Maybe it's time we invented a new name for the hyper-productive, all-purpose role that spread quarterbacks like Michigan's Denard Robinson and Auburn's Cam Newton play in their respective offenses. Yes, both did the standard quarterback thing, completing more than 60 percent of their passes for well over 2,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns. But they also both led their conferences and finished among the top 10 nationally in rushing, on more than 18 carries per game apiece.
Even if you decided to completely ignore their solid (or spectacular, in Newton's case) passing numbers and judged them strictly by their production on the ground, either Robinson (1,643 yards, 14 TDs on 6.7 per carry) or Newton (1,409 yards, 20 TDs on 5.8 per carry) could stand up to All-America scrutiny as a running back. And in fact, thanks to the Football Writers Association of America, Denard Robinson has apparently done just that.
The FWAA's All-America team – the second-oldest of the five annual teams recognized by the NCAA for "consensus All-American" status – hit the presses today with Robinson listed as a "back." Not a "quarterback": That honor went to Boise State's Kellen Moore. (Yes, Newton was snubbed. Many FWAA ballots were cast before the NCAA formally ruled him eligible to play on Dec. 1.) That's "back" as in "running back," which the FWAA (like all All-America teams) has always made more explicit in the past. The other "back" on this year's team: Oregon's LaMichael James, who in any previous year in the past five decades would have been listed as what he is, a running back. Did we just flash back to 1940?
You may recall that Big Ten coaches seemed to run into the same problem trying to classify Robinson on their all-conference ballots last month, from which Robinson emerged as the league's Offensive Player of the Year – but somehow not as one of its best quarterbacks, an honor the coaches reserved for Northwestern's Dan Persa (first team) and Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien (second team).
It's not like these lines haven't been blurred before. The same writers were comfortable enough voting run-heavy, option-based signal-callers Tommie Frazier in 1995 and Antwaan Randle El in 2001 to the team as quarterbacks, neither of whom was nearly the passer Robinson is on paper. Neither was former All-America QB Eric Crouch, who completed less than 50 percent of his passes as a junior, had a negative touchdown-interception ratio as a senior and finished his Heisman season in 2001 with 1,300 fewer total yards – about 100 yards per game less – than Robinson racked up this year.
My suggestion: In response to the growing ubiquity of the shotgun runner, create a position called "Omniback" for prolific dual-threat types like Robinson, Newton, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick, Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez, guys who – like Vince Young, Pat White and Tim Tebow before them – are all on pace to rewrite at least their schools' record books for all-purpose heroics. If they don't precisely fit in the old boxes, maybe it's time to consider creating a new box.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.