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Monday, September 6, 2010

Early practice notes: Cam Newton going up against familiar face in MSU's Dan Mullen

During the recruiting process last December, the final two schools in the running for Cam Newton were Mississippi State and Auburn, who meet Thursday in Starkville.

"It was probably one of the hardest decisions I've made in my life, honestly," Newton said.

Newton, obviously, picked Auburn, where he starred in his debut, earning SEC Player of the Week honors after accounting for 357 total yards and five touchdowns.

But Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen will always hold a special place in Newton's heart. As Florida's offensive coordinator, Mullen recruited Newton to the Gators, coaching him in 2007-08.

"I think our relationship is a long one, far beyond football," Newton said. "His persona, the way he goes after top-notch athletes is superb. I admire that in him."

Newton said he didn't talk about football much when he was re-recruited by Mullen coming out of Blinn (Texas) Community College last December. In the end, Newton and his family thought Auburn was the better fit.

"This decision wasn't just my decision," Newton said. "I had to clear it with the whole 9 yards. I had to go through so many people to see what they think, my family, the close people toward me. And it was just best that my career would be played at Auburn."

Newton thinks his game has come a long way since he was just starting out at Florida.

"I've matured," he said. "I had a lot of mature things that I need to step up on, and coach Mullen always told me about that. I was too young and naive to notice that, but now that I look back at the things that I've done, I just laugh and am really somewhat embarrassed.

"I had a good leader that I could look up to in Tim Tebow. I look at the stuff he did now and I'm trying to do the stuff that he did."

Some other notes from early interviews:
  • Starkville's going to be loud Thursday. One reporter asked if he's been in a situation like that before. "I think we had a couple games like that at Blinn," Newton said, drawing laughs from those in attendance. Blinn drew maybe 3,000 to 5,000 on a good day.
  • Newton's ability to keep a play alive means is something the offensive line has to be aware of. "You never know where he's going to be at any time," left tackle Lee Ziemba said. "So you have to hold your blocks and basically just feel it. If your defender starts going left, you've got to think Cam is going left, too. It's a different animal."
  • Ziemba was pleased with the way the offensive line played in the opener. "Anytime you rush for 350, you're doing OK."
  • Ziemba's description of what happened right before the half, when Auburn couldn't spike the ball to stop the clock. "We were trying to spike the ball and get the field-goal team on the field. We had everybody set. We were ready to go. I guess the ref wouldn't let us. (Center Ryan Pugh) went to get the ball. The ref set it in the wrong spot and realized it needed to be moved back. Ryan was already on the ball. The ref was trying to get the ball and move the ball. We were all set and ready to go. All the time, the clock was running. That stuff happens. I don't know. I … we were ready to go. It wasn't like we hadn't been coached or anything like that."
  • Left guard Mike Berry is the only offensive lineman who doesn't have long hair. Ziemba and Pugh have giant manes this year. Byron Isom and A.J. Greene are sporting dreads. Berry goes with the close crop. "I was trying to grow it out, but I wasn't feeling the 'fro," he joked. "It wasn't a good look for me, so I was just like, 'You know what? I'll be the only guy with short hair.'"
  • Remember the 3-2 game two years ago? Auburn's players do. They even compared it to two different sports. Berry called it a baseball score; Ziemba a soccer score.
  • Ziemba on that game: "It was a different time and place. It's obviously not like to happen again this week."


Tar Heel Tiger said...

Thanks for the great coverage, AB. I love reading your reports.

reddailey said...

Ditto. I covered Auburn in "73 and "74 for the Post-Herald (now defunct).I had to have a Monday am game story since the News published on Sunday. It was tough coming up with something different. Had to work hard. Your notes and observations are substantive, above and beyond. Thanks. I like Cam's mobility, but I think we need an SEC caliber running back (and defense) to really win consistently. Haven't see that yet. Dyer looks promising. Mario looks tense. Maybe both of them will have a big night in Starkville.

Anonymous said...

Really all we need is to go +3 in turnovers, and keep up the scoring pace from game 1. We do that, we might win 49-35, but that's still a W. From their stats, they're going to throw the ball a lot. Guess they don't have a Dixon replacement (and really how could they?).

postermom said...

I posted this after an earlier story, but I think I was too late, but I apologize if you've read this before. I have two questions: one, Kodi scored the first TD this season and last season. Do you think the coaches wanted it to fall out that way to reward him? And two, it looked like Darvin hurt his left arm or shoulder. Any word on his being dinged up?

Andy Bitter said...

I don't think Kodi's touchdowns meant anything more than the offense being in the right spot to run the Wildcat.

As for Darvin, haven't heard anything about his wrist bothering him. Of course, even if it was, it's not like Chizik would make that information available.