to grab the reins for two seasons, barring injury. Jacob Karam is probably ready to start in the Big 12 right now, he's just not as good as Doege. Behind them are two promising prospects with upside and development to do: Scotty Young and Michael Brewer. The Red Raiders are the last of the Big 12 teams who have truly solid depth at quarterback.

5. Baylor

Robert Griffin III will probably hold every school record for quarterbacks by the time he leaves Waco, but the Bears need to find a true replacement behind him. Nick Florence filled in well in 2009 when Griffin missed the final nine games with a knee injury, but he's a junior like Griffin and their eligibility will expire simultaneously. Redshirt freshman Bryce Petty and 2012 commit Jared Johnson could battle for the spot in 2013.

6. Missouri

The Tigers depth took a hit after Tyler Gabbert's transfer following spring practice, but expectations are high for sophomore James Franklin, who got a bit of experience in 2010 behind Blaine Gabbert. Senior Jimmy Costello quit the team after last season to focus on an impending fall enlistment in the Army, but rejoined after the Gabbert brothers' departures from Columbia. He's likely to be the backup, with Ashton Glaser and walk-on Ryan Howerton filling out the rest of the quarterback spots. Corbin Berkstresser, a 6-foot-3, 218-pound quarterback from Kansas City that ESPN ranked No. 43 at his position, will arrive in the fall, too.

7. Texas

How long until we see a quarterback make the kind of plays Garrett Gilbert made against Alabama in the national championship? Those kinds of long scores were rare last year, but the Longhorns will have a competition this fall that sounds like it's pretty open heading into camp. If Gilbert wins, he'll likely have a much shorter leash in 2011 than he did in 2010, before Case McCoy or Connor Wood gets a crack, and dark horse true freshman David Ash could make things interesting, too.

8. Kansas State

Collin Klein made a nice move toward winning the job with a strong spring game performance. But coach Bill Snyder says he still didn't see a ton of separation between Klein and his backups, Sammuel Lamur and Boston College transfer Justin Tuggle, who spent last year replacing Cam Newton at Blinn College in Texas.

9. Iowa State

James Capello transferred after the spring, but Iowa State's race has likely boiled down to two men: Jerome Tiller and Steele Jantz. Jantz, a juco transfer, is the wild card and Tiller will need to show that his struggles in spot duty last season were temporary. He didn't show the progress you'd expect from a maturing player when he played for an injured Austen Arnaud in a few games early and late in 2010. Jared Barnett is still battling in Ames, but him winning the job would be a huge upset.

10. Kansas

The Jayhawks could use a couple more years of Todd Reesing. The Jayhawks saw a huge drop off at the quarterback position in 2010, as Jordan Webb, Quinn Mecham and Kale Pick all got time under center. Kansas will likely run its offense through a strong group of running backs, but unless newcomer Brock Berglund shows potential and proves he's the best of the group, expect Kansas to remain near the bottom of the Big 12 by the end of 2011.

Mailbag: AggieTV, Leach, Bedlam, futures

January, 28, 2011
1/28/11
3:00
PM CT
Thanks for all the questions and comments, everybody.

Tarry Luna in McKinney, Texas, asks: David,I know there has been a lot of discussion about the UT/ESPN deal. There has been a lot of speculation that UT originally offered TAMU the opportunity to be a part of it, but TAMU turned it down. Are you aware of this, and is there documentation to verify that UT did indeed offer it to TAMU, and that TAMU turned it down? Thanks!

David Ubben: That's the first I've heard of that and I haven't seen any documentation to support it. That doesn't really make sense. Basically, what you'd have to have is one of two things.

1) You'd have to be convinced that Texas A&M content and money-making capability would be on par with Texas. I don't believe that's the case. The Aggies are right there alongside UT when it comes to alumni in the state, but Texas has way, way more casual fans. Those casual fans being willing to pony up for the network are a big reason why something like this is viable for a team like Texas and not for most programs.

Or...

2) Texas A&M joins up with them, but agrees to take a lower share of the profits from the network. Think that would go over well with the Aggies? No way.

Perhaps something like that was talked about, but your e-mail was the first I had heard of it. An interesting idea, but one that would never work. I do think, if Oklahoma's and Texas' networks are both successful, that an eight-team Big 12 Network is probably only a few years away from being a reality as long as Texas A&M doesn't get antsy and try to get into the SEC.


Brent in Stillwater, Okla., asks: Yesterday you said Leach would be an imperfect fit for OK State mainly because it would be a one year fix, and leave the next OC with out Weeden and Blackmon. My question is this, what if Gundy likes the idea of promoting someone like Meacham, but doesn't think he knows the spread offense well enough yet, and would like to give him one more year to shadow an offensive mastermind? If that were the case would it not stand to reason the Leach would be a perfect one year fit? Give him a one year contract, and have Meacham watch and learn for one more season!

DU: There's some merit to that idea. I could buy into that, and the immediate payoffs are obvious. I don't think Oklahoma State should rule out hiring Leach. I just don't think it's a perfect move. It comes with a lot of positives, and I think further training Doug Meacham is probably one of them.

There aren't a lot of exciting possibilities at offensive coordinator right now, so I could certainly be convinced that hiring Leach would work out well in the long run.


Daniel Hilburn in Pittsburgh, PA asks: Mr Ubben:What is your take on paying college athletes?

DU: I could write on this forever, but in short, it causes more problems than it produces.

How do you decide who makes what? Should Cam Newton make the same as a backup punter, even if they're both on scholarship? If you let the free market decide, isn't that a dangerous road for college sports? And considering most football programs aren't even in the black to begin with, where does that money come from?

Do you let teams like Texas pay more for players than teams like Baylor? Doesn't that already further eliminate parity in a sport that's running low on parity to begin with?

I don't think there are any good answers for any of those questions, and there are plenty of others, too. The current scholarship + stipend system isn't perfect, but it's better than the alternative. Paying players sounds great in theory, until you start trying to make it happen.


Frank in Oklahoma City, Okla., asks: OK, so we know that OU is stacked for the 2011 season. What positions and who will need to step up for the Sooners? Who do you see as darkhorses on a team of a plethora of talent? You can never be good enough.

DU: Well, obviously, Landry Jones has to continue to mature as a passer. He was a lot better in 2010 than in 2009. As for dark horses for the Sooners, they could use some big years from the defensive tackle spot. Jamarkus McFarland is loaded with potential and looked pretty good late last year, but a big year from him would be a huge help for the Sooners, who weren't fantastic against the run in 2010, especially early in the year. The same for Stacy McGee at the other tackle spot. He got some great experience this year after Adrian Taylor went down again.


Dennis in Irving, Texas, asks: 1. Would you recommend Bedlam moving to Cowboys Stadium championship week? 2. Look at OSU's 2011 schedule. If an unbeaten from the SEC, BIG 10, and OSU remain at the end of 2011, OSU will play for the NC, right? I don't see how they would get left out.

DU: I'm not really a fan of that idea. Moving it to championship week is fine, and that should be a nationally relevant game next year, but it's the wrong game to move to Cowboys Stadium. Playing an Oklahoma in-state rivalry in Texas doesn't make much sense, does it? Bedlam is the game that makes the most sense during championship week, and I think that will happen, but it doesn't look like there's a big game that makes a ton of sense in Cowboys Stadium. The Lone Star Showdown won't work. Red River obviously won't, either.

It'll be interesting to see if that ever becomes a reality. My guess is if it does, it won't be anything close to a marquee game.


Corbin in Austin asks: A&M's year was a fluke. I give them a 3% chance of competing for the conference championship next year. Especially since UT is going to be way better with our new coaching staff, and OU and OSU. Do you agree with me?

DU: Uh, no.


Cliff in Nebraska asks: David, Not trying to get rid of you or anything. Just curious when the official switch will be made and I'll have to start reading Adam's blog for Husker news?

DU: We're discussing a transition date right now. It's coming soon, and you won't miss it. All I can tell you right now is to be patient, and be thankful we're both covering the Huskers for now.


Drew in Columbia, Mo., asks: All the realignment talk got me thinking. Why doesn't the Big 12 raid the Dakotas for new members? The South Dakota State Jackrabbits have quite the following, and also have had successful basketball and football teams in the recent past. Also, they could go international and pick up schools like Oxford and Cambridge. Travel costs would be high, but the move would certainly improve the Big 12's academic perception. What do you think?

DU: I like it. If the Big 12 is supposedly sniffing around San Diego State, why stop there? I studied abroad at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and let me tell you, they had a solid rugby team. It's basically the same thing. Just teach them a few tweaks from rugby to football and let's let Macquarie into the Big 12. What better TV market for the Big 12 than the global market? London? Sydney? There's cash to be made!


Zachary Krider in Lewisville, Texas, asks: It seems like Von Miller is exceeding the expectations of scouts at the Senior Bowl. Do you see him possibly going in the top ten if he has a great Senior Bowl game?

DU: He definitely is. He, along with Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder, have been two of the most impressive guys out there this week. By most accounts, Miller has just been unblockable and looks like he's played himself into the top 10. As for the game, it's not quite as important as the week of practice when coaches and scouts can get a front row seat to your workouts. The game doesn't matter all that much in the grand scheme, and unless he's just a completely different player on the field, and there's no evidence to suggest he will be, he's definitely helped his stock this week.


Jeff Fuller in College Station asks: You forgot to add my left handed, behind my head leaping grab against Baylor in your plays of the year. Best catch of the year in the Big 12. Where's the love?

DU: My bad on that one, it probably deserved a spot on the list. Same with the one-handed catch late against Missouri. Seems like nobody had more one-handed grabs this year than Fuller. Another year of those highlights should be fun to watch.

Gary Patterson plans to enjoy title game

January, 10, 2011
1/10/11
5:17
PM CT
TCU Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson, fresh off a Rose Bowl victory on New Year's Day and subsequent contract extension and pay raise, spent Monday on campus for various meetings on the school's first day back from winter break.

Then he headed to Dallas to join the in-progress American Football Coaches Association Convention. From there, well, he's not sure if he'll watch tonight's BCS championship game that pits the nation's only other two undefeated teams besides his own with his coaching brethren or haul it back to Fort Worth to watch with his wife Kelsey.

"It depends on how tired I am," Patterson said.

Either way, Patterson said he'll watch this one strictly as fan. He won't study every formation that Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and the No. 1 Auburn Tigers line up in or put a stopwatch to the No. 2 Oregon Ducks and their hyperactive offense as though he has to get a call into his defense. Nope, the coach of the No. 3 Frogs said he's just going to kick back and enjoy it.

"I'm going to let someone else sweat," he said. "I am interested to see who got their team ready to play after 40 days."

It's been a full nine days since TCU defeated Wisconsin, 21-19, on a beautiful day in Pasadena, Calif. After the monumental victory that sealed a 13-0 season and the program's first unblemished mark since 1938, Patterson has remained diplomatic regarding the BCS system that allows for only two undefeateds to play for the national title -- and to be clear, two from the so-called power BCS conferences.

The Frogs aren't the first team without a loss or tie to be left out of the mix. Tulane got this argument started back in 1998. Utah's been thr0ugh the drill and Boise State didn't even get in a BCS game after going undefeated in 2008. Auburn remains the lone team from an automatic-qualifying conference to be left out of the championship game despite going 13-0 in 2004.

Because the furor over the system is reaching a fever pitch among college football fans and because TCU defeated Wisconsin, a Big Ten power, it seems there is more sentiment than ever to change the system. Talk has continued since the Rose Bowl and will likely be debated shortly on the ESPN pre-game show whether the Frogs, champions of the non-AQ Mountain West Confernece, deserved to be in this game.

"I still feel the same way about that," Patterson said, meaning the system in place is the one he plays by. "But, they're still talking about us and that's a good thing."

As for tonight's game, Patterson said he's not picking a favorite.

"But," he said, "I am interested to see how it turns out."

Cam Newton's eligibility linked to TCU?

December, 1, 2010
12/01/10
4:17
PM CT
Michael Wilbon says the first thing he thought of when Cam Newton was ruled eligible is the NCAA wants to keep TCU out of the national championship game.

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ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit joins GAC to question whether the Cam Newton ruling opened up a new can of worms for the NCAA.

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Brian Bennett weighs in on TCU's move to the Big East and more.

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Cam Newton

TCU stays No. 3, but for how much longer?

November, 14, 2010
11/14/10
8:00
PM CT
video
The TCU Horned Frogs can exhale, for now.

In the latest BCS rankings released Sunday night, TCU remained at No. 3, but No. 4 Boise State made up significant ground and could be poised to pass the Frogs before all is said and done.

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Todd McShay explains why TCU will likely fall behind Boise State in the polls before the end of the season.

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TCU's lead shrunk to a minuscule .034. The Frogs' 40-35 win Saturday over the San Diego State Aztecs, a game in which TCU trailed 14-0 early and then couldn't make a 37-14 lead stand, combined with Utah's embarrassing loss at Notre Dame, clearly hurt the Frogs' ranking in the cold, calculating world that is the BCS.

Just a week ago, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Frogs had cemented a finish in at least the top three after their celebrated 47-7 win over the then-No. 5 Utes. But, Saturday's five-point win has seemingly changed the game.

It is now debatable whether the Frogs or the Broncos control their own destiny for either a chance to play in the national title game if either No. 1 Oregon or No. 2 Auburn slip, or to earn the automatic bid into the Rose Bowl that will be awarded to the highest-ranking team from one of the non-automatic qualifier conferences.

TCU is now in a precarious situation. Boise State still has three games remaining (vs. Fresno State, at No. 18 Nevada, vs. Utah State), while the Frogs play just one more time. After a bye this week, TCU finishes after Thanksgiving at woeful New Mexico, a game that will do little to enhance the Frogs' profile.

A Boise win over Nevada could vault it past TCU in the BCS rankings -- if it doesn't happen next week with a Broncos win over Fresno State.

Even if Boise ultimately passes TCU, the Frogs can take solace in knowing that this is a mediocre season within the major conferences across the country. Ten teams make it to the BCS, starting with the six champions of the BCS conferences (Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, Big East, ACC and Pac-10). The next four are at-large selections. The highest-ranked non-AQ team (TCU or Boise) will take one. Typically the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten grab the remaining spots to fill out the BCS slate.

But, this season, the Big 12 could be a one-team conference, which would open the door for a second non-AQ school. But, that's no guarantee. A major conference dark horse could be No. 6 Stanford (9-1) from the Pac-10.

All the Frogs can do now is wait it out. Boise is in action at home Friday night against Fresno State while the Frogs are idle.

If Boise wins it, and especially handily, then a week from tonight TCU will hold its breath again.

Ken Rogers sheds light on Cam Newton

November, 11, 2010
11/11/10
4:16
PM CT
Kenny Rogers tells ESPN 103.3 FM's Ian Fitzsimmons that Cam Newton's father asked for between $100,000 and $180,000 from Mississippi State to have Newton play there.

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