Drawing comparisons between Urban Meyer‘s current quarterback dilemma at Ohio State and the Florida Gators depth chart in 2008 – which included one former and one future Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback – Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said Tuesday that he believes the Gators would’ve still won the 2008 national title even if Tim Tebow had gone down with an injury and Cam Newton finished the season under center.
“When I was at Florida, I knew Cam Newton was the real deal but Timmy was playing,” Mullen, Florida’s offensive coordinator under Meyer, told CBSSports.com‘s Jon Solomon on Tuesday. “If Timmy had gotten hurt, Cam would have come in and won the championship.”
It is tough to argue with Mullen’s logic, in general, considering how dominant Newton was during the final two years of his career, winning back-to-back FCS and FBS national titles after leaving the Gators. During the title-winning 2010 season at Auburn, Newton finished with 2,854 yards and 30 touchdowns through the air (to only seven interceptions) and 1,473 yards with 20 touchdowns on the ground, earning him the 2010 Heisman Trophy.
The argument that could be made against Mullen is that Newton, by all accounts, was far from mature enough to handle being the starting quarterback at Florida. Newton was famously on the verge of being expelled from school for a combination of reasons, including the alleged theft and destruction of a laptop and allegedly cheating at his schoolwork, before jumping ahead of that process and transferring out of UF on his own.
For Gators fans, losing Newton at the time did not seem like the end of the world as Florida – like Ohio State now – believed it had three star quarterbacks on its roster. Tebow returned for his senior season and started during the 2009 campaign only to be succeeded by John Brantley, the third quarterback behind Tebow and Newton, who never amounted to much at UF.
As it turns out, Newton’s had the most success of the three, not only winning the same Heisman and national title (as a starter) like Tebow but going on to start for the Carolina Panthers in each of the last four NFL seasons.
Perhaps Newton would have been able to lead the Gators to the national title in 2008, just like Tebow did. Of course, had Tebow gone down before the Ole Miss game, Florida may never have heard “The Promise,” and who knows what would have happened from there on out.