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Thursday, October 17, 2013
Gus Malzahn: Newton, Manziel similar

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Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has seen a familiar-looking player when preparing for Texas A&M star quarterback Johnny Manziel this week.

Malzahn said the reigning Heisman Trophy winner reminds him a lot of former Tigers star quarterback Cam Newton, who captured the award in 2010.

"I would say probably those two are probably two of the best that ever played the game in college football," said Malzahn, who was Newton's offensive coordinator.

Johnny Manziel
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Johnny Manziel, above, and former Tigers QB Cam Newton "are probably two of the best that ever played the game in college football."

"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 ever play."

Newton led the Tigers to the 2010 national championship. The new and maybe even improved version of Newton is Manziel, an equally dazzling QB trying to lead the No. 7 Aggies to a win against No. 24 Auburn on Saturday.

Both quarterbacks were seemingly unstoppable forces in No. 2 jerseys, putting up crazy numbers in fast-paced SEC West offenses.

For his part, Newton is a fan of Manziel and other athletic college quarterbacks, and not just for their physical gifts.

"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 Tajh Boyd," the Carolina Panthers quarterback said. "There are a lot of players across the nation that are playing great football at the quarterback position. The Oregon quarterback [Marcus Mariota]. I'm a fan of football at the NFL level, too, and who's playing better football anywhere besides Peyton Manning right now?

"When you look across the board and me being a fan of the game, it's all about confidence. When you get a person playing with confidence, who knows what they're capable of? That goes to show you, when I was at Auburn, I played with confidence."

Newton, of course, said he thinks Auburn will win the game. Asked whether he voted for Manziel for the Heisman, he responded: "War Eagle."

Besides Newton, Manziel and ex-Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, Colin Kaepernick is the only other Football Bowl Subdivision quarterback to post 20 touchdowns both rushing and passing in the same season.

Those kind of players let coordinators expand their playbooks and throw them out the window when improvisational magic better serves.

"When you've got a special player, you can call anything and it usually works," Malzahn said. "They get you out of bad plays and they can make stuff right that's not right. Special ones can do that."

Newton set a Southeastern Conference record with 4,370 yards of total offense in the junior college transfer's lone season at Auburn. He passed for 2,908 yards and 30 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Newton also ran for 1,586 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Manziel trounced Newton's SEC total-offense mark as a redshirt freshman with 5,116 yards. He passed for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns while getting intercepted nine times. Manziel also racked up 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground.

Manziel is putting up huge numbers again as the SEC's top passer and No. 10 rusher while directing one of the nation's most prolific offenses.

Even Newton's former position coach marvels at Manziel's stats and the intangibles.

"It's almost like watching a video game sometimes with the stuff he does," Malzahn said. "The human side, his competitiveness, his toughness, that's what really stands out to me. He's an extremely mentally and physically tough individual, and he plays with that edge."

The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton and 6-1, 210-pound Manziel have different styles but both confounded college defensive coordinators.

"When I was getting recruited, Cam was Cam. He's a Superman," Auburn tailback Tre Mason said. "I see Johnny making those plays, and we're just looking forward to stopping him and winning this game."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.