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May 6, 2011

Q&A: Gus Malzahn on Cam Newton: ‘He’s not like anybody else’

Gus Malzahn spoke in Columbus last night. In today’s paper, I have a Q&A with Auburn’s offensive coordinator about how Cam Newton will do as a pro. Read the short form here.

As usual, those tend to run a little long, so there was stuff I had to cut out. Here is the interview in its entirety:

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(What kind of pro will he be?)

“He’s got a chance to be a great pro. I mean, he’s got everything it takes to be a great quarterback. He’s got the mental aspect, he’s a great competitor, he’s as tough as they come and he’s a winner.”

(What will be the biggest adjustment for him in the pros?)

“The main thing is verbiage and just getting comfortable under center, which that won’t take very long as far as that goes.”

(A lot of people cite the Jon Gruden special on ESPN as saying Newton didn’t call complicated plays in college. Your response?)

“Here’s the deal, we’re simple with our communication, but that’s the only thing simple with what we do. I know a lot of people made a big deal of that, but that’s not his fault that we’re simple with our communication. What we ask our quarterback to do after the communication is probably as tough as anybody in college football. How fast we go, to process things, to communicate things and our reads. We do a lot of different things.”

(Will the verbiage come easy for quarterbacks?)

“I would say for somebody like Cam, it won’t take long at all. He’s a very intelligent quarterback and a very intelligent person.”

(Why do you think people are so skeptical that his game will translate to the pros?)

“That’s a great question. I don’t think college football has ever seen anything like him that can be that successful that quick, that can do the things that he can do. And so I think there’s a lot of questions because they haven’t seen anything like him.”

(There’s so much time since the end of the season to the draft. Does it lead to over-analyzing players?)

“Yeah, there’s a lot of it that’s a complete joke as far as the questions and analysis, it’s been very interesting from my standpoint to hear some of the things that they say.”

(NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said he questions Newton’s motivation once he becomes a millionaire. Your reaction to that?)

[Laughs] “Cam is one of the most motivated players I’ve ever coached. He hates to lose. Matter of fact, he refuses to lose. And I expect him to carry over that same mentality to the next level. Cam’s the type that if you challenge him, he’ll rise to the occasion. Cam hears all this stuff. He’ll use that to motivate him. I promise you that.”

(Which skills of his will translate the best to the NFL?)

“His mechanics are very good. His decision making is very good. He can make every throw that anybody asks. His decision making after things break down, I think that’s one of his strengths. At the next level you have to have that, because things will break down with the amount of talent on the defensive side. He’s very coachable. He’s one of the most coachable players I’ve ever coached.”

(What about areas of improvement? You mentioned the center exchange.)

“Yeah, it’s just something he’s never done before. He was in a shotgun system at Florida, a shotgun system at Blinn, a shotgun system here. So it’s just going to be a matter of the transition from under center. But if you really look at the pro game, it looks to me like about 50 percent of the time most teams are in a shotgun. So I think that’s fairly overrated to be honest with you.”

(How does your offense compare to an NFL one in terms of complexity)

“I think we have a lot of similar passing schemes as they do. At the same time, we’re somewhat unique. But we want to be unique. We want to be different. We’re a two-back, run/play-action team that is set up to put a pressure on the defense, not only with our pace but with the different, unique things that we do with unbalanced. You look at pro football and the Wildcat, some things like that, it’s not the same offensive approach as it was 10 years ago.”

(What improvements did you see out of Newton after his workouts with quarterback coach George Whitfield?)

“I think he was just up under center. Cam’s got the rhythm. He’s got the timing. He’s got the release. It’s just a matter of getting his footwork from up under center where he feels comfortable. I think that is the No. 1 thing. The thing with Cam: you don’t need to do much with him. I mean, you’re talking about a guy who broke the all-time passing efficiency record in college football for a season. You don’t want to ever over-coach a guy like him as far as techniques and all that. But being comfortable from under center, I think that’s the No. 1 thing that him and George worked on.”

(How do you approach coaching someone with his talent?)

“Of course, our philosophy here is to build our offense around our quarterback’s strengths. We have the same core offense every year, but once we identify our quarterback, we try to build around his strengths and do things that he can be successful. And not ask him to do things that aren’t his strengths.”

(What do you think about the pressure he’s facing as the No. 1 pick and being the new face of the Panthers’ franchise?)

“You look at what he went through last year, he deals with pressure unlike anybody I’ve ever seen. He has the ability to use that to motivate him and he has the unique ability to rise to the occasion. He plays his best football when he’s under the most pressure. And that’s a rarity.”

(I assume you would have taken him No. 1.)

“In my opinion, it’s like passing over (Michael) Jordan.”

(With the NFL labor issue still up in the air and coaches unable to work with players, will that hinder his development as a rookie?)

“Obviously the longer that holds out, I think that affects everybody. It affects all the new drafted kids, but specifically a quarterback, it puts you behind.”

(When you recruited Newton, did you think he was capable of this?)

“I don’t know if anybody thought that this quick. You recruit them, you look at their talent, you check what kind of person and whether he’s a good fit for your offense, for your team, and we really didn’t know exactly how he was going to react to all the situations probably until Week 4 or 5. So I don’t think anybody could have predicted that things would play out as quick as they did. It’s really mind-boggling to see how successful he was in one year in our system in this league. The best defensive players in America play in this league. The best defensive coaches in America coach in this league. So what he did in one year is phenomenal.”

(Does he compare to any quarterback you’ve coached or scouted?)

“Nobody. Nobody. I hear people compare him … Naw. They don’t know. They don’t know what I know. “

(What’s that?)

“That he’s not like anybody else.”

9 Comments

  1. I hope all the naysayers read Malzahn’s comments. He is a man of intergity and has put his professional reputation on the line by making this strong endorsement like for a player. Cam deserves high praise. He is a dedicated hard worker, self-motivated, and is willing to put his body on the line for his team’s success.

    Me is so focused on doing whatever it takes to win that his coaches have a responsibility to make sure he doesn’t over-extend himself to the point of injury.

    @Simmons, yeah it would be a hoot to see Fairley coming after his old pal.

    Comment by TigerEyez13 — May 6, 2011 @ 9:33 am

  2. AB:

    That was an AUsome interview! Many Thanks!

    Comment by auforlife — May 6, 2011 @ 10:26 am

  3. Gus needs to stop telling people his offense is actually really complex. We want our opponents to think it’s a piece of cake to figure out! “Simplest offense in America. Defenses should be able to figure it all out by the middle of the first quarter. No need to study film. These are not the droids you’re looking for.”

    Comment by postermom — May 6, 2011 @ 10:38 am

  4. Great interview!

    Comment by MikeP — May 6, 2011 @ 11:13 am

  5. GOOD STUFF AB. ;)

    Comment by scottie b — May 6, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

  6. Anyone who watched Cam play has to admit he was a great player, if not one of the best athletes ever. I can’t wait to see what he does in the pro’s, and I hope they start him from the beginning to the end.

    Comment by Justin — May 9, 2011 @ 6:20 pm

  7. well if anyone questions if cam had the heart and desire to win in the NFL need to see his halftime speach at the clemson game. He was on fire…. refuse yo loose that was Auburn and Cam Newton in 2010..

    Comment by tim — May 9, 2011 @ 6:36 pm

  8. I needed to hear this. I knew it, I saw it. Gus wasn’t hallucinating either. All the best to you Cam (except against the Skins). War Eagle! Hail Skins!

    Comment by Earthcat — May 10, 2011 @ 12:44 am

  9. I wonder what Cam’s pro coaches will think of him when they realize he can’t call an Audible to save his life!

    Comment by Terry — May 11, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

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