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Monday, May 16, 2011
Newton takes poll in a landslide

By Edward Aschoff

Well, it wasn't even close. Former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was the runaway winner in our poll on which SEC player will be the hardest to replace this upcoming season.

It's no shocker, really. Newton had one of the most productive seasons of any quarterback in college football history in 2010. He not only captured the Heisman Trophy but led Auburn to an undefeated season and a national championship.

He was the best player whenever he stepped on the field and was the heart of Auburn's team last year.

So, I would have gone with Newton as well.

At last count, Newton grabbed 65 percent of the vote with more than 21,500 people voting.

When you look at Auburn's quarterback situation now, there is a bit of concern. The Tigers worked sophomore Clint Moseley and freshman Barrett Trotter out this spring. Both suffered some growing pains, but steadily improved down the stretch. Auburn will welcome true freshman Kiehl Frazier into the mix this summer. Frazier could have the most athletic ability of all the quarterbacks, and coach Gene Chizik made it known this spring that he will play the best player this fall, regardless of experience.

In a distant second was Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green. Arguably the best receiver to enter this year's NFL draft, Green had 16 percent of the vote. As a junior, Green ended the season leading the Bulldogs in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, despite missing the first four games because of suspension.

Green's departure leaves the Bulldogs with a handful of unproven receivers. The next star in line seems to be Tavarres King. King assumed Green's flanker position this spring, and while he certainly wasn't Green, he cemented himself as Georgia's go-to receiver.

There is a lot of uncertainty behind King, but having a quarterback like Aaron Murray should keep the offense going.

Next was LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. Peterson was one of the most exciting defensive players to watch, and he had the ability to take an entire side of the field away when he lined up. Peterson held 10 percent of the vote.

In single digits were Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett and Florida safety Ahmad Black. Mallett has the biggest arm to replace in the SEC. He led the conference in passing a year ago, but he'll have redshirt junior Tyler Wilson taking his place this season. Wilson will have a slew of targets to throw to with Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright out there, so replacing Mallett might not be too hard in Hog country.

As for Black, he finished his career first in the SEC and tied for sixth nationally among active players with 13 career interceptions. While small in stature, he came up big for the Gators on defense and was the emotional leader at Florida last season. Black's replacement, sophomore Matt Elam, might have more athleticism, but no one is sure if he'll have the intangibles Black possessed.