Sunday, December 11, 2005

Looking Ahead: The Heisman in 2006

And so it is done.

With a commanding victory deserved for his body of work over the last three seasons, Reggie Bush dominated the Heisman voting, achieving the second highest point and first place vote total in the history of the award. (Second behind The Juice in both categories). Save your “So why did they invite Matt or Vince if they didn’t invite Brady, because they had about the same chance?” quips – only because I’ve already made them – and extend congratulations to Michael Robinson and AJ Hawk for coming in 5th and 6th, which isn’t bad for a quarterback seeing his first extensive starting action and a defensive player.

But what about next year? It’s never too early to start looking ahead, so let’s glance at whose going to be contending for those Downtown Athletic Club invites next year…

(For the sake of this argument, I’m going to consider that every junior will be returning except for Reggie Bush, who is a lock to go at the top of the draft and because it would make this entire post more pointless than it already is.)

The Favorites

Vince Young, QB, Texas - He gets the boost of being the guy shaking Reggie’s hand this year, much like Reggie got to do with Matt last year. He’d be returning with another starting Longhorns on a team that would be contending for a national title. He’d have at least two marquee games to show off (Ohio State, Oklahoma) and the rest of the slate being fairly light to run up some nice, Heisman-quality numbers.

Also, the magnitude of hype he would have coming into the season if he wins or puts up a solid performance in the Rose Bowl would basically mean he’d simply have to not suck in order to get the trophy come next December. Of course, a Rose Bowl win probably means he’d be going to the NFL, but that’s what we said about Leinart after his BCS Championship last year.

Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame - On the down side for Brady, he’ll be losing Maurice Stovall, who turned into an All-American level receiver the last half of the season. He was catching everything thrown in his direction, but Samardjiza will be capable of that again next year, along with the return of Rhema McKnight and the hopeful emergence of DJ Hord and David Grimes. If Fasano comes back, Brady will have another high-quality target, and if he doesn’t, there are replacements available.

The schedule also sets up really nice for Brady: Big games early to put some numbers and highlights on the map (Georgia Tech, Penn State, Michigan), a suitable run of cannon fodder (Navy, Army, Air Force, UCLA’s defense, UNC) and then the showdown at the end of the season to leave a stamp Vince couldn’t possibly hope to: Beating USC in the Coliseum.

(The other edge I’d give to Vince in this, other than the outstanding hype he’ll have – which says a lot, because Brady is a ND QB – is that he’s more likely to have that “Heisman Moment” some people gush about. Reggie had it against Fresno State and Crouch had a couple of them, but you don’t necessarily need one if you’re the pocket passing quarterback of a national championship contender. See: Weinke, Chris; Leinart, Matt; Palmer, Carson; White, Jason.)


Marcus Vick, QB, Virginia Tech - He’s a Vick, he’ll be more comfortable in the offense and the offense will be more comfortable with him in it, but he’ll have to put in a significantly better effort against the Miami’s and Florida State’s of the world. Again, Florida State will not be on the regular season Hokie schedule and he’ll be contending against a vicious Cane defense down in the Orange Bowl, but again: he’s a Vick.

(Which means he should lose to a couple of overrated white guys. Sorry.)

LenDale White, HB, USC - If I were doing my top five for next year, LenDale would definitely be a dominating third. He had six more rushing touchdowns than Bush this year, and do you really think, no matter who is playing quarterback, that teams will be able to load up against the run with Dwayne, Steve and whatever studs Carroll brings in splitting out to the sidelines? I really like White’s chances.

Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville - He’ll have the numbers in Petrino’s offense, but he won’t have any sort of statement games in the Big East if it maintains it’s current level of sucktitude. How many more touchdowns would he have to throw than Brady to get more votes than him? 10? 15? He’d have to be absolutely perfect, with no slip-ups (Cough – South Florida – Cough) to pass either of the favorites. Also will be interesting to see how his knee injury heals, though nothing I’ve read thinks it’ll be anything serious. Tillett, if you’re reading this, please drop some Cardinal health knowledge on me.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma - When healthy, basically unstoppable. You know OU will be better all-around on offense next year, and he’s got the hype from his freshman year still carrying over. May have more highlights than any of the other candidates, and can dethrone Young in the Red River Shootout. Could have a really strong case at the end of the season.

(My favorite thing about The Red River Shootout, or really, the only thing I like: How they incorporate the “OU” and “UT” into the name. Fantastic. We need a big “South BeND sign somewhere.)

Troy Smith, QB, Ohio State - Rob is throwing up in his mouth right now, as the Buckeye message boards have him in an anti-Smith frenzy, but Troy will still have the big games (Texas, Michigan), the cupcakes (Indiana, Illinois, Cincy), the breakaway threat (Ginn) and the highlight runs. Plus, depending on how the Fiesta Bowl and next year’s Texas game goes, he might be able to claim head-to-head victories over his closest competition, something most longshots don’t have the privilege of.

Chris Leak, QB/Crash Test Dummy, Florida - Still not a fit for this offense, but if the Urban Renewal Project continues in the offseason, he just might not die/put up some quality numbers next year. To Meyer’s credit, he switched the offense away from the spread towards the end, but I think it would be quite a blow to his pride to replace it for an entire season.

Longer Shots

Michael Hart/Chad Henne, RB/QB, Michigan - According to Brian over at MGoBlog, Henne regained his freshman/having-Braylon-Edwards-To-Throw-To form in the Ohio State game, and anyone whose played NCAA Football 2006 knows how awesome Michael Hart is going to be. The Notre Dame game early next year will decide their fates early.

Brian Calhoun, RB, Wisconsin> - Probably will suffer from a post-Alvarez drop off, but at least he won’t have to worry about getting shut down by Penn State’s big boys next year, nor will the Badgers be playing Ohio State. But come on, he goes to Wisconsin and will not be setting the all-time rushing record.

Maurice Drew, RB, UCLA - Do you know he had only 900 yards rushing this year? Talk about the LA hype machine even making this guy a candidate. I guess with Reggie Bush out of town he’ll be the top highlight-maker in town, but come on.

Kyle Wright, QB, Miami (FL) - You know he’ll have the stud receivers, and will be leading a national title contender. No real chance, but if he puts up solid numbers, he’ll get mention.

JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU - Will be leading a different national title contender, has a leftover Howitzer attached to his arm and is guaranteed a ton of exposure due to those CBS games. A little too turnover prone, methinks. The Peach Bowl between Russell and Wright, although it will be about the defenses, should prove interesting.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech; Dwayne Jarrett, WR, USC; Jeff Samardjiza, WR, Notre Dame> - Sorry, but they play receiver. Heisman doesn’t like that.

So who did I miss? I know there’s at least a few, because I didn’t think of Peterson or Leak until the last second. Hate on me as you will.

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