About Heismanpundit

Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of Heismanpundit.com, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.
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DeAngelo’s Buzz

So far, the Memphis SID’s push for DeAngelo Williams has been generating some nice buzz. Here’s another stor about the speedy back from a Mississippi newspaper, which makes an important point: DeAngelo is “likeable.”

As we all know, being likeable is crucial in the Heisman race.

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Brief Q & A With Heisman Trophy Winner Matt Leinart

Since we live in Hollywood, we’re only a stone’s throw away from the LAX Sheraton Gateway which was the site for 2005 Pac-10 Media Day.

Between hobnobbing with various beat writers and columnists and cobbling down the requisite rubber chicken, we caught up with 2004 Heisman winner Matt Leinart–who was sporting a freshly-grown beard–to get his thoughts on the Heisman. We hope this interview will kickstart our efforts to get similar interviews with the rest of the candidates on our watch list:

HP: Matt, why do you think there hasn’t been a repeat winner of the Heisman since Archie Griffin?

Leinart: I think they (the voters) are always looking for someone new, a fresh face. It’s boring to see the same guy again and perhaps there’s not as much interest as a result.

HP: If you succumb to that and don’t win it again, who do you think are the best candidates out there?

Leinart: Reggie Bush of course. Vince Young. Chris Leak has a really good shot if he does well in that system. Adrian Peterson, though who knows since he has a new offensive line. I got to know DeAngelo Williams from the Playboy All-American shoot. He’s a good guy and a great player.

HP: Looking at Peterson’s year last year, do you think it was hard for a young guy like him to adjust to all the media attention? How does that bode for other underclassmen who want to win it?

Leinart: He had to grow up fast. But he handled it all well. I think there’s going to be more and more guys like him coming up–well, maybe not exactly like him–just guys who are these freakish athletes at such a young age. If that’s the case, then I think an underclassman will win it at some point.

HP: Have you looked into the history of the Heisman since you won it? Who were some of the more interesting past winners you’ve met?

Leinart: I haven’t really studied the history much. I met Steve Spurrier, which was cool. And of course it’s always special to meet all the past USC winners.

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Ranking The SEC Coaches

We might as well be handling uranium at this point, since our dealings with SEC issues have been so radioactive, but the guys at EDSBS took at stab recently at ranking the top coaches in that conference and we thought we’d chime in as well. (Note, their post was in response to a ranking here by the Cincinnatti Enquirer).

Our rankings:

1. Urban Meyer, Florida

He gets the edge over Spurrier because he has had recent success in college football, while Darth Visor has been languishing in the NFL. Also, we are suspicious of whether Spurrier’s system, which showed signs of losing some effectiveness toward the end of his time at Florida, will still be all it is cracked up to be. Not so with Meyer’s system, which is simply the best offensive scheme in college football.

2. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

He has a proven track record of taking previously unglorified programs (Duke, Florida) and turning them into winners. There’s no reason to think that he won’t have South Carolina humming in a couple years.

3. Tommy Tuberville, Auburn

He was smart enough to hire Al Borges, which led to an undefeated season. A good coach puts his team in position to succeed and that’s what he has done lately.

4. Phil Fulmer, Tennessee

Recruiting is an important part of coaching and Fulmer is very good at it. But he’s not very good at game day coaching and his teams have actually been underachieving in recent years, regardless of their record.

5. Les Miles, LSU

He is a solid coach with a decent resume, winning some big games at a place (Oklahoma State) where winning big games is not a habit.

6. Mark Richt, Georgia

His teams play down to the level of their opponents. The talent doesn’t always seem to develop. And whatever happened to the FSU offense Richt was famous for?

7. Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt

This is a tough place to win. But it seems that the Commodores always play hard and beyond their capabilities (at least defensively).

8. Houston Nutt, Arkansas

His teams are maddeningly inconsistent and can’t seem to get over the hump.

9. Rich Brooks, Kentucky

One of only two in the league with NFL head coaching experience. He’s in a bad program and he appears to not have much energy for the job.

10. Ed Orgeron, Ole Miss

Just the fact that he has been exposed to championship play the last few years is a good thing. He should understand some of what it takes to win. Now, we’ll see if he can actually do it.

11. Mike Shula, Alabama

The SEC dodged a bullet when Mike Price messed up. Instead, they got Shula and Bama got a few more years in the wilderness.

12. Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State

The media hype was overwhelming, but all I can remember is Croom’s befuddled looks on the sideline during games. Befuddlement is a coach’s worst enemy.

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Pac-10 Props

Anthony Gimino of the Tucson Citizen gives an interesting look at why the Pac-10 deserves more props.

Some key highlights:

There might not be a foolproof way of analyzing the respective power of conferences, but try this: Since the turn of the century, the Pac-10 has been the best conference during college football’s four biggest games – the Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar bowls.

The Pac-10 has gone 6-1 in those four BCS games, with the only loss coming in the 2003 Rose Bowl when Oklahoma handled Washington State 34-14.

Moreover, the league has sent half of its teams to a BCS game in the past five years, a higher percentage than any other conference.

But my favorite quote comes from Mike Stoops:

Arizona second-year coach Mike Stoops, who grew up on Big Ten football and then came up through the coaching ranks in the Big 12 at Kansas State and Oklahoma, is convinced.

“There are very innovated offenses,” he said of the Pac-10. “The quarterback play was shocking to me. The ability to throw the ball down the field … I never saw that really until we came here.”

So, in essence, it’s really about style of play, right Mike?

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Some More BURNING Questions

Why must questions about college football always burn?

Oh well, Tony Barnhart asks them once again. Here’s our answers to his questions:

How long could Auburn’s winning streak–at 15 and counting –last?

We think it will go on for at least six more games. After all, all of Auburn’s first five contests are at Jordan-Hare Stadium. What’s more, it includes the likes of Ball State, Western Kentucky and Mississippi State. If the Tigers get by their opener against Georgia Tech–which they should do since they are at home–then it’s smooth sailing for a while. After the homestand, it’s on to play a mediocre Arkansas team in Fightville. If the Tigers are 6-0, just how much confidence will they have? A lot, we think. Then, look out. They just may be the team to beat in the SEC West.

Coach Tommy Tuberville shocked onlookers at this past week’s SEC Media Days by saying this would probably be the most talented team he’s had at Auburn. That’s a strong statement given that the Tigers lost four first-round draft choices from a 2004 team that went 13-0.

What impact could probation have on Steve Spurrier’s rebuilding plan for South Carolina?

Uh, our initial reaction is Who Cares? It’s South Carolina. Rebuild? To rebuild you have to have been built in the first place. Look. No one would give a rat’s ass about South Carolina were it not for Spurrier being there. Will probation hurt? Sure. But it’s not like they were going to go 11-0 anyway.

Can Brodie Croyle stay healthy for an entire season?

We’ll go out on a limb and say yes. But again, this is really a pointless question since Croyle plays for an Alabama program that will never go anywhere under Mike Shula. Until the Tide gets a real coach again, the No. 1 traditional program in the South won’t be rolling anytime soon. Note to Spurrier: This is the kind of program that needs to be rebuilt and, once rebuilt, could actually win national championships.

Will Florida’s Chris Leak run the ball as much as Utah’s Alex Smith did last season?

No. But he’ll run it more than you think. Leak isn’t known for being a great athlete, but that’s because he’s never been required to show his stuff. As the season goes on and he finds his niche, he’ll run more and more and be surprisingly effective. Will he run for the numbers that Smith did? Probably not. But you know, it’s not like Smith was doing OJ impressions when he ran. Most of his yardage was straight-ahead stuff, the product of what the system presented him. Look for Leak to take advantage as well.

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Another Heisman Watch

Andrew Bagnato of the Arizona Republic chips in his Heisman watch along with a look at other top players.

The assignment: Rate Division I-A’s top returning skill players.

The temptation: Print Southern California’s two-deeps.

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Charlie And The Football Factory

The LA Times–which after all has Irish alum Bill Dwyre at its head–took a look at new Notre Dame head man Charlie Weis this weekend in a piece that (to me) is pretty revealing of what kind of coach he is going to be.

A couple red flags:

1. The guy nearly died a few years ago after undergoing gastric bypass surgery. His father died at 56 of a second heart attack. Can he hold up long enough to turn the Irish around?

2. The siege mentality. As someone who has seen programs up close and how they function, a closed policy with the media just never works. But apparently, that’s what Weis is prepared to do at Notre Dame, among other things:

Since taking over full-time in February, Weis has reconfigured Notre Dame into the Midwest branch of New England Patriots Enterprises.

He will control everything, from the play-calling to the information flow, to how Notre Dame chooses its toothpicks.

Weis is the medium and the message, his mantra shucked and honed from mentors Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, two of the NFL’s most practiced coaching dictators.

Popular sayings in their doctrine include “you are what you are” and “we’ll do all the talking.”

Weis was a longtime NFL influence peddler, most recently the offensive coordinator for the three-time Super Bowl champion Patriots. Yet, his inner core remained largely impenetrable because Belichick, who fell approximately two feet from Parcells’ coaching tree, did not allow his assistants to talk to the media.

“That’s what the rules were,” Weis says. “Sitting in this chair now, I can see some of the benefits from it being that way.”

The NFL is the NFL. This is college football. More importantly, this is Notre Dame we’re talking about. The NFL is a business, Notre Dame is a way of life. If Weis thinks he is going to be able to control every minute aspect of a program and run it exactly to his liking, he’s sorely mistaken. And the worst thing he could do is be stingy with the media from the getgo. If things ever go bad, he will need all the friends he can get.

What ends up happening when you run a program so tight is that the players themselves become tight. Weis needs to relax and stick to being a head coach–that is, someone who oversees everything, but isn’t worrying about what kind of toothpicks are being used.

The last thing Notre Dame needs right now is a control freak.

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