Joshua Nesbitt: Heisman Contender? Maybe.
I'd like to start by saying I was at every Georgia Tech home game and the ACC Championship last year, and watching Nesbitt step up and take control of the offense was astonishing.
When needed, he stood tall and carried Tech to victory on his broad, capable shoulders.
In fact, one or two sportswriters, and a ton of Yellow Jacket fans, believed that Nesbitt should at least be considered for a Heisman trophy. Considering that Mark Ingram is back, and gunslinger ACC quarterbacks like Christian Ponder and Jacory Harris get a whole lot more print and are already Heisman contenders, it's unlikely that No. 9 will get his fair chance.
Then again, if a few unlikely events happen, and the season comes together just right, GT's undisputed leader might just get an invite to NYC.
I'll start by listing the reasons people think he's deserving, and then the things that will have to happen to get him there.
Reason 1: Physical Assets
Joshua Nesbitt is a beast. He stands around 6'3" and weighs in at around 220 pounds. Word from campus is that he's gotten even bigger this year.
On the "QB Duck," his most used designed run play, No. 9 routinely runs over defenders displaying his size and power. And besides, what other quarterback can strip a fumble recovery from a linebacker?
In the most important QB category, Nesbitt also has potential. Contrary to popular perceptions, he does have a strong arm and is more than capable of completing long, scoring strikes. The evidence for this is GT, the second ranked running team last year, leading the nation in number of passes longer than 20 and 50 yards.
So he does have what you want in a Heisman contender QB, at least physically. He's an extremely gifted athlete and performs up to that potential.
Reason 2: Leadership
Nesbitt leads this team, plain and simple. When the chips are down, when things aren't going well, Nesbitt has been the one to pick the team up on his shoulders and carry them to victory.
Clemson, Mississippi State, FSU, VT, Wake Forest, and Clemson again, in each of those games Joshua has been the one to come out in the third quarter and make something happen.
This asset is what has made him a Heisman contender in the eyes of many fans. Simply put, there isn't a better leader to have in the huddle in all of college football.
Another way of looking at it: if you want a stat-machine to plug Gatorade and Under-Armor, call Christian Ponder. If you're down by 14 in the fourth, call Nesbitt.
What He Needs: 1. The 3-4 Has to Work
The last great GT QB was Joe Hamilton in the late 90's. He finished second to Ron Dayne in the 1999 Heisman trophy by the simple virtue that his defense lost him too many games.
A huge stat game is impressive, but if it comes during a losing effort, those statistics tend to get overlooked. If Nesbitt wants a legitimate shot at an NYC invite, he'll need Al Groh's 3-4 to play strong and make sure Tech wins the games it's supposed to.
GT doesn't need to win a National Championship, but one embarrassing loss, and Nesbitt's hopes for a posing trophy are dead.
What He Needs: 2. Everyone Else Has a Bad Year
It's both outlandish and naive to think that Mark Ingram, Christian Ponder, Kellen Moore, and all the other major Heisman contenders will suddenly play like losers. However, it is possible that these guys don't live up to their immense expectations. If Mark Ingram rushes for 1400 yards instead of 1658 and his average drops from 6.1 to 5.5, he may not be in a position to repeat as player of the year. Also, any new breakout players will have to perform one or two notches below Nesbitt.
Granted the scenario here is incredibly unlikely, but the point is that in order for Nesbitt to have a chance, he needs less stellar competition so that he can stand out.
What He Needs: 3. A Helluva' Lot More Throws
Joshua Nesbitt's 2009 per-game average was 5 for 11 for 122 yards. For the year he posted 10 touchdowns and five interceptions, and an overall QB rating of 148.
Like I said before, he can throw, he just doesn't do it very often. He gets a lot of yards, but on way fewer attempts than most other standout QBs. If he's going to make a run at the most coveted prize in college sports, he'll have to get a lot of work done through the air.
Simply put, QBs don't win the Heisman throwing 11 passes a game. No. 9 will have to throw 15 to 20 passes each outing with about 130 yards and touchdown or two if he's going to be in contention come December.
The addition of a shotgun formation to the spread-option is promising, but how often do we expect to see it used?
Does He Really Have a Chance?
Overall, I'd have to say Nesbitt is somewhere just outside of a "Darkhorse" contender. I think a possibility exists, but it is a slight one and could be missed or lost early in the season.
Personally, as a fan who has watched him grow from Taylor Bennet's backup to the undisputed leader of a high-powered offense, I think he at least deserves a shot.
Ultimately though, as long as he carries on and improves this year from last, it doesn't really matter if he wins, loses, or is even in the discussion. Nesbitt has already earned something more valuable than a trophy, and that is his team, his coach's, and his fans' unwavering respect.