It looks like the Heisman race will once again be bereft of running backs. Of the last 100 players to finish in the top 10 of the Heisman vote, only 30 have been running backs. Only two running backs have won the Heisman since 1999. It didn’t used to be this way. The running back position dominated the 1970s and early 1980s, winning 11 straight Heismans from 1973-1983.
A big reason for this shift is because of the emergence of the spread offense, which has caused quarterback production to boom. The last four quarterbacks to win the Heisman accounted for an average of 49 touchdowns in their Heisman-winning seasons. Running back numbers have tended to look meager by comparison.
The top back in this year’s race – De’Anthony Thomas– is as much a receiver and return man as he is a ball carrier.
It doesn’t help that more teams have gone to two, or even three running backs as part of their rotation. We just don’t see too many workhorse backs out there who can last a full season. And of the top 10 rushers in 2012, just two — Johnathan Franklin and Le’Veon Bell– are from power conferences.
I don’t see this dynamic changing anytime soon. For the time being, keep your eyes on the quarterbacks.