Harper for Heisman?: Why Clemson's Cullen Deserves a Look

William QualkinbushSenior Analyst ISeptember 25, 2007

Brian Brohm, Colt Brennan, John David Booty, Andre Woodson, Dennis Dixon, Sam Bradford, Pat White, Tim Tebow, Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell...the list goes on and on.

All of these young men are frequently listed as the top quarterbacks in college football. You're sure to find some of their names on Heisman ballots across the country.

One name you probably won't see is that of Cullen Harper, the redshirt junior quarterback at Clemson University.

You should, though, because Harper has played just as well as—if not better than—any of the nation's "elite" quarterbacks.

Through four games—all Tiger victories—Harper has completed 75 of 108 passes for 964 yards. He has notched 12 touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception.

Harper has the second-longest active streak of consecutive completions without an interception, trailing only Woodson's ridiculous 296 passes. Furthermore, he threw for more touchdowns in his first 100 career attempts than any other QB in Clemson history.

When you consider that Clemson is a run-first offense with arguably the best backfield duo in America, Harper's accomplishments look even better. He doesn't have to be great to win games...and yet he has been sensational.

The stats say that Harper is an elite quarterback. Granted, statistics can be misleading—but some telling numbers from the first month of the season indicate, at the very least, that Harper deserves to be mentioned among the best QBs in the nation.

Cullen Harper is seventh in the country in QB rating—his 181.09 mark is higher than that of Brohm, White, Harrell, Woodson, Booty, and Daniel. Out of the top 10 quarterbacks, he has more attempts than all but two.

He's had more opportunities to throw incompletions than seven of the other nine top QBs, in other words, and yet his passer rating remains at the top of the charts.

Harper is tied for ninth in the country with a 69.4 percent completion percentage, and tied for 13th in yards per attempt with 8.9.

This means that Harper completes a high percentage of his passes while still throwing intermediate and deep routes. Only two quarterbacks—Bradford and Brennan—are ranked higher than him in both categories.

Only seven quarterbacks have more touchdown passes than Harper, and he has more TD tosses than any quarterback without an interception.

While a bit confusing, these numbers say two things to me: One, Cullen Harper doesn't make mistakes; and two, he makes big plays when given the opportunity.

Granted, Clemson's early schedule hasn't been difficult, but in Harper's first start he threw for 160 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Florida State, a team whose defense is amongst the best in the ACC.

The weak-schedule argument could be made against most—if not all—of the top-notch QBs named here. Bradford, for example has been anointed a future Heisman candidate after performances against the likes of Tulsa, North Texas, and Utah State, none of whom presented a challenge defensively.

Bradford played well against Miami, a good defensive football team—but to me, that shouldn't distinguish him from Harper, especially given the stats each player has compiled.

The presence of All-Americans James Davis and C.J. Spiller in the backfield makes Harper's numbers almost mystifying. Do you see Casey Dick putting up good passing numbers with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones at Arkansas?

The next two games—at Georgia Tech and vs. Virginia Tech—will be key for Harper, as both of those teams feature experienced, athletic defensive units. If he can answer the bell, Harper should be put on the pedestal with the rest of the country's premier QBs.

Cullen Harper may not have the name, the pedigree, or the preseason hype, but he has certainly performed well enough to be mentioned as one of the top 10 quarterbacks in America.

And, by the end of the season, he may deserve to see his name on some Heisman ballots.