Auburn's Ben Tate sends Heisman Hopes of Tennessee's Eric Berry Skidding

Kevin StricklandCorrespondent IOctober 5, 2009

Eric Berry for Heisman? Sorry, but no. 

Auburn running back Ben Tate derailed that fleeting notion when he lowered his shoulder in the third quarter of the Tigers' 26-22 Saturday win over the Vols and flung the Tennessee safety through the air like a rag doll. 

Heisman Trophy candidates do not fly backward through the air for five full yards and hit the ground so hard they dig a trench with their butt.  That's what happened when Tate rammed Berry. The Tennessee safety looked like Superman running in reverse. If Superman started his flight flat on his back with a confused look on his face. 

It should be noted that Tate kept his feet and picked up eight more yards after turning Berry into a flopping chew toy. 

While Tate took Berry out of the Heisman conversation, Lane Kiffin is the one who put him in it.

Kiffin's Tennessee Volunteers are desperate for attention. Kiffin  subscribes to the notion that any attention, even bad, is still attention.  Kiffin will say and do anything to get the spotlight to shine on his Vols.

Substance? Who cares. Kiffin is the Paris Hilton of coaches. 

Despite his rocky tenure with the Oakland Raiders, he bought into at least one facet of the philosophy of crusty owner Al Davis. If people are talking about you, that means you're on their minds.  

As part of that craving for attention, Kiffin endorsed a Berry for Heisman marketing campaign.

There's a website (www.berry4heisman.com). There's a band, The Love Berrys, that rips off the FreeCreditReport.com crew. Berry stars in a clever sendup of the Geico caveman commercials. It probably hasn't dawned on anyone that Berry is playing the part of the caveman, but it's creative nonetheless. 

There's also a well-produced SwiperBoy rap video that's got nice bounce.

The song is smooth, there are plenty of gyrating Tennessee gals in skimpy outfits and the mascot Smokey busts a move. Berry, who stars as himself in the video, looks horribly uncomfortable and would lose to Old Smokey in a Dancing with the Stars competition. It wouldn't be close. 

Plenty of style, but so little substance. 

Even Kiffin had to realize that a defender being taken seriously as a Heisman candidate was a long shot to start with. This really isn't about Berry at all. 

Although Berry is presumed to be the center of attention, the real purpose of the video and purported Heisman campaign is to enhance Tennessee recruiting. 

It's something Kiffin and his staff will show potential signees. It's their way of saying look how far we at Tennessee will go to pimp you and promote this program. 

What would probably work better for Kiffin, Berry, and the Vols is to spend less time worrying about helping SwiperBoy craft dope hooks and spend more time putting a quality product on the field. 

Slick video packaging will only go so far. Sure you can show the video of Berry dancing like a wooden puppet to his recruits. Opposing coaches will counter with passes doinking off receiver's helmets and Berry doing the five-yard helicopter after being shoulder butted by Tate. 

That clip isn't up on Berry's Heisman site yet, although it is a staple on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oD_52njv2mk#).

Perhaps Berry's webmaster just hasn't had the time to add it to the highlight reel yet. 

Not to discredit Berry entirely, he did have 14 total tackles against the Tigers and was as solid as any defender on the field. The junior is currently third in the league, averaging nine stops per game. He's tied for 13th in the SEC in tackles for a loss with four. 

But Heisman? Really?

Berry isn't in the top 10 in the SEC in any other significant defensive category. Not interceptions, fumbles forced or recovered, passes defended, or sacks. 

The rap videos are cool. The image of Berry being turned into dead-armadillo roadkill by Tate is the one that lingers. 

 

 

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