Super 6 Candidates for the 2012 Heisman Trophy
Let me start this off by saying that I believe that the Heisman Trophy and it's purpose has lost it's way. The definition of the Heisman winner is the most outstanding player in college football. But in many years, it has not been the most outstanding player who has won. In some cases, I'm not even sure that the most outstanding player in college football was even selected as a finalist. In many cases we become enamored with the best players(and by players I mean quarterback and running backs) on the best teams in the country and assume they must be the most viable Heisman candidates.
Personally I've never ascribed to that notion, so in many cases, when I create a list like this, you will see players that never even get close to being a finalist. But I feel like since over the course of the season I watch around 200 college football games, give or take a dozen, I am somewhat qualified to identify players I consider outstanding.
I have narrowed this list down to the 6 players at this point I have been most impressed with. I've had about 10 different guys on this list of 6 since the season started, and next week this list may change. Guys like Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, and University of Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones are just on the outside looking in, and a few good weeks could see them firmly in the mix.
Keep in mind, this list is in no particular order. And I am not predicting a winner. The voters all love West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith and it's really his award to lose at this point. If I were ranking players, I'd probably have Smith 4th on this list.
Who are your Heisman favorites? Follow me on Twitter @nfldraftboard and let me know.
De'Anthony Thomas, WR/RB University of Oregon
Players like Oregon'sDe'Anthony Thomas is a bit of an enigma for fans, and especially for Heisman voters. He's not going to lead the league in rushing or receiving, and he's surrounded by playmakers at other positions that are going to have weeks where they steal the spotlight and the numbers that everyone is so excited about. But the reality is, there's not a more dynamic and offensive weapon in the country. He's almost certainly a top 3 fastest athletes in college football, and he averages about 9.5 yards every time he gets his hand on the football on offense. Where a quarterback will have 45 dropbacks a game, Thomas may only get 6 or 7 significant touches in an entire game. But you watch what he does with the football in his hands, and you understand what outstanding really means.
Taylor Lewan, OT University of Michigan
There is probably not a less sexy pick for the Heisman than an offensive lineman, and I get that. But bear with me. I have studied this group of offensive tackles extensively this year, as so many of them excel in some areas but fall short in others. But every week when I watch Taylor Lewan, he just gets better and better. The University of Michigan offense funnels more and more plays over that left side, and the blocking assignments of Lewan in the run and pass game continue to get more and more complex. And he never lets up. I fully accept that Lewan, like Thomas are not going to be in New York City this December for the finals, but I include him here, because he's playing at such a high level.
Jedeveon Clowney, DE South Carolina
Last season, when I would watch the South Carolina Gamecocks, I thought that defensive end Jedeveon Clowney was good. This season when I watch them play, I think he's frightening. After week 1, I was sure that Jarvis Jones from Georgia was the best DE/LB hybrid in the nation. It's now week 7, and it's clearly Clowney. He's only a sophomore, and so there's still another year before he can start wreaking havoc on the NFL, but for now he's as frightening a mix of pass rush and run stopping I've seen in a long time. As I think back, he reminds me a lot of a young Jevon Kearse. Again it comes back to the definition of the term, but you cannot watch Clowney play and not wonder with him only as a sophomore, just how good he can be.
Manti Te'o, LB Notre Dame
While I put Clowney and Lewan on this list as personal choices and concede that they aren't going to be contenders in the truest sense, I don't include Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o in that same group. I absolutely think in a year where the play of the top team's running backs and quarterbacks hasn't been commensurate with the award, a guy like Te'o can be among the finalists. From a talent standpoint there is nothing he is asked of he cannot do. He does it all for a top 5 football team, and he's the undisputed leader of this team on both sides of the ball. If there is any justice in the world, give the trophy to whomever you want, but send Te'o to New York.
Geno Smith, QB West Virginia
Before I give you my input on West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith and his place in this list, I concede that right now, he is clearly the frontrunner to win the award as it's been given out in the past. And I absolutely think he will be and should be a finalist. I also believe that as of right now, Smith is the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. He puts up insane statistics and his offense is humming at a very high level. Now, having said all that, while I consider Smith the 2nd most outstanding quarterback I've seen play this year, I can't put him as the most outstanding player. The Mountaineer offense is set up as such Smith has to make quick reads, go through progressions and make great throws on time. All tremendous attributes and things he does very well. But it's also built in large part around short throws and long runs, which does inflate his stats. Doesn't diminish his skills, but against a defense that tackles well, and presses wide outs, his stats could suffer.
Collin Klein, QB Kansas State
If you haven't had a chance to watch Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein play, do yourself a favor and check him out. He's a little old school, a little new school, and all gamer. He's not the fastest quarterback in the country, and far from the best thrower, but he has thrown his team on his back, and without the benefit of many(any?) 4 star offensive teammates, uses his legs, his arm, and his will to win football games. It would be hard for me to not give Klein the Heisman, especially if the Wildcats continue to win. He's a really special player, a workhorse for his team, and truly outstanding. If he were the starting quarterback for a high profile program, he'd be on everyone's list.