December 9, 2011
On the eve of crowning the next Heisman Trophy winner this NCAA football season, I know only one thought is crossing your mind: Who would Junior pick as his Heisman winner. It is for that very reason that I have decided to rank my Top 5 Heisman Candidates as though I had a vote, which I most certainly do not. My 5 candidates come from 4 different conferences, making it difficult to compare head-to-head, but that’s what makes it fun. We start with #5:
#5 Robert Griffin III
This might be shocking to a lot of people, as many consider him to be at least in the Top 3of their Heisman candidates. However, while I am not going to pretend I watched every Baylor game, in the games I did watch I was only really impressed with him against Oklahoma, who gave him a lot of help in that game. Regardless, there is no arguing that RG3 had an amazing season, and prior to the season had someone told me a Baylor player would be in my Top 5 I would have laughed. No player had a better passer rating than RG3, who only threw 6 INT all season long. No doubt he deserves to have his name on this list, but I don’t see him any higher than 5. The best part for RG3 is I think he is a player that will only continue to get better on Sundays.
#4 Montee Ball
No one had more yards rushing this season than Montee Ball, who played a huge role in Wisconsin winning the Big Ten this year. Add to that his 32 rushing touchdowns (also tops) and you can see the impact that Montee Ball had for Wisconsin. My 2nd ranked running back on my Heisman list, Ball benefitted from a solid passing attack and also playing in the Big Ten. While he played great in games against ranked opponents, I can’t overlook that both of his 200+ yard games came against Purdue and Illinois. Montee Ball had an impressive season, and was no doubt the best back in the Big Ten this year, but I can’t give him the top spot in the NCAA.
#3 Tyrann Mathieu
On an LSU team that is stacked with talent on defense, one player sticks out above the rest. Nicknamed the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu was the most feared defender in the SEC this year, and would have been in any conference. Even though teams tried to avoid him, he found ways to make plays and help launch LSU to 12-0 and a shot at the National Championship. When he wasn’t terrorizing teams on defense, he was returning punts for touchdowns and helping put points on the board for LSU. His stats (6 Forced Fumbles, 4 Fumble Returns (2TD), 2 INT, 1.5 Sacks, 6.5 TFL, etc.) make him the first legitimate defensive candidate for the Heisman since Charles Woodson. While there is little chance he will come away with the Heisman, he deserves the honor of being mentioned with these players. His impact on the best team in the nation was that large.
#2 Trent Richardson
Trent Richardson proved time and again that even though teams game planned to stop him, it was easier said than done. While his stats don’t jump out at you as much as Montee Ball’s, he played in the SEC and on a team with a struggling passing game. The big reason I put Richardson above Ball for the Heisman Trophy is because if you put Ball on Alabama and Richardson on Wisconsin, I think the Badgers are going to the National Championship. Richardson was the Alabama offense this year and proved to everyone he was a workhorse. How fitting would it be for Richardson to win the Heisman after backing up former Heisman winner Mark Ingram? While he isn’t my pick, I wouldn’t have any complaints if he did win it.
#1 Andrew Luck
I thought it was a terrible idea for Andrew Luck to come back to college last year. He had an amazing college season, won the Orange Bowl, Jim Harbaugh was leaving for the NFL, and he was the undoubted #1 Pick in the NFL Draft. So what did he do? Come back and prove me wrong. Andrew Luck had more pressure on him this year than anyone else in college football. Under a new head coach, he led his team to an 11-1 record and back to a BCS bowl. Barring losing to a very good Oregon team, Andrew Luck would be playing for a National Championship this season. Take Andrew Luck off of this Stanford team and I would be surprised if they make a bowl game at all. I thought Andrew Luck would only fail by coming back this season, yet he found a way to succeed and I am more impressed by that than anything the other players did this year. If I had a vote, he would be my Heisman Trophy winner.
November 21, 2011
As a member of the Football Writers Association of America, one of the unique things I get to do is provide input on the organization’s All-American Team. Last week, I shared my ballot for the defensive side of the ball. In Part II, I provide my ballot for the offensive squad and special teams.
Robert Griffin III (Baylor): There are a lot of good candidates for All-American here including Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson, and Houston’s Case Keenum, to name a few. But my choice is Griffin, who is not only leading Baylor to a respectable season, but is having a great individual campaign as well. His 29 touchdowns to only five interceptions heading into this weekend’s game against Oklahoma is one of the best ratios in all of college football. But the thing that separates Griffin from the others is his ability to run with the ball. He has nearly 500 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns on the season, making him nearly as deadly with his feet as he is with his arm.
Trent Richardson (Alabama): Richardson has been in the spotlight all season, leading the way for the Crimson Tide, one of the top teams in the country. He has more than 1,200 yards on the season and 18 touchdowns. Richardson’s also capable of catching the ball out of the backfield as evidenced by his 25 receptions for 318 yards and is really a dual threat of sorts.
LaMichael James (Oregon): When James went down with an injury earlier this year, it wasn’t known how much time he would miss. But even despite sitting out two games, he still has more yards than Richardson on the season. On my ballot, he barely beat out Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, who with 1,242 yards and 22 touchdowns, is having a monster season. But James’ numbers despite the missed games are pretty significant and heading into the weekend, his Ducks were still alive for the National Championship game.
Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State): Blackmon is regarded as one of the nation’s best receivers and his 1,242 yards on the season ranked him fourth in the FBS. The Cowboys lost their first game of the season on Friday night against Iowa State and that may have knocked them out of the National Championship picture. But Blackmon still starred, catching ten passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. He leads the nation in receiving touchdowns with 15 and is second in catches with 103.
Jordan White (Western Michigan): Sure, go ahead – chalk up White’s big-time numbers (a nation-leading 108 catches for 1,389 yards and 14 touchdowns) to lesser competition if you want. Thing is, though, that his Broncos have squared off against several BCS AQ conference teams including Michigan, Illinois, and UConn. White didn’t play in the season opener against Michigan, but in games against the Illini and Huskies, he had 26 catches for 205 yards and three touchdowns. That proves he’s the real deal and worthy of a spot on my All-American team.
Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame): Eifert leads all tight ends in the FBS in receptions with 51 on the year and is second in receiving yards with 589. The fact that he’s done it against some pretty stiff competition in games against Michigan, Michigan State, USC, and several other BCS AQ conference teams, is even more impressive.
Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin): Zeitler is the top offensive lineman on a line that’s allowed the Badgers’ Montee Ball to run wild to the tune of 1,200+ yards and 23 touchdowns. Wisconsin’s rushing attack is ranked tenth in the nation and Zeitler’s ability to open up holes is a big part of that.
Nate Potter (Boise State): It’s easy to forget that the Broncos are still in the hunt for the National Title, but with only one loss, they’re not yet out of it. That’s largely due to quarterback Kellen Moore, and Potter and the Boise State linemen have ensured he gets plenty of time to throw as Moore has only been sacked five times this year.
Barrett Jones (Alabama): Jones helped anchor a line that paved the way for 2010 Heisman candidate (and 2009 Heisman winner) Mark Ingram at Alabama. He’s now doing the same for Trent Richardson, who could be a candidate for the award this year and has given the Crimson Tide one of the nation’s best rushing attacks.
David DeCastro (Stanford): DeCastro has quietly helped the Cardinal to a 9-1 record this season and as a senior, has protected quarterback Andrew Luck about as well as can be done. Luck has only been sacked 19 times in his entire career and only seven times this season.
David Molk (Michigan): Molk and the Wolverines have one of the hardest jobs in college football trying to not only protect athletic quarterback Denard Robinson, but also get out and block for him if he takes off running … which happens quite a bit. Robinson’s legs have helped Michigan to the 11th best rushing attack in the country, but Molk has also protected him when passing as he’s been sacked only eight times all season.
Bobby Cowan (Idaho): Cowan leads the nation in total punting yardage with nearly 4,000 and his average of 47 yards per punt is good for third. The Vandals are one of the lowest scoring teams in college football and Cowan gets plenty of work because of that.
Caleb Sturgis (Florida): Sturgis has been one of the most accurate kickers in college football this season, hitting more than 90% of his field goals (19/21). He hasn’t missed one within 40 yards all season and is 2/3 from distances of 50 yards or greater.
Jamal Miles (Arizona State): Miles hasn’t had many opportunities to return kicks or punts this season, but that makes his three returns for scores even more extraordinary. Those three touchdowns from returns are tied for the lead in the FBS.