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Friday, Apr. 30, 2010

Auburn football: QB Newton feels microscope's focus

Beats out Caudle, Trotter, Moseley

- abitter@ledger-enquirer.com
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Understands QB job isn’t done deal

By ANDY BITTER

abitter@ledger-enquirer.com

AUBURN, Ala. — Cam Newton didn’t know whether to scream or smile when coaches informed him Wednesday that he is Auburn’s No. 1 quarterback coming out of spring practice.

Instead, he calmly processed the information, knowing his work is not done.

“This is not the end of the road,” Newton said Thursday. “If anything, the microscope gets more focused on what I really do on and off the field.”

Auburn’s quarterback situation is not finalized — Newton was tabbed the No. 1 guy for only now, not the 2010 season’s starter — but the picture became much clearer after head coach Gene Chizik and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn sat down with the junior to inform him of his ascension to the top of the list.

The timing of the announcement was puzzling. Chizik said last week he thought the four-man quarterback battle between Newton, senior Neil Caudle, sophomore Barrett Trotter and redshirt freshman Clint Moseley would continue through the summer and into two-a-days, like last year.

Why make a decision now?

“We think it’s very critical, especially at that position, to be able to have that leadership going through the summer,” Chizik said. “Who is the guy? We felt like that was an important part of the puzzle for the next three months.

“The difference between this time and last year is we didn’t have all the information on all the quarterbacks last year. It’s a little bit different scenario.”

Chizik and Malzahn went back through the film from the spring, comparing Newton’s progress after only a few months in the system to Auburn’s quarterbacks at this time last year, when the playbook was just as new to them.

“We thought his upside is huge,” Chizik said.

He cited Newton’s mobility and strong arm as major advantages, adding that the junior had a very high completion percentage throughout the spring.

But the decision went beyond talent.

“We felt like, from a leadership standpoint, he really has a great intangible, the leadership skills he brings to the table,” Chizik said. “He’s very confident but not too confident. His presence is known and felt by the other players when he’s in there.”

Chizik didn’t think Newton, with his top junior college credentials, showed any sense of entitlement to the job.

“He’s just come in here and basically closed his mouth and went to work,” Chizik said. “He’s worked really hard.”

The remainder of the depth chart has not been set. Chizik, who noted that the rest of the quarterbacks on the roster handled the news “like pros,” said there is still room for competition, calling the time from now until the start of the season a “long journey.”

Newton spoke with the other candidates and didn’t receive animosity.

“I think the overall vibe from the whole team was they’re behind me 100 percent,” he said. “I talked to Barrett, Clint, all those guys. It’s nothing that I see as it being a problem; I hope to God it’s not a problem. I don’t sense that by any means.

“I’ve been getting a lot of good nudges to push me to success.”

Chizik said he hasn’t met with quarterback Tyrik Rollison, but he doesn’t expect the redshirt freshman to return to the team next season.

Rumors swirled in the offseason that Rollison plans to transfer. He sat out the spring to focus on academics, according to the coaches.

“My expectations are he’s not going to return to Auburn,’’ Chizik said.

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