How great is Cam Newton?

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:41 PM ET

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — When his blocking work is done and Cam Newton is sprung free for another long touchdown run or pass, Mike Berry can’t help himself.

When the spectacular Heisman-winning quarterback does his thing, he finds himself doing what everyone else in the stadium does. The Auburn left guard looks on in awe.

“It’s one of those things where even though you are in the middle of the game like you can’t believe what you just saw,” Berry said. “You let yourself feel like you are in the stands and you just want to watch him.”

A sellout crowd at the University of Phoenix Stadium for Monday’s BCS Championship Game will be the latest captive audience, joined by millions more watching on television across North America.

Newton’s incredible build and skills have made this one of the most anticipated NCAA football games in modern history and has the quarterback being compared to many of the great college stars before him.

At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, he looks like he could play any position on the football field. In fact, Newton weighs more than just about all of the defensive starters for Oregon — with only three Ducks tipping the scales heavier.

“He does things I don’t think many people have seen before from a quarterback,” Auburn centre Ryan Pugh says. “He could probably be the best running back in the country if he played tailback. And he could even be one of the best receivers.

“He just has that passion to be the best at whatever he does.”

Lining Newton up against some of those who played before him is great debate material, as inconclusive as such comparisons can be.

Here’s how Newton’s season stacks up to some of the best in the long, colourful history of college football.

Cam Newton vs. Tim Tebow

(Quarterback, Florida, 2007)

Both being quarterbacks and just three seasons apart, Newton put up numbers remarkably similar to Tebow in his Heisman-winning campaign.

He may not have done it with the same flash and power as Newton, but Tebow became the first quarterback to top 20 passing and 20 rushing touchdowns in a season as the hybrid evolution of the position reached a new level.

Comparing the two by the numbers leaves nothing much to choose. Newton rushed for 1,409 yards (or 108.4 per game) while Tebow had 895 (68.6 per). Through the air, Tebow had the edge at 252.8 per game vs. Newton at 199.2. In terms of scoring, Tebow had 32 passing touchdowns and 23 rushing in one less game while Newton has 28 and 20 plus one receiving heading into the championship game.

Newton is much faster, even though he looks to be going half speed at times and if his arm strength continues to develop he will be a much more serious pro prospect than Tebow.

If there is one area that separates the two, however, it is that Newton has a shot at playing for the title.

“Cam Newton had the greatest single year of any college quarterback in the history of college football,” ESPN college and NFL draft guru Lee Corso said following this year’s Heisman ceremony. “Not even in just stats, but his team.

“Tebow had a great year right? His team lost four games that year. Newton won them all.”

Cam Newton vs. Vince Young

(Quarterback, Texas, 2005)

Physically anyway, the former Texas quarterback may be the player that most closely resembles Newton. At 6-foot-5, 233 pounds, Young saved his best game for last with a 467-yard passing/running show in the Longhorns’ come-from-behind win against USC in the 2006 championship game.

Newton remembers that game vividly and still gets jacked up watching highlights.

“My fingers are crossed and I’m praying, just to hope that I can play like he played during that game,” Newton said during the Auburn media day sessions this week. “Vince Young just took over that football game.”

The numbers are impressive for both, though the former Longhorn star was denied a Heisman.

Newton’s numbers were 2,589 yards passing (and 28 touchddowns, two more than Young) and 1,409 yards rushing (for 20 touchdowns, 12 more than Young.)

“Two great players and I really would have a hard time just saying who is better,” said Auburn coach Gene Chizik, who was a defensive coordinator at Texas when Young was there. “Just two great guys for their own team doing their thing.”

Cam Newton vs. Michael Vick

(Virginia Tech, 1999)

Like Young, Vick was never a Heisman winner, finishing third to running back Ron Dayne in 1999 despite leading his Virginia Tech Hokies to a shot at the national championship

Newton may be a more reliable and responsible player at his position however, throwing few interceptions — just one in his past five games, in fact.

Newton would tower over Vick physically as well — he is six inches taller — which is why he can dominate at the college level where defensive players for the most part aren’t NFL style behemoths just yet. Where Newton has the speed to burn would-be tacklers and the size to punish them, Vick lacks the latter edge.

Perhaps inspired by the Eagles quarterback, the most underrated part of Newton’s game is his passing.

“I’m trying to hit every target in any way, shape or form that the quarterback can throw the football,” Newton said.

One thing is for sure — his Tigers teammates are glad they don’t have to defend Newton.

“I don’t know how I would stop him,” Auburn linebacker Craig Stevens said. “He’s a legit runner and a passer.

“I don’t even know what scheme you could use against him. He’s bigger than most of the linebackers he goes up against and faster than some of the defensive backs.”

Cam Newton vs. Reggie Bush

(Running back, USC, 2005)

As soon as you start throwing in other positions, the debate gets complicated, but we include Bush for a couple of reasons: His electrifying ability to break a huge play at any point in a game and the controversy surrounding allegations he received improper benefits while at USC.

In his Heisman year, Bush recorded 2,611 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns and defeated Longhorn Young in Heisman voting.

The controversy surrounding Newton centres more around his father and claims he tried to get money from schools wooing him last season when Cam was playing junior college in Texas.

Since being cleared to play in the SEC Championship game, Newton has distanced himself from his father and said on Friday that he wasn’t sure if the senior Newton would be at Monday’s game.

Cam Newton vs. LaMichael James

(Running back, Oregon, 2010)

Not a serious comparison given that Newton blew the Ducks running back out of the water in Heisman voting.

But the fact that there is another big-time offensive player in Monday’s game certainly adds to the appeal an James did rush for 1,682 yards in 11 games this season. Still, even leaving out his quarterback abilities, you can argue that Newton is more dangerous with his feat than James.

“LaMichael is a guy that just wants to fly under the radar,” Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas said.

He’s getting that this week.

Cam Newton vs. Bo Jackson

(Running back, Auburn, 1985)

Old-time Auburn fans will argue that Jackson’s 4,303 career rushing yards is more impressive than what Newton does because the latter has been a Tiger for just one season.

Because Newton is the first Tiger to win the Heisman since Jackson, one of the most athletic backs in the history of the game, he will forever be linked to Newton in any discussion.

“Just to be mentioned with (Jackson) I am flattered and honoured,” Newton said.

Cam Newton vs. Herschel Walker

(Georgia, 1982)

Another brilliant SEC offensive player, Walker tore apart the record books holding 10 NCAA and 15 conference marks during his career that culminated with a 1982 Heisman.

Walker was one of the most dynamic offensive players of his time with strength similar to Newton’s. Like Newton, he could easily shake off would-be tacklers and played the game as if it was boys against a man.

But the fact that Newton can both run the ball and pass it with equal is an added dimension for any comparison involving a running back.

“Usually a great quarterback usually do one or the other better,” Chizek said. “What God’s blessed Cameron with is the ability to be really, really good at both.”


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