Top 10 Defensive Football Players Who Could Win the 2010 Heisman Trophy
I know. You are sitting smugly at your computer, and thinking, "What a bozo. This guy actually thinks a defensive player can win the most prestigious award in college football."
Well, excuse me as I take my floppy big clown shoes off and coif my bright red hair.
Okay, so it is a long shot that a college defensive player would have such an impact that he could win the Heisman Trophy.
But don't tell that to Ndamukong Suh, whose one-man wrecking crew exploits for Nebraska had him squarely in the conversation for the 2009 Heisman Trophy.
It is in Suh's honor that I write this speculative piece profiling 10 admittedly unlikely candidates for the little straight-arming man.
So, before I embarrass myself any further, let's get started on my list of the 10 best college defensive players in the country.
10. Devon Kennard
Anyone who knows who I typically cover here at Bleacher Report (USC) could reasonably charge me with blatant "homerism" in picking Devon Kennard as a possible candidate for the Heisman.
And to some extent, they would be right.
Except that Kennard is damn good.
Kennard came to the Trojans as a heralded prep defensive end.
But with such talented rushers like Armond Armstead and Nick Perry already entrenched on the USC defensive line, Pete Carroll had to get creative to allow Kennard to see the field of play.
So, Carroll rolled the dice, and made Kennard an outside linebacker.
Now, Kennard, who is 6'3", 255 pounds and freakishly athletic, has taken to the position like a fish to water.
However, with the new Kiffin regime in place, young Devon was asked once again to make a position switch, this time to middle linebacker where Chris Galippo formally resides.
Galippo, also a five-star recruit for the Trojans, has been in a pitched battle with Kennard to retain his position. The final decision as to who mans the middle probably won't be answered until the fall.
But regardless of where Devon Kennard winds up, know that he will see the field of play on a regular basis, and his natural talent could result in national notoriety.
9. Greg Romeus
Pittsburgh had a pretty darn good defense last year, and much of the credit can go to Greg Romeus, the 6'6," 270-pound terror of a defensive end.
The reigning 2009 Big East player of the Year has all of the attributes necessary to be a dominant player.
Last year, his talent translated to, among other gaudy stats, 11.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks.
Now Romeus, a 2010 "Lott watch list" candidate, will attempt to cap off a stellar Panther career as he matriculates his way to the NFL.
And perhaps thrust himself into the Heisman conversation along the way.
8. Rashad Carmichael
If a defensive back is to win a Heisman, it will be due to two things.
One, he has to be a lock-down pass defender, and two, he must get interceptions to pad his resume.
Unfortunately for Rashad Carmichael, his expertise at the former will probably preclude his opportunities for the latter.
Carmichael, who had six interceptions in 2009 to go along with his 55 tackles, will find his chances for interceptions reduced dramatically as Hokie foes will likely throw to the opposite side of where Carmichael resides.
Now, if only Carmichael can find a way to quantify that, he may find himself in a position for Mr. Heisman's little man.
Like Rashad Carmichael, Ras-I-Dowling's increased notoriety will likely result in fewer opportunities for interceptions, which, unfortunately for cornerbacks, diminishes their already low chances for the Heisman.
Possessing excellent size (6'2," 200 pounds), I-Dowling will probably be the first cornerback taken in the 2011 NFL draft.
Ras-I-Dowling, who has excellent speed to go along with all that size, might wind up as a safety at the next level.
But in college, don't expect I-Dowling to see many footballs thrown his way.
Which makes Ras-I-Dowling, as well as Rashad Carmichael, an even longer shot to win the Heisman.
6. DeAndre McDaniel
Unlike the cornerback position where opposing offenses can throw to the opposite side of a talented player, the safety position allows a savvy coach to let his star player "freelance" to the ball.
This was the case with DeAndre McDaniel, the mercurial safety from Clemson, who had eight picks in 2009 and 11 for his career.
The 210-pound guided missile, who also has a history for getting in trouble (he was charged in 2008 with aggravated assault), only needs to stay focused to be one of the very best defensive players in the country.
Choking girlfriends aside, DeAndre McDaniel, who also had 98 tackles to go along with all those interceptions, has a real chance to do big things in 2010.
5. Greg Jones
Greg Jones is a prototypical linebacker, whose size (6'1," 228 pounds) and athleticism has translated into some very impressive statistics.
Jones, a consensus 2009 All-American for Michigan State, forced his inclusion onto that prestigious list by totaling 154 tackles to go along with nine sacks.
In the upcoming year, Jones will be looked upon as the unquestioned leader of the Spartans defense, and will continue to be a nightmare for opposing offenses.
Can a linebacker vie for the Heisman?
He can when he is as talented as Greg Jones...
4. Bruce Carter
North Carolina had one of the best defenses in the country in 2009, and 2010 should see a Tarheels defense that will be even better this year.
Part of the reason for this is Bruce Carter.
The inside linebacker who goes 6'3", and a rock-solid 230 pounds, plays the position like every play is his last.
Though that didn't translate into the kind of stats (one sack and one interception) that would make Heisman voters take notice in 2009, he has tons of speed and causes constant disruptions for opposing offenses.
As if that wasn't enough, Carter had five blocked kicks on special teams in 2008.
3. Dont'a Hightower
Many football experts thought Alabama's Dont'a Hightower was an even more impressive linebacker than his heralded mate, Rolando McClain.
Starting 12 games in 2008 as a true freshman for the Crimson Tide, Hightower recorded 62 tackles, including 2.5 for loss.
Unfortunately for Hightower, he tore a knee up early in 2009.
Having rehabbed, Hightower returns in 2010 with lofty expectations as he anchors a young but talented Alabama defense.
2. Marvin Austin
As I mentioned before, North Carolina has a fearsome defense lined up for the 2010 season, and it all starts in the trenches with a mighty tackle named Marvin Austin.
The closest thing to last year's Suh, Austin has been a beast for the Tarheels since he came to North Carolina as a highly regarded prep recruit.
In 2009, Austin anchored a tough North Carolina line while adding four sacks to go along with 42 tackles, including 22 that were of the solo variety.
Marvin Austin will continue to make for many sleepless nights for offensive coordinators that have to face this Tarheels defense.
So will that translate into a Heisman for Mr. Austin?
Probably not, but then Ndamukong Suh wasn't supposed to garner any attention for the Heisman either.
1. Von Miller
This Texas A&M defensive end/linebacker is simply a nightmare for opposing offenses.
After leading the nation with 17 sacks, Miller uses great instincts to get an incredible jump off the ball.
Although Miller will likely play linebacker in the NFL, regardless of where he is positioned in the Aggie defense, he has the talent and drive to be the best defensive player on the field, regardless of who A&M is playing.
If Miller can follow up his stellar junior year with an equally impressive senior year, look for him to get some consideration for the Heisman.
And the odds are that Miller can equal, if not exceed, that great junior year statistically.
That means if the offensive Heisman favorites stumble, Miller can make a lot of noise for the coveted trophy.
Okay, so you probably think I have been smoking crack to even suggest that a defensive player could win the 2010 Heisman Trophy.
However, I don't partake of the illegal scourge, and though I may be a clown (hinted at in the opening slide), it's not like this hasn't happened before.
Charles Woodson, the former Michigan great, won the 1997 Heisman trophy as primarily a defensive player, although he was helped by his kick returning exploits as well.
The point is that it could happen.
In theory anyway.
And if it does happen—if one of these defensive players I chose wins the Heisman—I will expect a formal apology for all those bad things you were thinking about me...