2009 has not been the year in college football predicted in the preseason. The great three-way battle between Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, and Sam Bradford for the Heisman Trophy just hasn’t materialized.
Bradford is undergoing season-ending surgery and is officially out of the Heisman race. Tebow and McCoy are still leading undefeated national championship contenders in Florida and Texas, but neither one is putting up the eye-popping numbers they did last year.
At this point in the season, most analysts agree that the Heisman is virtually wide open, with no single player dominating the national stage. Many Clemson fans, myself included, have just one question. Why not C.J. Spiller?
Clemson fans and foes alike have long known one of the best kept secrets in college football. Spiller is one of the great offensive weapons in NCAA history.
Finally, Spiller is getting some well-deserved recognition in the sports world as a national talent. ESPN's Mel Kiper was quoted earlier today as saying: "I think (Spiller's) the top guy for the Heisman right now. If I had to give it out today, I give it to him."
Spiller, at midseason, holds the all-time ACC all-purpose yardage record and can now take aim at the NCAA career record. The Lake Butler, Fla., product needs just 700 yards to become one of only five college football players to ever go over 7,000 all-purpose yards for their careers. With just over 1,200, Spiller would pass DeAngelo Williams as the NCAA’s FBS leader in career all-purpose yards.
For Spiller to truly be in the Heisman trophy mix come December, Clemson must win out and put on a show in the ACC title game. If Clemson does win out, Spiller will only need 170 yards per game to take the all-time record from Williams. That feat should be no problem if Spiller continues his current season average of over 200 all-purpose yards per game.
One thing that Spiller doesn’t need to worry about is campaigning for the Heisman. He’s got his coach and athletic department taking care of that. Clemson’s athletic department is preparing a second media blitz in the “Spiller for Heisman” campaign, while Clemson students are flooding Internet polls to show their support for No. 28.
Head coach Dabo Swinney is doing his part for Spiller’s campaign as well.
"He's the best player in college football. Period,” Swinney said of Spiller after the Miami game. “People who don't want to put him in the Heisman race—shame on them."
In reference to Spiller’s overall importance to the team, Dabo said, “If you’re looking at MVPs, Heisman and all that, I don’t know of any player in the country that’s more valuable to their team than C.J.”
Swinney makes a valid point here. Statistics and talent can be openly argued for this season’s Heisman candidates, but as impact on a team goes, the argument begins and ends at C.J. Spiller for Clemson.
Spiller now has eight plays of 60 yards or more in just seven games for the Tigers, and he often single-handedly keeps Clemson afloat offensively.
Left guard Thomas Austin described Spiller’s importance to the team when he said: “To me, it’s more impressive for a guy like C.J. who’s playing on a team that might not have as much talent as some of those other teams. Then you say what would our team be without that player?”
Fortunately, Tiger fans never have to find out thanks to their standout senior. It’s still early in the season for definitive Heisman chatter, but if Clemson wins out and Spiller continues to play like he has through the first half of the season, he should be in New York on Dec. 12, accepting college football’s most prestigious award: the Heisman trophy.