By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
The 2009 Heisman Trophy presentation is Saturday night, December 12th. In recent years, the Heisman committee has stepped out of their comfort zone of junior and senior quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers or defensive backs that return punts and kicks. Underclassmen such as QB Tim Tebow in 2007 and QB Sam Bradford in 2008 won as sophomores.
Tebow, receiving his third straight nomination, joins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh from Nebraska, who hopes to be the second true defensive player ever to win the Heisman. Suh would be following in the footsteps of the last defensive player to be nominated, 1997 Heisman winner Charles Woodson of Michigan.
Also mounting a strong campaign, running back Mark Ingram from Alabama hopes to spoil that party and become the third straight underclassman to win. Quarterback Colt McCoy from Texas is back for the second straight year, looking for his first trophy. Finally, running back Toby Gerhart of Stanford rounds out the group, which numbers five finalists for the first time since 2004.
We’re now going to take an inside look at all five finalists, and make our official Sportmeister pick for the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner.
QB Tim Tebow, Senior, University of Florida Gators
Tebow, the 2007 Heisman winner, has already made history in this year's campaign as the first player to be nominated three times for the trophy. He led the Florida Gators to a 12-1 record, losing in the SEC Championship but staking them to a BCS berth in the Sugar Bowl.
Tebow is the sentimental favorite and arguably the highest-profile candidate, but his stats are down markedly from 2007.
His critics will point to his 2413 yards and 18 touchdowns passing as far cries from his previous two years; they will also note his lack of solid performances against big-time opponents. He never surpassed 300 passing yards in any game during the season, and failed to throw a single touchdown in two of them (against Tennessee and Ole Miss).
While Tebow was a beast on the ground, totaling 859 yards rushing, he had just 13 touchdowns to show for it (25 in 2007). He did rush for over 100 yards twice, a strong showing for a quarterback.
It was noticeable that he missed previous weapons such as WRs Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy, but for a team with high expectations, Tebow didn't live up to the hype. His SEC Championship performance (247 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 63 rushing yards) could hurt him with voters on the fence.
DT Ndamukong Suh, Senior, University of Nebraska
He’s already taken home a number of honors (All-American, Lombardi Award, Bronko Nagurski Award), but the top defensive prospect of the 2010 NFL Draft is looking at making his own mark on history. Should Suh win, he would be just the second true defensive player to take home the award, and the first defensive tackle.
Suh’s resume is strong enough for him to walk out a winner on Saturday.
He recorded 82 tackles and 12 sacks, including 4.5 sacks during the Big 12 Championship. He had an astonishing 19.5 tackles for loss, with at least two on four different occasions.
He’s taken home quite a bit of hardware already, and with his performance during Nebraska’s near-upset of Texas in the Big 12 Championship, Suh has the potential to walk out with one more trophy, especially if he grabs enough of the regional voters in his area.
QB Colt McCoy, Senior, University of Texas
McCoy, a 2008 finalist, probably has the most ground to make up after his subpar Big 12 Championship performance. Coupled with his other below-average games and the longer candidate slate this year, McCoy could be shut out two years in a row.
His numbers are down from 2008, when he scored 45 touchdowns (34 passing, 11 rushing), but he did throw for 3,512 yards, which may help him over Tim Tebow in the voting.
While McCoy threw for 300-plus yards five times, including 470 against University of Central Florida, he also failed to reach the 200 yard mark four times, including 127 against Oklahoma, and, most recently, 184 against Nebraska.
He rushed for 348 yards (down from 561 the previous season), but with 175 of those coming in one game, he averaged a mere 14.4 yards rushing per game for the balance of the season. He had three games with negative rush yards, including the Big 12 Championship Game.
If the Heisman eludes McCoy's grasp again this year, he still has a chance to taste victory in the national championship game against Alabama.
Should he lose to Alabama RB Ingram, he could be motivated by revenge, much as former Texas QB Vince Young was against Heisman winners Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush in 2005.
Texas fans' ire at McCoy's snub would be more than eased by the thrill of a national championship title.
RB Mark Ingram, Sophomore, Alabama
Ingram blew up in 2009, doubling his rushing yards (728 in 2008, 1542 in 2009) and more than quintupling his receiving yards (54 in 2008, 322 in 2009). He also had 18 total touchdowns.
His performance was a huge part of Alabama’s undefeated season, particularly in big games. He recorded eight games of more than 100 yards rushing, including a career high 246 against South Carolina.
While he didn’t always hit paydirt (four games without a rushing touchdown), his ability to grind out yards was key in wearing down defenses.
Against nationally ranked teams such as Virginia Tech and LSU, Ingram really shined, rushing for over 140 yards in each game. His most recent performance, in the SEC Championship, might have sealed the trophy for the sophomore. He scored three touchdowns and ran for 113 yards in Alabama's dismantling of then-No. 1 Florida, staking them to a spot in the national title game.
With sophomores taking home the trophy in each of the past two years, the underclassman barrier has been breached. Ingram, therefore, has just as much of a chance at winning as the other candidates on the slate.
RB Toby Gerhart, Senior, Stanford University
Gerhart did not start the season on many Heisman voters' lists, but he let his actions on the field prove them otherwise. The senior was a key component in Stanford’s run at the Pac-10 championship, rushing for over 100 yards in 10 of his 12 games, including three games of over 200 yards on the ground.
He scored at least one touchdown in 11 games, and just like Ingram, when the stakes were high, Gerhart performed. He piled up 620 of his 1,736 total yards and 10 of 26 rushing touchdowns against ranked opponents like USC, Oregon, Oregon State, and Arizona.
Despite an amazing resume that rivals the other finalists, Gerhart might struggle to get votes. Many Heisman voters do not see a lot of West Coast games; Gerhart's resulting lack of visibility meant that he wasn't on the radar until Stanford’s dismantling of USC. Nevertheless, he ended his season on a strong note, and has a viable shot to be Stanford’s first Heisman winner since Jim Plunkett in 1970.
Based on the stats and the information, this is the official Sportmeister’s Heisman Vote:
- Mark Ingram
- Toby Gerhart
- Ndamukong Suh
- Colt McCoy
- Tim Tebow
Ingram was a key factor in Alabama running the table, whereas Gerhart, despite more rushing yards, had four losses, including an ugly non-conference defeat to Wake Forest. Ingram was a threat in the running and receiving game, and his most recent performance in the SEC Championship was enough to put him over the top. McCoy and Tebow both earned their spots based on last year’s performance, but neither lived up to last year's hype. Suh had a great season, but in the end, it just was not enough.
My vote is just one. Who do you think deserves the trophy, and the accolades that come with it?