We ran into 1995 Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George at Pac-12 media day on Tuesday as the former Ohio State Buckeye prepared for his new job as a college football studio analyst for Fox Sports.
George has a Heisman vote by virtue of winning the trophy. He took the time to answer a few questions on Totesport and this year’s Heisman race:
You ran into Matt Barkley in the green room beforehand. What did you guys talk about?
I got some insight on how his offseason was going and shared with him some thoughts about the pressure he would be facing and how, typically, for players heading into their senior year, the game really seems to slow down. Then he ribbed me about how he went into Ohio Stadium and beat the Buckeyes as a freshman.
How has the Heisman environment changed since you were a candidate?
Not much has changed. You still have to go out there and perform. But it seems like lately there’s always someone you never expect who pops up and makes a run at it. I think the best thing to do is look at the guys on the periphery when the season starts, those guys who have a chance to build a case without the pressure of being the favorite.
That’s sort of how it was for you, being on the periphery, right? Your junior year was good–maybe 1,200 yards or so, right?–but you weren’t being touted as a favorite heading into your senior year?
I actually ran for over 1,400 yards as a junior! But I wasn’t close to being a favorite heading in to that year. There were a couple big games that put me on the map. I think I went for over 200 against Washington early and then the key game was doing really well in beating Notre Dame a couple weeks later.
Do you think someone like a Barkley is ready for the added pressure of being the favorite?
I think he understands what’s going on. I tell you what, when you are the front runner, there is not a lot of room for error. Expectations are high already and people keep looking for faults in your game. If you lose one game, that’s it. It’s hard to recover. That’s what happened to Andrew Luck last year. He took the bulk of the spotlight for most of the season and then Robert Griffin III was able to work his way up without as much attention. He was able to play looser without as much pressure.
What do you think about Braxton Miller, Ohio State’s young quarterback? Is he ready to be a factor in the race?
I think Braxton is a year away. He still has to get the offense under his belt. He has to understand all the nuances of running that system. He’s a perfect fit for Urban Meyer’s scheme and I think he’s going to be a good one.
What about Denard Robinson at your rival, Michigan?
Denard is just a different animal altogether. He’s an incredible athlete. He’s got the perfect schedule for a Heisman run and if he can beat teams with his arm and his legs, he’ll have a chance.
As a running back, do you have a preference toward other backs when it comes to the Heisman race?
Not really. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate all athletes for what they are. It doesn’t matter to me what position they play. I voted for Charles Woodson in 1997. When it comes to picking a Heisman winner, I look for guys who truly make a difference for a team, guys who are leaders, like how RG3 was for Baylor last year.
Do you have any dark horse picks for the Heisman this year?
Look out for Sammy Watkins of Clemson, although it is definitely tough for a receiver to win. And I also like Geno Smith out of West Virginia. Keep an eye on those guys.