There’s a lot of chatter across the South regarding Cameron Newton’s explosion onto the scene at Auburn. Many pundits have referred to Newton as the SEC’s most valuable player to date. And with good reason.
Newton is leading the league in rushing a third of the way through the season. Pretty good for a quarterback, no? He also leads the SEC in passing efficiency. He’s also had a hand in 14 of Auburn’s touchdowns which accounts for 84 of the Tigers’ 131 points overall.
But if you’re looking at true value — and I don’t mean the hardware chain that just got a free plug — Newton isn’t really at the top of the conference. At least not if you attempt to quantify the term “valuable.” Which is our goal here.
Below you’ll see each school’s “most valuable” weapons when it comes to yardage gained. By nature, that rules out defensive players… though there’s one who we believe deserves to be in the MVP conversation.
||Player’s % of Team’s Yards
As you can see, when it comes to producing yardage, 11 schools are led by their quarterbacks.
Florida’s Jeff Demps is the only non-quarterback to lead his team in total yardage (rushing, passing, punt returns, kick returns, interception returns are included in that). But Demps just barely edges out quarterback John Brantley. Demps has 688 yards (33.5% of the Gator offense), but Brantley has 685 (33.3%).
There were other non-quarterbacks who were close to making our list:
* Trent Richardson at Alabama has racked up 764 total yards, which puts him just behind McEloy in terms of production (36.4% for the QB, 30.6% for Richardson). Richardson has also scored 6 touchdowns compared to McElroy’s combined 7 running and passing.
* At LSU, cornerback/returner Patrick Peterson is thisclose to passing Jordan Jefferson. Peterson has 489 yards on punt returns, kick returns and interception returns. That’s 489 yards (25.9% of the Tigers yardage) compared to Jefferson’s 508 yards (26.9%) from the quarterback slot. That’s amazing production for someone who doesn’t even take snaps on offense. If Les Miles and Gary Crowton actually give him offensive touches — as they’re now threatening to do — the SEC should look out. Peterson deserves to be discussed when it comes to the SEC’s 1/3rd mark MVP.
* Vanderbilt has played just three games so their numbers are a bit smaller than their SEC mates. But tailback Warren Norman is currently trailing quarterback Larry Smith by just 30 yards in total production (443 to 413).
When you break down the numbers in terms of a player’s percentage of his team’s total yardage production, the real “MVP” rankings should look like this:
1. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas — He may not be a dual threat, but he’s responsible for nearly 65% of Arkansas’ offense and more than 57% of their points. He’s also done all of this with very little help from the Hogs’ running game. Everyone knows he’s the man to stop, but no one — including Alabama — has been able to shut him down completely so far.
2. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia — Yeah. I didn’t see that one coming either. And sure, it might have something to do with Georgia’s low offensive numbers overall. But the redshirt freshman deserves credit for carrying more than his share of the load. He and Mallett are the only two SEC players responsible for more than 50% of their teams’ total yards.
3. Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn — He’s been fantastic so far. And a defensive coordinator would probably tell you that it’s tougher to prepare for a player who can both pass for touchdowns and run for them like a tailback. But, by the numbers, Newton only accounts for 49% of the Tigers’ offense. (I think Gus Malzahn will take that.)
4. Patrick Peterson, CB/R LSU — To heck with our numbers. Sue me. Peterson is a pure freak on the football field. When you can roll up about 500 yards through four games without playing on offense, you deserve a whole lotta love. Charles Woodson, anyone?