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Derek Dooley speaks at the Knoxville Quarterback Club
The SEC is best known for defense. But you can't tell it by the NFL.
That's not to suggest the SEC has slacked off in sending defenders into the NFL. It's just that they're being overshadowed by their SEC offensive counterparts.
Two games into the season, the impact has been stunning. And a rookie is leading the charge.
In each of his first two pro games, former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton has passed for more than 400 yards. He has accomplished that for the Carolina Panthers, who were the worst team in the NFL when they drafted Newton with the first pick last spring.
Newton hasn't just made the Panthers competitive. He has made them competitive against the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, who managed to defeat the Panthers 30-23 despite giving up 432 yards passing and 53 yards rushing to Newton on Sunday.
After two games, he leads his team in passing, rushing and is tied for the lead in touchdowns. He's the latest reason the SEC can tout its quarterbacks as readily as its defenders.
I can remember when the conference virtually had no quarterbacking presence in the NFL. Now, six former SEC quarterbacks are starting, and that doesn't include injured former Vol Peyton Manning, who already has put together a hall of fame career with the Indianapolis Colts.
Newton isn't the only former SEC quarterback to put up Manning-like numbers.
Former Georgia Bulldog Matthew Stafford has completed 47 of 72 passes for seven touchdowns and 599 yards in leading the Detroit Lions to a 2-0 start.
Ex-Gator Rex Grossman (Redskins) and former Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler (Bears) also are averaging almost 300 yards per game passing. And former Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell passed for 323 yards for the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
Former SEC receivers have been almost as noticeable as the passers.
Mike Wallace, who has gone from Ole Miss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, has had 100 yards receiving in each of the first two games.
Three former LSU receivers — Dwayne Bowe of Kansas City, Early Doucet of Arizona and Devery Henderson of New Orleans — have had a 100-yard receiving game.
David Nelson, who was used mainly as a blocker at Florida, had 10 catches, including the game-winning touchdown, for Buffalo against Oakland on Sunday.
In the same game, former Vol Denarius Moore almost pulled in a Hail Mary pass from Campbell that could have turned the game Oakland's way on the last play.
The rookie receiver still finished with five receptions for 146 yards. He teams with Campbell and former Arkansas star running back Darren McFadden to give the Raiders a one-two-three SEC punch.
The Houston Texans practically have an All-SEC running game. Former Vol Arian Foster, who led the NFL in rushing last season, missed their first game with an injury. So the Texans called on former Auburn running back Ben Tate, who responded by rushing for 116 yards. Tate added 103 more yards Sunday against Miami.
Tate was one of eight former SEC players who led his team in rushing Sunday. Seven former SEC players led their teams in receiving.
Not bad from a conference famous for defense.