published Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

NFL now watchful on Cam

The NCAA and the FBI are looking into pay-for-play allegations involving Auburn junior quarterback Cam Newton, and the NFL is curious.

Newton has been beyond dizzying for the 11-0 Tigers, becoming the first player in Southeastern Conference history to amass 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in the same season. One director of scouting for an AFC team said Tuesday that Newton will be a first-round pick should he decide to skip his senior season but added that not every franchise will be interested because of his off-the-field issues.

“There are going to be questions about the kid,” said the scout, who requested anonymity. “You’re going to want to sit down and do a lot of interviews with him, because he never makes a check or a call at the line of scrimmage. He gets everything from the sidelines, so all that stuff is going to be new to him.

“We’ll want to see how smart he is, and then there is the naive part. He let his dad pick his school for him and all this kind of stuff. If this situation gets really bad, there might be teams that just don’t want the PR nightmare.”

The scout projects the 6-foot-6, 250-pounder as the fourth quarterback taken behind Stanford junior Andrew Luck, Washington senior Jake Locker and Arkansas junior Ryan Mallett.

Newton said before the Tigers hosted the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga that he will make his decision regarding the NFL after this season and that he wasn’t concerning himself with how his college talents might translate to the pros.

“My opinion doesn’t really go far when it comes to talking about the next level, because I am still a college athlete,” Newton said.

After the Tigers defeated Georgia 49-31 last Saturday, Newton was not made available to the media, and Tigers coach Gene Chizik answered questions about Newton only that concerned his play. Auburn is off this Saturday before visiting Alabama on Nov. 26.

Newton ranks eighth nationally in rushing with 1,297 yards on 206 carries (6.3 yards a carry), and he is tied with Oregon tailback LaMichael James for the most rushing touchdowns with 17. Auburn converted 10 of 14 third-down opportunities last week against the Bulldogs, and all 10 were via Newton runs.

Newton ranks second nationally in passing efficiency, having completed 135 of 198 passes for 2,038 yards with 21 touchdowns and six interceptions. He went 12-of-15 for 148 yards and two scores last Saturday, and his ability to throw a touchdown every 10.6 percent of his attempts leads the nation.

“He’s a big ball of clay, and some team is going to find a big, good-looking athlete with a strong arm who’s got an NFL body and will make him into an NFL quarterback,” the scout said. “He has a knack in the pocket for avoiding the rush. Defenders fall off of him, which is a great quality to have. He’s one of those guys that with the right quarterback coach and in the right system could be a matchup nightmare for a lot of teams.”

Newton is being hailed as a stronger, faster Tim Tebow, whom he backed up at Florida during the 2007 and ’08 seasons. Tebow was picked 25th overall in April by the Denver Broncos and had his talents questioned before the draft, but his character was a tremendous strength.

The scout believes the opposite could hold true for Newton.

“All those intangible things were A-plus with Tebow, and we’ll have to see with Cam,” he said. “Is he a kid who is easily swayed by his father into doing some things that are questionable? Is he is a person who can get in with the wrong crowd on a team? He raises some questions with me.”

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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