I cannot remember in my lifetime a more controversial player on the collegiate level than Auburn's Cam Newton. There have been others, even this past season, who were not only controversial, but were also suspended for their transgressions.
Newton never missed a game despite all the accusations and chaos that surrounded him, but he was clearly the main topic of every water cooler. Newton is now gone and the BCS title still remains in Auburn, but so does the tarnished image.
In just a few weeks, new QB Kiehl Frazier will step onto campus, and he will be the next great Auburn player. I have even labeled him, "Cam Newton 2.0." This version will not only be successful, but I predict he will be better for the Auburn Tigers' program than the first edition.
When the rumors began to swirl that coach Gus Malzahn was leaving Auburn for the Vanderbilt Commodores, I told those around me this would be a bigger loss than Auburn fans realized. Not only would they lose one of the top assistant coaches in the nation, but they would lose a future star as well.
There was no doubt in my mind that Frazier was going to follow Malzahn. Fortunately for Auburn, this did not happen. So here's why I believe Frazier will be better than his predecessor.
Newton will not be the last Heisman winner in this system
Cam Newton came out of nowhere in 2010 and shocked the world of college football. While many, including myself, thought he would have a productive season, no one expected him to have one of the greatest individual seasons in college football history.
If Newton was a record, he would have been a multi-platinum hit. But at the same time, he was a one-hit wonder. Soon after lifting the BCS National Championship trophy, he declared for the NFL Draft.
With Kiehl Frazier, the Tigers will have a minimum of three seasons with him at Auburn.
Within those three to four years, I fully expect Auburn to compete for one if not two National Championships. By his sophomore season, if no one else emerges, he will be battling Aaron Murray for the top QB in the SEC—perhaps the nation.
I will be shocked if he does not win a Heisman Trophy during his career.
The smile hated around the world
I am not sure if all Auburn fans get it.
Their school is now one of the most despised schools in the nation. Their reputation is severely tarnished. There are several reasons for this, not limited to the recruiting scandal involving Cam Newton, the on-field antics of Nick Fairley and the recent arrest of four now-former Auburn players for armed robbery.
All those players are gone, but the damage still remains. Some fans might argue that they don't care about the nation's perception of the Tigers; all that matters is what the “family” thinks.
While that may be true to some extent, the reality is there will be a witch hunt against them until this label changes. The NCAA will feel constant pressure to find any punishable offense. No matter what program you are, you don't need that spotlight on you.
With that foundation laid, now enters Kiehl Frazier—the anti-Newton. While there is some question involving his connection to Walt Williams, he is a player who will never disappoint Auburn fans off the field. He will get it done in the classroom and in the community. It should be noted that in high school, Frazier had a 3.9 GPA.
Newton will forever be remembered for his cockiness as much as his on-field production. Frazier will put up jaw-dropping stats as well, but with humility and honor.
As I am writing this, I am perplexed with how to word this in a way to build up Frazier without challenging Newton's intelligence.
I don't want this to come across as saying Newton is an idiot, but he did struggle at times with the X's and O's (watch the Jon Gruden interview for examples). Frazier is a very bright kid who is an honors student, and he will be able to pick up things at a quicker pace than Newton.
With that said, simple IQ will not be the reason for the more advanced playbook.
The reality is that Frazier has been running this offense since his early teens. Let us not forget Malzahn first came onto the scene as head coach of Shiloh Christian. That offense has remained and helped Frazier win three state championships and three state championship MVP's.
People accuse the Auburn offense of being over-simplistic in the play calls, and it is. However, that has nothing to do with the actual offense and has everything to do with the QB running it. They did not want to make every play a deep thought for Newton. Instead, they wanted to put him in the best position to succeed, and it worked.
While simplistic, show me a more effective one.
This will not be the case with Frazier. As soon as he becomes comfortable with the speed of the game, they will open up the flood gates on opposing defenses. As a result, when completed, this offense will be more scary than before.
Make no mistake about it.
Newton had one of the prettiest deep throws I have ever seen on any level.
But he struggled, repeatedly, with short and medium-range passes. Sometimes he was on, and sometimes he was off. I have never seen a player with such a pretty 50-yard spiral that missed on a five-yard out.
I had the chance to see Frazier play several games in person. While his long ball is not as tight as Newton's, his short and medium game is rarely off. His deep ball will continue to keep the defense honest, but his other ranges will separate him from other Auburn QB's.
In my opinion, the thing that was most amazing about Auburn's 2010 National Championship run was not the jaw-dropping stats. It was their ability to persevere, as a team, through all the chaos.
Make no mistake about it though, that type of environment is not healthy for 18-22-year-old young men.
There is no way they can sustain that long as a program. While Newton appears to be able to consistently strive in that type of environment, others cannot; it's almost as if he gets better as the negativity grows around him. But 95 out of 100 young men need structure, discipline and accountability.
Frazier is the kind of leader who will lead by example.
There will not be photos floating around of him in a strip bar the week of the National Championship. There will not be media following him around questioning his eligibility. There will not be rumors of cheating scandals.
His teammates will be able to come to practice and actually play football.
My advice to the Auburn Tigers is to play Kiehl Frazier immediately. Let him take his lumps.
Auburn will finish somewhere between fourth and fifth in the SEC West this. Like it or not, that is the reality. But if they let Frazier get the needed snaps prior to next season, they will be in the hunt for a SEC Championship once again in 2012.
Look no further than the University of Georgia as an example. Though injuries played a part, they made a mistake when they red-shirted Aaron Murray in favor of Joe Cox. Cox had a decent season, but they were not good enough to be in the race for the SEC Championship. With that said, if they would have played Murray, they would have been adequately prepared for the A.J. Green suspension last season.
They did this with Matthew Stafford during his freshman season. He took some lumps, but his sophomore season they finished No. 2 in the nation.
Frazier is that type of impact player.