Separating the Heisman Trophy Candidates' "Outstanding" From "Mediocre"

By Brandon Cavanaugh
John David Mercer – US PRESSWIRE

The Heisman Trophy’s actual distinction is unknown. What does “the most outstanding player in collegiate football” mean, anyway? A team’s most valuable player? The best player in the entire country? An athlete with enough heart and athletic ability to rival that of Clark Kent? If the Heisman Trophy is to be given to the most “outstanding” athlete, then some misconceptions about this race need to be cleared up.

– Collin Klein: He is easily the most lunch pail, “get the job done” signal-caller you’ll find this season. He’s gritty, his work isn’t always pretty, but he’ll run a defender over to get a first down and not think twice. Yes, he is the quarterback behind an improbable run by the Kansas State Wildcats, but ultimately, it’s difficult to give credit for the season entirely to Klein. In all honesty, his head coach deserves most of it. Is Klein efficient? Absolutely. Outstanding? Absolutely not.

– Manti Te’o: Easily this year’s predominant defensive player, Te’o will be taking home hardware, and should even be invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony, but he won’t touch the bronze statue. Even as a linebacker with 40 solo tackles and six – yes, six – interceptions, his performance can technically be called outstanding, but human logic doesn’t apply when filling out a Heisman ballot.

Te’o has committed the worst crime a candidate for the award could possibly conceive: be a defensive player and only a defensive player. Is he outstanding? Yes, but for his felony, he is merely impressive by Heisman standards.

– Kenjon Barner: A running back, this is more the committee’s style. Only two have won the award in the past decade (one vacated), but from 1973 to 1983, a ball-carrier held the trophy every year from John Cappelletti to Mike Rozier. Barner’s different, though.

He was made for Chip Kelly’s offense. The Oregon Ducks’ attack relies on speed and Barner requires rocket fuel to function. He picks up nearly seven yards per carry, is a more than adequate receiver, and most importantly, he forces a defense to account for him on every play.

Is Barner outstanding? Most certainly. You don’t have to be an Oregon fan to have fun watching Kelly’s offense be run and No. 24’s at the center of it. However, thanks to dynamic quarterbacks like Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III taking the spotlight away from running backs, if he’s to stand a chance at being “Heisman outstanding,” he has to do something truly impressive. He ran for over 300 yards and five touchdowns against the USC Trojans in the Coliseum.

Repeat that performance and maybe he’ll be good enough for the Big Apple crowd if the stars align correctly.

– Johnny “Manziel” Football: Johnny Football, or “Manziel” as some announcers improperly pronounce, has produced a season that can only be defined as outstanding. Under the guidance of coach Kevin Sumlin, this redshirt freshman signal-caller has not only made everyone who said the Texas A&M Aggies couldn’t pull their weight in the SEC eat crow, he kicked sand in Nick Saban‘s face and lived to tell the tale.

The Alabama Crimson Tide slayer has already set records in College Station and earned weekly conference honors several times over. He’s thrown for a scant 2,780 yards while running for 1,014 and added 33 touchdowns to the Aggies’ efforts so far.

He is not amazing, brilliant, fascinating, marvelous, wonderful or a delight. He is outstanding by anyone’s standards, even the Heisman Trophy committee’s.

Whether or not that will be represented in New York remains to be seen, but only delusion allows it to be denied.

Brandon Cavanaugh is a college football columnist for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter and join in on the conversation.

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