Heisman Trophy: 5 Things Tyrann Mathieu Needs to Do to Win the Heisman in 2012
Only one time since the Heisman Trophy was first awarded back in 1936 has a primary defensive player ever won the Heisman Trophy.
That man was Charles Woodson from Michigan in 1997. There, the Wolverines went undefeated and won a share for the national title while Woodson returned 33 punts for 283 yards and one TD, as well as picking off eight passes.
Thing is, Woodson also played a decent amount of WR, catching 11 passes for 231 yards and scoring two TDs.
For a defensive player to win the Heisman, they must do more than strictly contribute on the "dark-side."
To that end, LSU's Tyrann Mathieu appears to be the next man who could win the Heisman as a primary defensive player.
Here are five things he needs to do to bring the trophy to Baton Rouge, LA. in 2012.
Continue as Team Leader in Tackles
Through 13 games (played in 12) this season, Mathieu lead LSU with 70 tackles (53 solo). And if you're doing work in the tackling department, you love to hit, period.
Tackling may be somewhat of an overrated statistic, however, when you're the leading tackler on the nation's best team and defense, that's quite an impressive feat, especially since Mathieu's only a sophomore.
Nonetheless, continuing his trend as a sure tackler and physical presence only makes him that much more important to LSU.
Get More Interceptions
As both a freshman and sophomore, Tyrann Mathieu picked off two passes.
He's not going to get very many opportunities in 2012, as offenses will rarely throw to his side. Therefore, he must make the most of those few opportunities.
Regardless of where the ball is being thrown, there must always be the thought of Mathieu coming down with it...that thought must eat away at opposing quarterbacks before, during and after the game.
Thanks to his versatility elsewhere on defense and on special teams, Mathieu just needs to get around five-to-seven INTs.
We know he's going to break up a lot of throws, so just robbing the offense of possession a few times more than previous seasons will suffice.
Keep Forcing Fumbles
This season, Tyrann has forced six fumbles and recovered five. That's a number you don't see very often, and the fact that they're together in the same year is unreal.
What's so impressive about forcing six fumbles is that forcing a fumble is much more difficult than picking off a pass. On a pass, the ball is in the air and basically it's anyone's to catch.
Fumbles, however, are devastating, as they are direct takeaways.
Ripping the ball from an offensive player can be demoralizing, and that is perhaps Mathieu's strongest attribute.
Then again, this isn't much of a surprise coming from LSU's leading tackler.
The more tackles, the more forced fumbles, which equates to votes come Heisman time.
It's a physical game, and Mathieu has perfected the takeaway.
Remain a Dangerous Punt Returner
Mathieu is already a fantastic punt returner, so as long as he doesn't drop off, he won't cost himself any potential votes.
The field position he provides for his team has been an incredible advantage. His punt-return prowess has allowed him to put up the gaudy numbers of 428 yards on 24 punts and two TDs (in consecutive weeks).
That's an average of over 16 yards per return, compared to Woodson's of just 8.6 yards per punt return.
His game-changing ability on special teams makes him a truly unique player; He must worry opposing head coaches every time they are set to play the Tigers.
Tigers Contend for Another National Title
This slide isn't so much about Tyrann Mathieu as it is to increase his odds of winning the Heisman from a team perspective.
A player may be dominant, but to be in the Heisman discussions, the team generally needs to be dominant too.
Cam Newton, Charles Woodson and Mark Ingram all met both qualifications.
With those players, the question then becomes; how good are those teams without those players?
The same applies to LSU because despite having a stacked defense and special teams, those two aspects are led by Mathieu.
He's taking away half the field for Morris Claiborne to shut WRs down.
The field position changes immensely on punt returns helping out their not-so-explosive offense.
Now, with everything else Mathieu has going for him in terms of forcing turnovers, punt returns, tackles etc...LSU doesn't necessarily need to be in the national title race.
But then again, it will only significantly increase his chances.
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