When it comes to the Heisman, no state is hotter than Alabama.
In late September of last season, I predicted that the Crimson Tide’s Heisman drought would soon come to an end thanks to the amazing turnaround that Nick Saban had executed in Tuscaloosa. For the first time in a long time, elite offensive talent was headed to ‘Bama and it was being used in a way more consistent with the wide-open attacks most recently in vogue in college football rather than the ‘three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust’ mentality of yesteryear. So I believed it was only a matter of time before Heismans arrived and, as it turns out, it was Mark Ingram who immediately reaped the benefits.
As we said from the getgo here at HP, Ingram was never going to win the Heisman in 2010. He is likely to jet to the pros after this season, but the stage is now set for his backfield partner, Trent Richardson, to become a force in the Heisman voting in 2011. With Ingram gone, Richardson will see increased carries,which should lead to a lot better production. If Greg McElroy’s replacement–the highly-touted Phillip Sims, perhaps?–can be proficient and take some of the heat off the running game, then Richardson should have a monster season. And down the road, if all goes as planned, Sims should be a candidate in his own right.
Even with all of this happening at Alabama, it may pale in comparison to what’s going on at Auburn.
Longtime readers of this blog know that I’ve held Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn in the highest esteem for quite a while. I think he’s hands-down the best offensive mind in college football. And when he made his way to Auburn, I had no doubt that there would soon be Tiger quarterbacks and running backs in the Heisman conversation. I even went so far last May as to call Cam Newton a Heisman darkhorse because of the Malzahn factor. Well, it’s now mid-October and he leads the race.
Newton will be the first in a line of Tiger players to challenge for the Heisman thanks to Malzahn’s tutelage. Most likely, Newton heads to the NFL after this year–there’s no way a 6-6, 250-pounder with his skills isn’t a high first rounder–but there is plenty of talent on board that should shine in Auburn’s system in the years to come–and as long as Malzahn sticks around.
There is hotshot freshman running back Michael Dyer, who has shown flashes of brilliance while splitting time this season. There is sophomore speedster Onterio McCalebb, who averages 7.3 yards per carry. And at quarterback, the Tigers have bigtime recruit Kiehl Frazier coming in–and he’s a dual-threat talent in the mold of a Newton (though a bit smaller). The point is, someone is going to emerge as a star in Malzahn’s system. The only question is who?
Both Alabama and Auburn are on track for top 10 recruiting classes, so the talent is still on its way. As long as Saban and Malzahn stick around to develop it, the state of Alabama could serve as the Heisman race’s ground zero for the better part of this decade.