The Texas A&M Aggies‘ Johnny Manziel made Heisman history as the first freshman to ever take home the award. With players of any class now allowed to be seen as equal candidates in the eyes of the college football world, it’s time to establish equality regardless of position. A strictly defensive player deserves a legitimate shot at winning the Heisman Trophy.
This isn’t to suggest that the Heisman committee force the award in the hands of an outstanding defender immediately in the name of completely leveling the playing field. However, there is one name that should be on every 2013 Heisman watch list and not just for hypothetical reasons: Jadeveon Clowney.
The South Carolina Gamecocks‘ lethal defensive end has been a terror for two seasons now. Many believe him to be the best defender in the country today, let alone come next season and understandably so. His already impressive freshman numbers nearly doubled across the board in 2012.
The USC Trojans‘ Marqise Lee will get plenty of face time as will Braxton Miller of the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Archie Griffin card will be played for Manziel in the name of ratings, though he may legitimately earn that praise.
However, if Clowney goes off and eclipses his own numbers again – and South Carolina’s schedule sets up well for that next year – he needs to be legitimately included in the conversation.
While Manziel broke the remaining underclassman barrier, Robert Griffin III may have inadvertently opened the door for a defender to win.
He guided the Baylor Bears to a 10-3 record, No. 12 ranking and Alamo Bowl victory. He won because he was truly the most outstanding player that year, the Heisman’s intended recipient. He wasn’t in the BCS National Championship Game or even on the conference champions’ team. He was just that good.
While Notre Dame Fighting Irish faithful may disagree, Manziel deserved this year’s honor. Unfortunately, Manti Te’o just happened to be ending his career as the Aggie began his.
Either the unspoken rule of defenders being unable to claim the Heisman Trophy needs to be publicly trashed or a little sign reading “Offense Only, Please” should hang from Ed Smith‘s outstretched bronze arm. If Clowney or another strictly defensive player wins the Heisman in 2013 (or when clearly deserving), every major barrier to the award’s validity will have been shattered.
From then on, it will be up to the voters to maintain its integrity across the board. If it continues to be a joke when absolutely no one is barred due to class or position, that falls on those deciding its winner.
Let the campaign begin: Defense for Heisman in 2013.
Brandon Cavanaugh is a college football columnist for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter: @eightlaces