Yellow Jackets' Josh Nesbitt for the 2010 Heisman (No, Seriously...)
(Just stick that off-side arm out, Josh. There you go, perfect!)
With the ACC race white-hot and coming down the final stretch here in 2009, the braintrust here at Bleacher Report asked each of us at the Big Three (Miami , Virginia Tech , Georgia Tech) to start thinking Heisman candidates for next year.
Going off the assumption that Jonathan Dwyer, slotted by many as the top running back in next year's draft, will be earning money by putting on a uniform next fall, the logical next choice along North Avenue would be Josh Nesbitt.
Now after you've wiped the spit off your screen (thanks for laughing, by the way), let's make a couple of things clear:
1. I know Nesbitt is a long-shot at best for this thing. He doesn't pass much, and he's in an offense that, by it's own nature, spreads the ball around more than most.
2. He might not even be the best player in his conference, because Ryan Williams is pretty darn good.
However, I've been making my quiet case for Nesbitt as ACC Offensive Player of the Year this season, and it's because his numbers and his play have improved so much. Should they improve as much again into next season, it would be hard to ignore the man from Greene County High.
My argument is manifold (awesome word, I know).
First, check the stats. Nesbitt's passing numbers and efficiency are through the roof compared to last year. He's already eclipsed last year's yards total through the air, he's almost doubled his yards-per-pass average and he has doubled his touchdown total, all with at least five games left in the season.
Same for his rushing numbers, where he's already passed last year's mark and has four more touchdowns. He's also been a much more dangerous weapon offensively and especially on the ground, alleviating some of the pressure on Dwyer and Co.
Second, Nesbitt has become this offense's engine, and it's captain. The word "intangible" gets thrown around so much come December that I sometimes find myself looking for my own intangibles (folksy charm, indefatigable perseverance, and a dry, entertaining wit).
Voters like guts, and voters like leadership skills, and Nesbitt plays with both every single Saturday.
There's a reason his number gets called so often on 3rd-and-short, or near the goal line—more often than not, he gets the job done.
Finally, Nesbitt is the X-factor in an already potent offense.
The option can produce the big play on the ground, this we know. But Tech's greatest criticism last year was its inability to even keep teams honest in the passing game.
But this year, Tech No. 1 wide receiver Demaryius Thomas has only had one game in which he did not catch a pass of at least 36 yards, and he's on pace for a 1,000-yard season. His longest receptions, game-by-game this season, go 56, 39, 56, 16, 65, 73, 51, 52.
Nesbitt was on the creative end of each of those passes.
Again, the stats are not eye-popping this year, much more so just get-the-job-done kind of work. There are numerous things he must do to gain national recognition of the Heisman kind.
1. His completion percentage has to go up. No quarterback will ever win the Heisman Trophy with a completion percentage of 47.7. Put that down.
2. He has to hold onto the ball. Georgia Tech have certainly improved in turnover margin over last year, up to plus-fiv from plus-two (albeit with four games still to play). But the Jackets still fumble the ball far, far too much, and that sort of thing can eventually catch up with you. Nesbitt's the quarterback; it all starts with him.
3. This is the most obvious, but the stats have to keep turning higher. It would be hard to ignore, say, an 1,800-passing, 1,500-rushing, 35 touchdown season, were big things to follow suit for Georgia Tech.
Should Nesbitt improve in 2010 as he has in 2009—and should he take on an even more pronounced offensive role with Dwyer gone—such a dramatic turn might be possible.
I will be honest, I don't see Heisman candidacy for Nesbitt, in no small part because this is an offense that spreads the ball around. A lot.
Just ask Dwyer, who is on pace for 14 less carries this season, despite the fact that Tech's rushing offense is averaging almost 20 yards more per game. Obviously, depth is never a problem, especially in this offense—unless you have eyes for the Heisman.
I've heard from numerous and varied sources this season that Tech needs "a Tim Tebow-like" player to really be a national title contender with this offense. Beyond my obvious first reaction (shock that people see Tim Tebow as anywhere near as good as Josh Nesbitt), I guess it would agree with that, mostly because, you know, Tebow is basically college football's best player since I dunno, Jim Thorpe.
In all seriousness, I do think it would take a Tebow-like talent to win an award like the Heisman in this offense, simply because only that level of ability would demand so much of the ball through the air and on the ground.
Nesbitt isn't Tim Tebow by any measure, of course, but he's a already superb choice to run this offense. Should both quarterback and offense become even more prolific in 2010, Nesbitt's name ought to at least be floated in Heisman conversations.
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