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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Early BCS title game press conference notes: All eyes on Auburn quarterback Cam Newton

There was no mistaking which table Cam Newton was sitting at during a media session Wednesday morning. It was the one surrounded by TV cameras and reporters, six layers deep.

That kind of crowd is becoming common for the Heisman Trophy winner even when he's not in front of reporters.

"I tried to go shopping the other day and I felt as if there was a memo to everyone that Cam Newton is coming," he said. "It's kind of crazy."

Newton was on everyone's mind Wednesday, a day for reporters to talk to Auburn offensive players and Oregon's defensive players.

"He's not your ordinary quarterback," Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews said. "He's huge. He's 6-6, 250. He's got a pretty powerful stiff arm. He's not like most quarterbacks. He'll lower his shoulder and try to get those extra yards."

How is Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti handling the thought of defending Newton?

"I'm sleeping like a baby," he said. "Every two hours I wake up and cry."

Aliotti said Newton is a lot like Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor, who the Ducks faced in last year's Rose Bowl. Pryor threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 72 more yards in that game, a 26-17 Buckeyes win.

But Aliotti said Auburn uses Newton more as a primary ballcarrier, which opens up another gap because someone else becomes a blocker. Making things tougher is the fact that Newton is bigger than eight of Oregon's defensive starters, so Aliotti knows stopping him -- or even slowing him down -- will be a challenge.

"The first thing we have to do is stop Cam Newton," Aliotti said. "Whatever that means. We have to stop Cam Newton first and then work our way out from that point."

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There were so many media members there this morning that it was hard to get comprehensive coverage, but here's a little bit of what I heard. I'll be back with more after practice, with some video hopefully, so check back.
  • Newton said his father, Cecil, and his whole family will be at the game. "They're going to be loud and proud," he said.
  • LT Lee Ziemba sat 20 feet away from the giant media group asking Newton questions. He said that crowds started following Newton around like that after the LSU game. "He handles it real well," Ziemba said. "He's mature. And he does a great job with it."
  • Does it hurt Ziemba's feelings that he doesn't have as many reporters. "Oh no. I shouldn't even be here."
  • Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn on Auburn's size advantage up front: "I hope it plays a big impact. What they do to offset that is a lot of moving. We've got bigger guys, but what we've got to do is be able to stay on track, because they're going to be moving a lot."
  • Malzahn has a tendency to try some gadget plays early. "It doesn't have to be early in the game," he said. "We're just trying to put as much pressure on the defensive coaches as possible. At the same time we're trying to steal points. A lot of people say they're trick plays, gimmicky plays, but they're really just part of our offense."
  • Newton made the award circuit immediately after the season and has a much higher media profile, but Malzahn isn't changing the way he's coaching him. "We're not changing anything," Malzahn said. "I'm coaching him the same way. I'm straining the same way. That's my job and our coaches' job is to make sure these guys are focused and play at the same high level we ended the season on."
  • Auburn has an offense based on timing, which could be an issue, considering how much time has passed since the end of the season. "I'm definitely concerned," Malzahn said. "Anytime you have 30, 35 days off, you worry about the timing, specifically the timing throws. We were playing very good football when we ended. And we are a timing passing game, and I am concerned about that. That's going to be a big question."
  • Malzahn hasn't forgotten his roots: "I'm living a dream. I'm a high school coach that just happens to be coaching college, just happens to be coaching in the national championship game."
  • A lot of folks like to call Malzahn's offense a "spread." He disagrees. This is how he describes it: "We call ourselves a two-back, run, play-action team that runs our offense at a two-minute pace with an emphasis on throwing the ball down the field. Most of our reads are top to bottom, very few short passes unless it's a hot situation." That's good, but it's not short enough. Somebody come up with a brief way of saying that.
  • Malzahn said going fast isn't as much of an advantage now as it was in 1996, when he first embraced pace as his offensive philosophy at the high school level. "Back then, (with) defenses, it was stealing. They didn't know how to line up," he said. He said it was a big advantage at Tulsa, but less so now with more and more teams playing fast.
  • Is Newton the best player Malzahn has coached? "I coached Darren McFadden, so it's hard to say. Both those guys are really at a different level than anybody I've seen."
  • In a quote that would have been perfect for my story today about the defenses not getting their due, here's Aliotti on his defense getting overshadowed by the offense: "We feel like the red-headed stepchild around here."
  • Aliotti said defensive expectations change when you're on a team that runs a fast-paced offense like Oregon's. Because the Ducks score so often and so quickly, the defense is on the field for a lot of plays. "What we've changed is we play a lot of players," Aliotti said. "We've become more aggressive with playing about 25 or 26 players on defense and I think that's helped us by being fresh."
  • Aliotti was defensive coordinator for the Ducks in the 1995 Rose Bowl when they took on a Penn State team loaded with quarterback Kerry Collins, running back Ki-Jana Carter and tight end Kyle Brady. "We had a very auspicious start," Aliotti said. "The very first play of the game Ki-Jana Carter went 87 yards, so hopefully we'll do a little bit better than that on the first play of this game. So if we hold them to an 86-yard run, we succeed."
  • Daryle Hawkins, a 6-foot-4 freshman quarterback, is scouting Newton for Oregon this week. "I think he's done a great job and will most definitely win scout team player of the week," Aliotti said. "He's already got the award hands down, regardless of what happens."


Anonymous said...

Leave him alone.. damn it!! Quit pushing a microphone in his face and let him focus on the game. Plenty of time for interviews after the game. STOP IT NOW !!!

mrbtigers said...

Leave him alone.. damn it!! Quit pushing a microphone in his face and let him focus on the game. Plenty of time for interviews after the game. STOP IT NOW !!!

Clint Richardson said...

The one thing that truely scares me ia the fact that Oregon basically has 3 different defenses that they can cycle in and out of the game, and always stay fresh. Size and speed have no advandage to a team that can always have fresh legs on the field.

Anonymous said...

This just in: more from classy Bama fans:


Anonymous said...