A big problem for the Oregon Ducks in preparing for the January 10 show down with Auburn in the BCS Championship game in Glendale Arizona, was finding someone to portray Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. The Ducks are still in Eugene practicing and after practice today, most of the media questions surrounded the solution to the problem – redshirt freshman quarterback Daryle Hawkins.
“He’s done a nice job,” Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly said of Hawkins work during the BCS preparation. "He’s 6-4, 210 pounds, he’s obviously not near the size Cam (Newton) is at 6-6, 250, but he’s as good as we have to simulate.”
The Ducks are using Hawkins to simulate the dangerous Newton during practice hoping that Hawkins’ height and elusiveness will create a reasonable facsimile to what might be expected in the big upcoming championship game. Newton, rushed for 1,409-yards net of rushing on 242 carries, crossing the goal line 20 times. He also passed for 199.2 yards per game and 28 touchdowns. Emulating him obviously is no easy task.
“Daryle Hawkins is doing a great job,” remarked defensive end Terrell Turner. “He’s playing Cam Newton greatly, giving us a great look running around, passing the ball, being a duel-threat quarterback, just like Cam Newton.”
The Duck defense needs all the help they can get in preparation, even though they have faced some sure fire, soon-to-be first round NFL draft picks with the likes of Andrew Luck of Stanford, Matt Barkley of USC and Jake Locker of Washington. Even with all that talent, Newton is a different player and presents a different set of circumstances.
“They’re two different worlds, the Luck-world and the Newton-world,” observed defensive backs coach John Neal. “They both have their own problems and they both have their strengths within their systems.”
Neal points out that while Newton is a major concern, the Ducks aren’t forgetting about Michael Dyer the talented Auburn running back or the Tiger’s assortment of wide receivers and tight ends. The total package is a big obstacle for the Ducks, but Oregon like Auburn has been in big games before so at this stage it is all about preparation. The Ducks have now gone into a mode where no visitors are allowed to observe practice, but likely what is going on is that Oregon replicating what an opponent does and then rehearse, rehearse and do more repetitive rehearsals. There really is no secret formula; it is a matter of staying alert and keeping assignments. Newton is a special case, Hawkins though not as tall or heavy is faster and is very agile.
Hawkins was an unheralded recruit out of Omaha, Nebraska when he came to Oregon two years ago. He is a versatile athlete but did not have a lot of experience in high school as a quarterback. He came to Oregon as an athlete and has seen time as a quarterback, running back and wide receiver. Currently is listed as the No. 3 quarterback behind Darron Thomas and Bryan Bennett.
Hawkins is taller than the other signal callers on the Oregon roster at 6-4, and is one of the fastest players on the team. He showed explosive moves and is particularly dangerous in the open field. Hawkins saw time this season, mostly in mop-up action in four games. He did not throw a pass but did rush 18 times for a total of 93 yards and scored a touchdown. He also caught four passes for 26 yards including one touchdown reception.
A polite, soft-spoken young man, Hawkins believes that emulating Newton has been beneficial to his own career and that while no one can be the real Newton, for the Ducks’ purposes, Hawkins is doing the best he can to help his team.
“Trying to portray Cam Newton to the fullest,” commented Hawkins, “you just have to try to go fast and do what God gave you.”