Tonight, the 78th Heisman Trophy winner will be announced on ESPN with three finalists waiting in the audience. The three finalists are Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, Texas A&M quaterback Johnny Manziel and Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te’o.
In anticipation of tonight’s announcement, Leatherheads of the Gridiron polled 18 of its contributors to see who we think will be the next name added to the elite list of college football greats who can say they are a Heisman Trophy recipient. Our voters followed the same format as the Heisman voters: 3 points for our number one choice, 2 for our second choice and 3 for our third choice. Last season, Leatherheads had a tie for the award with both Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Alabama’s Trent Richardson finishing first, although RG3 had more first place votes. RG3 ended up winning the trophy while Stanford’s Andrew Luck was second and Richardson finishing in third place. Click here for results.
We had 18 voters allocate their votes to ten different players. A few names missing that have been mentioned as possible winners at the beginning of the season and along the way include USC QB Matt Barkley, Oklahoma QB Landry Jones, South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore, Alabama QB A.J. McCarron, Georgia QB Aaron Murray, Michigan QB Denard Robinson, Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor, Oregon RB De’Anthony Thomas and Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson. Also missing is LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu who finished fifth in the voting last year and was dismissed from the team before the season for his drug use. A sad story. Hopefully, he can turn his life around and make it in the NFL in some capacity.
Our candidates in alphabetical order are as follows:
Ball is a running back for the 8-5, Rose Bowl-bound Wisconsin Badgers. The senior is ranked third in rushing with 1,730 yards and is tied for eighth with 21 touchdowns. Last year he finished fourth in the Heisman voting. Over the last two seasons, he has rushed for 3,653 yards and scored an amazing 60 touchdowns.
Barner is a running back for Oregon. The Ducks are 11-1 and heading to play in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Barner ranks seventh in rushing with 1,624 yards and is tied for fourth with 22 touchdowns. The senior rushed for 321 yards and five TDs on November 3 against the USC Trojans.
Jones is a linebacker for the Georgia Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are 11-2 and will be playing in the Capital One Bowl. The junior is the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time All-American. His 12.5 sacks are tied for fourth in the nation.
Klein is the quarterback for the 11-1 Kansas State Wildcats and will be playing against Barner and his Ducks teammates in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Klein, a senior, led the Wildcats to 10-straight victories before losing to Baylor on November 17. He has scored 22 touchdowns, tied for fourth in the nation. Over the last two seasons, the former wide receiver has passed for 4,408 yards and 28 TDs with 13 INTs while rushing for 2,031 yards and 49 TDs.
Lee is a wide receiver for the USC Trojans. The sophomore leads the nation with 112 receptions, is second with 1,680 yards, and ranks third in TD catches with 14. He has also returned 28 kickoffs for 802 yards and a score. In two seasons, Lee has 185 catches for 2,823 yards and 25 scores.
Lynch is a junior quarterback for Northern Illionois. He has led the 12-1 Huskies to the Orange Bowl. He leads the nation in rushing with 1,771 yards, a record for FBS quarterbacks. He has thrown for 2,942 yards with 24 TDs and just 5 INTs. He also has 19 rushing touchdowns.
Manziel is a freshman quarterback for the 10-2, Cotton Bowl-bound Texas A&M Aggies. Johnny Football, as he is called, gained national promience when he led his team to a 29-24 victory over #1 ranked Alabama. Manziel has passed for 3,419 yards, 24 TDs with 8 INTs while running for 1,181 yards and 19 TDs.
Miller is the quarterback for the 12-0 Ohio State Buckeyes and the Big Ten Player of the Year. The Buckeyes were not eligible for the Big Ten championship or a bowl game this season while on probation for past NCAA violations. The sophomore rushed for 1,271 yards with 13 TDs while passing for 2,039 yards and 15 TDs.
Smith is the quarterback for West Virginia. The senior is ranked first with 40 passes for touchdowns, fourth with 4,004 passing yards, and sixth with a 164.6 QB rating. On September 29 against Baylor, he threw for 656 yards and 8 TDs. Over the last two seasons, he has thrown for 8,389 yards with 71 TDs and just 13 INTs. The 7-5 Mountaineers will play in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
Te’o is the middle linebacker for the undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The senior is tied for second in the nation with 7 interceptions and has made 101 tackles this season. He has already won several awards this season, including the Maxwell Award. He will play in the BCS National Championship Game, hoping to lead his team to a 13-0 record and a national championship.
|1||Johnny Manziel||27 (9)||6 (3)||5 (5)||38|
|2||Manti Te’o||21 (7)||12 (6)||3.5 (3.5)||36.5|
|3||Collin Klein||6 (2)||10 (5)||5 (5)||21|
|4||Braxton Miller||0 (0)||4 (2)||0 (0)||4|
|5 (Tie)||Montee Ball||0 (0)||2 (1)||0 (0)||2|
|5 (Tie)||Jordan Lynch||0 (0)||0 (0)||2 (2)||2|
|5 (Tie)||Geno Smith||0 (0)||2 (1)||0 (0)||2|
|8 (Tie)||Kenjon Barner||0 (0)||0 (0)||1 (1)||1|
|8 (Tie)||Marqise Lee||0 (0)||0 (0)||1 (1)||1|
|10||Jarvis Jones||0 (0)||0 (0)||.5 (.5)||.5|
So the winner of our poll is Johnny Football, the freshman. A few of our voters could not vote for him in the number one spot just because he is a freshman. One Leatherhead stated, “Sorry I do not feel Manziel is worthy of the trophy being only a freshman, let us see what he can do next year.” I disagree with that thinking since the play is based on this season. I personally picked Manziel number one, largely for his play in the SEC which is clearly, in my mind and many others, the top conference in college football.
Another Leatherhead would disagree with me making Manziel my top choice, “If raw statistics alone is your game, he’s your winner. But if you actually take a closer look….he piled up great numbers against some terrible defensive teams. How did he do in the big games? He completely failed to drive the offense in the second half of A&M’s loss to Florida, and threw 3 interceptions and was held to 27 yards rushing in the loss to LSU. So that leaves the Alabama game – you’re voting a freshman the Heisman on the basis of one game. Which means, in his college career, he has as many arrests as big-game victories.” Ouch!
The arrest refers to an incident last summer when he got in a fight and produced fake identification to a police officer. Should this count against his chance of winning the Heisman? I personally do not since it has nothing to do with play on the field. But it might. Sports Illustrated’s Thayer Evans did for that reason. He stated, “I don’t consider players with pending criminal charges.”
Enough about Manziel. Leatherhead Tex Noel stated about Klein, “He’s an exciting player to watch. He thinks well on his feet as he eludes the defender or diving into the end zone. His passes are straight and on the mark. Without a doubt, Kansas State would not be the same without him.”
Tex has some good words for Te’o fans as well, “One of the best players the Irish have had in some time. He’s fearless as he makes plays sideline-to-sideline. You can’t stop him; you can only hope to contain him–maybe with a brick wall.”
So the top three finalists are the Leatherheads’ top three. Early in the season I thought it would be Geno Smith, hands down. Then the Mountaineers couldn’t stop losing.
I most note that one voter could not pick between Te’o and Jones with their third-place vote. He declared it a tie and I let it go since no harm was done. He stated, “I know, it’s a cop-out to do a tie but I can’t separate the two. Te’o is on a higher profile team and rightfully deserves his accolades, but Jones is every bit as special and actually runs sideline to sideline better.”
This is the word from Leatherheads of the Gridiron. Johnny Football will add his name to the elite list of Heisman Trophy winners. Will that actually happen? We will all find out shortly. Either way, all three finalists had a special season.
Participating voters: David Boyce, Bo Carter, Ronnie Foreman, Terry Keshner, Bob Lazzari, Jim Lefebvre, Chris Mascaro, Dan McCloskey, Andrew McKillop, Tex Noel, Michelle Nolan, Pete Sonski, Bob Stevenson, Bob Swick, Dan Totten, Brandon Williams, Joe Williams, Tony Williams.