A decade of Heisman Pundit

My, how the time flies.

Ten years ago this month, I got the ball rolling here at Heisman Pundit.

What started out as a way to blow off some intellectual steam and get a few thoughts down for posterity – mostly for the amusement of family and friends, I thought — turned into something much bigger.

I never figured so many people would share my fascination with Heisman voting trends, not to mention its history and tradition. That so many have stopped by over the years to take in (or take on) my opinion on the subject is rather humbling.

Not coincidentally, the last decade has seen the Heisman grow in popularity and visibility. I like to think no one has done a better job of stoking that interest and evangelizing on the trophy’s behalf than HP. It’s something we truly care about.

And now, more than ever, coverage of the award focuses on all the historical trends and data that go into the making of a Heisman winner. I think it’s safe to say we blazed a trail in this area. The 10 Heismandments are now industry standard and, from what I can see, imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery.

As usual, we’ll be using the month of August to preview the season and survey the field of candidates vying for the Heisman. But we’ll also be taking a look back at some of the more memorable HP moments of the past 10 years. Hope you enjoy.

Thanks again for all your continued support.

HP

 

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Brett Hundley graces Sports Illustrated cover

Check out UCLA junior quarterback Brett Hundley on the cover of this regional edition of Sports Illustrated.

sportsillu

It used to be that landing on the cover of SI in the preseason was a sure sign that a player was a leading Heisman candidate.

Maybe the impact isn’t quite the same as in those analog days, but covers like this definitely help to boost name recognition and visibility.

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Marshall throws Rakeem Cato’s hat into the Heisman ring

cato

The 2014 football season is almost here, which means Heisman campaigns are revving up.

First up is Marshall, which launched a Heisman campaign on behalf of its senior quarterback, Rakeem Cato, on Wednesday.

The website CatoIn14.com has video highlights and features, biographical information, statistics, records and more. There’s also a video player that outlines one touchdown from every game during Cato’s 32-game streak of consecutive outings with a TD pass, which leads all active FBS players. The FBS record is 38 by Russell Wilson (2009-11 at N.C. State; 2011 at Wisconsin).

“What Rakeem has accomplished in his three seasons at Marshall speaks for itself,” Herd coach Doc Holliday said. “His maturing as a person and as a player is obvious to all of those in our program and those who follow the Herd closely.

“He is a special player, and a big reason we are able to embrace the expectations others have for us this season. I’m sure every coach in America would love to have a leader like Rakeem on his team.”

In 39 games in three seasons, Cato has hit 886-of-1,387 passes (63.9 percent) for 10,176 yards and 91 touchdowns. In the red zone, he has thrown for 58 touchdowns with only one interception. The 6-foot, 188-pound QB also has rushed for an additional 357 yards and 7 scores. He was the 2012 C-USA Most Valuable Player and the 2013 C-USA Offensive Player of the Year.

It’s a great move by Marshall as I’m a big fan of schools doing all they can to promote their star players. There’s really no downside to it. Sure, Cato is a long shot, but having his name mixed in with Heisman contenders helps Marshall’s prestige and visibility (the school is no stranger to Heisman candidates). People laughed when Oregon put Joey Harrington on a billboard in Times Square back in 2001. Now look at Oregon.

I’m looking forward to keeping an eye on Cato’s exploits this fall.

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The fastest players in college football, 2014

tyreek hill 2

It’s time for my often-imitated, never-duplicated annual list of the fastest players in college football.

There are few subjects in sports more debated — and more misunderstood — than speed. While almost every major sport puts a premium on it, they seem to be unable to settle on a standard by which to accurately measure it.

Football programs at all levels and the media that cover them rely mostly on the 40-yard dash to quantify who is, and who is not, fast. In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with the idea that speed over 40 yards is a valuable asset. The problem is that it is not measured with any semblance of accuracy.

You know the old saying: “To err is human?” That definitely applies to the timing of the 40-yard dash. Almost every 40-yard dash time you’ve heard attributed to a player was timed by hand, meaning a human digit had a significant influence on its outcome. Even so-called electronically-timed 40-yard dashes require a human to start the clock once the runner begins the race on his own accord.

Studies have shown that such hand-based methods are prone to error and wipe away, on average, at least .24 seconds off the real time of a race. So that “official” 4.35 you think your favorite player ran at the combine? Yeah, it was probably more like a 4.59.

What’s more, 40-yard dashes are run under widely disparate conditions. For instance, wind gauges are not used. Some 40s are run on a track, others on grass and still others on artificial turf. Some runners use spikes, while others run in sneakers. This extra bit of unrecorded variation adds even more unreliability to 40 times. Nonetheless, this is rarely taken into account when 40 times are discussed.

Luckily, we have an accurate standard by which to measure speed. It’s called Fully Automatic Time, or FAT. This electronic timing method has been required in track for record purposes since 1977. No track time is officially counted as a record — whether on a personal or world level — that is not recorded with FAT. Furthermore, the governing bodies of track and field require wind readings and standardized running surfaces at sanctioned track events. The goal is to create uniform conditions so that times all over the world can be compared and contrasted with confidence.

So why doesn’t football use FAT for the 40-yard dash? As Rob Rang reported last year, the NFL tried it at the 2012 scouting combine. But the results were kept secret and the FAT timing was dumped in 2013 in favor of a combination of hand and electronic times. Clearly, marketing and hype takes precedent over accuracy at the NFL combine. No one wants to rave about a running back who just ran a 4.7, right?

College football strength coaches don’t use FAT times when they time their players, either, though all it would take is a walk over to the track offices to pick up the equipment. Hand times may be for your mama, but FAT is still apparently too accurate for the hype-filled world of strength and conditioning. Bigger, stronger and faster is the mantra in those circles. A better one would be bigger, stronger, faster and not accurate.

Forget the NFL and strength coaches. We still have the ability to reliably quantify the fastest players in college football because scores of football players also ran track in high school and continue to do so in college, giving us quality data with which we can rank their speed.

And so we get to the 2014 edition of college football’s fastest players, which first started at HeismanPundit.com back in 2005. To make this list, I weighed a variety of track marks, including the indoor 55 and 60-meter dashes, the outdoor 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes, the 110-meter and 400-meter hurdles and the long jump (for those wondering, it usually requires a good bit of foot speed — or turnover, as it’s called — to jump a certain distance). I also take into account when the races were run, whether a player has been injured and how often they competed. It’s important to note that some of these players were not full-time track competitors when they ran their marks, or did so while cross-training with football (a very difficult thing to do). Also, I assume that the wear and tear of football dilutes the importance of times more than a couple years old. Wind-legal marks took precedent over windy ones and such factors as times run in cold-weather states and altitude were considered. When push came to shove, the 100 meters served as the most leaned-upon standard, though a phenomenal mark in another event certainly carries a lot of weight. The sources for these marks were TrackandField News.comDyestat.com and the US Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, which puts out its own annual list of top football/track participants.

So this is really a list of the players in college football who are quantifiably the fastest. Could there be players not on this list who are faster? Sure, but without valid track marks you won’t be able to make that case, save with anecdotal evidence.

Before we get to the players, keep in mind that this list does not measure football ability, but merely one vital facet of athleticism. It’s no different than measuring height or wingspan on a basketball player. The players who make this list are really, really fast — the cream of the crop in this category — but that doesn’t mean players who didn’t make it aren’t fast, too.

Finally, let’s dispense with the notion that there is ‘football’ speed and ‘track’ speed. The ability to start and stop and change direction are attributes unto themselves and not elements of being fast. Neither is the unique ability to maintain one’s speed in full football regalia. Face it, what most people see as speed on the track not translating to football is really just a matter of a player not being very good.

On to the 2014 list:

1. Tyreek Hill, RB/WR, Junior, Oklahoma State – Hill, a native of Douglas, Ga., signed with the Cowboys out of Garden City Community College and enrolled in the spring. He’s already been tabbed the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. He ran his marks as a 2012 senior in high school, with his 200 meter time coming up just shy of the nearly 30-year-old prep record. You can’t run 20.1 in the 200 meters at any time without being a phenomenal physical talent. For those who disagree with Hill being on top of this list, think of the fastest current football player you know and ask yourself: Could he run 20.1 in the 200m?  The answer is probably no. So, despite being a couple years old, his times are elite enough to carry over and make him this year’s fastest player in college football.

10.19 (100m), 20.14 (200m) 

2. Raheem Mostert, RB, Senior, Purdue – Mostert had an excellent track season this past spring, winning Big Ten titles in the indoor 60-meter dash and the 100 and 200 meter dashes. He ran a wind-aided (+2.6) 10.15 in the 100 at the NCAA East Regional Championships before going on to finish 13th in that event at the NCAA Championships. On the gridiron, he had 11 carries for 37 yards and averaged 23.5 yards on kickoff returns, including one touchdown, in 2014.

6.63 (60m), 10.28 (100m), 20.65 (200m)

3. Devon Allen, WR, Redshirt Freshman, Oregon  – Figuring out where exactly to put Allen on this list was difficult as he’s an elite hurdler who only dabbles in the sprints. Ignorance of track and field in the modern college football media is a sad fact, which means few fully appreciated Allen’s recent accomplishments. Here’s the thing, folks: It’s one thing to be a college football player who runs track — there’s a slew of those players every year and only a handful do so at a high level. But it’s another thing to have the physical capability to train for football in the fall (and take all the physical punishment that comes with it) then come out in the spring and switch one’s body to an entirely different discipline and still perform at a world-class level. The Oregon freshman not only won the NCAA title in the 110-meter high hurdles, he did so in a meet-record time of 13.16, beating out runners who spent the fall preparing for track, not getting hit on the football field. He then went on to win the same event at the U.S. Championships. To give you an idea of how fast 13.16 is, consider that it would’ve been among the top 10 times in the world in 2013. He’s rare. You can’t run that time without being very, very fast. However, given that there is also an element of precision and timing to the hurdles that has less to do with raw speed than technique, I’ve placed him in a very respectable third on this list. But he could very well be the fastest. Look for Allen, who redshirted last season, to be one of Marcus Mariota’s main weapons this fall.

6.85 (60m), 10.56 (100m), 20.98 (200m), 13.16 (110m HH)

4. Kolby Listenbee, WR, Junior, TCU – Listenbee ran some blazing times this past track season, posting a best of 10.23 in the 100 meters (though he went as low as 10.12 with a heavy wind). He caught two passes for 23 yards for the Horned Frogs in 2013.

6.70 (60m), 10.23 (100m), 20.92 (200m)

5. Levonte Whitfield, WR, Sophomore, Florida State – Whitfield was No. 1 on last year’s list and his drop to No. 5 this year is less about him and more about what others have done since then. He still has an argument for being the fastest of the bunch and he certainly has made the greatest impact on the football field thus far. Whitfield caught five passes for 89 yards, rushed three times for 110 yards and averaged an astounding 36.41 yards (with two touchdowns) on 17 kickoff returns. Of course, his touchdown return against Auburn in the national title game with under five minutes to go was one of the biggest plays of the season and sparked the Seminoles to a win in that contest (watch him destroy the pursuit angles in the tape). His best speed marks came as a senior in high school and he did not run track in the spring, so I’m docking him ever-so-slightly here. The rigors of football are not to be underestimated and undergoing a training regimen that isn’t focused solely on speed is a factor. But being fifth on this list is no shame. He’s still amazingly fast.

6.64 (60m), 10.28 (100m), 20.98 (200m)

6. Thurgood Dennis, CB, Senior, Wisconsin Eau-Claire – Dennis makes his second appearance on this list after a fine season on the track. He blazed to personal bests of 6.68, 10.28 and 20.86 to cap off an athletic year that saw him notch 34 tackles and six pass breakup for the Division III Blugolds in the fall.

6.69 (60m), 10.28 (100m), 20.86 (200m)

7. Broderick Snoddy, RB, Junior, Georgia Tech – Snoddy rushed for 150 yards on 24 carries in the fall for the Yellow Jackets and then showed off his track skills in the spring by blazing to times of 6.67, 10.28 and 21.07.

6.67 (60m), 10.28 (100m), 21.07 (200m)

8. Khalfani Muhammad, RB, Sophomore, California – Muhammad led the Bears with 445 rushing yards and four touchdowns as a true freshman. He also caught 14 passes for 184 yards and a score. The true sophomore was the California state champion in the 100 meters and 200 meters as a senior in high school.

10.33 (100m), 20.73 (200m)

9. Damiere Byrd, WR, Senior, South Carolina – Byrd caught 33 passes for 575 yards and four touchdowns last season for the Gamecocks. He didn’t run track in the winter or spring, but he did run a 6.66 in the 60m the previous track season, which is a really fast mark to go with his best high school and college times.

6.66 (60m), 10.41 (100m), 21.21 (200m)

10. Kailo Moore, RB, Sophomore, Mississippi – Moore rushed for 69 yards and caught three passes as a true freshman last fall for the Rebels. He then posted a fine season on the track, notching personal bests in all three sprint disciplines.

6.79 (60m), 10.43 (100m), 21.14 (200m)

Just missed the cut

Dallas Burroughs, WR, Junior, Boise State — 10.34 (100m), 21.07 (200m)

Sheroid Evans, CB, Senior, Texas — 10.39 (100m), 20.82 (200m)

Miles Shuler, WR, Junior, Northwestern – 6.85 (60m), 10.39 (100m), 21.31 (200m)

Ronald Darby, CB, Junior, Florida State – 6.77 (60m), 10.41 (100m), 21.05 (200m)

Isaiah Brandt-Sims, Athlete, Freshman, Stanford — 6.64, 10.59, 21.38

Kenrick Young, WR, Freshman, Utah — 10.76 (100m), 20.81 (200m)

Please feel free to make your case in the comments section for who should be on this list. There’s a lot of information out there that isn’t always easy to find. So, I’ll be glad to adjust accordingly.

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The HeismanPundit 2014 Heisman Trophy Watch List (Post-Spring Edition)

Reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston highlights the first edition of HeismanPundit’s 2014 Heisman Trophy Watch List released on Tuesday (May 6).

The prestigious annual list gives football fans an early glimpse at a great crop of Heisman contenders for the coming season. This year’s post-spring watch contains 25 players. HeismanPundit will consider other players for the 2014 Heisman Trophy Watch List and will also delete players as the season progresses.

The Heisman Trophy, presented annually since 1935, is the most prestigious award in sports.  It is named after famed college football coach John W. Heisman. The 2014 winner will be announced in New York on Saturday, Dec. 13.

The 2014 HeismanPundit Post-Spring Heisman Watch List

(in alphabetical order)

Ameer Abdullah, RB, SR, Nebraska

Javorius Allen, RB, JR, USC

Rakeem Cato, QB, SR, Marshall

Alex Collins, RB, SO, Arkansas

Mike Davis, RB, JR, South Carolina

Everett Golson, QB, JR, Notre Dame

Melvin Gordon, RB, JR, Wisconsin

Todd Gurley, RB, JR, Georgia

Christian Hackenberg, QB, SO, Penn State

Derrick Henry, RB, SO, Alabama

Taysom Hill, QB, JR, BYU

Brett Hundley, QB, JR, UCLA

Chuckie Keeton, QB, SR, Utah State

Trevor Knight, QB, SO, Oklahoma

Sean Mannion, QB, SR, Oregon State

Marcus Mariota, QB, JR, Oregon

Nick Marshall, QB, SR, Auburn

Braxton Miller, QB, SR, Ohio State

Bryce Petty, QB, SR, Baylor

Thomas Tyner, RB, SO, Oregon

J.W. Walsh, QB, JR, Oklahoma State

Jake Waters, QB, SR, Kansas State

Jonathan Williams, RB, JR, Arkansas

Jameis Winston, QB, SO, Florida State

TJ Yeldon, RB, JR, Alabama

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Future Heisman candidates from the recruiting class of 2014

keller chryst

The recruits from the high school recruiting class of 2014 have signed their letters of intent.

Not all of them are going to live up to their lofty recruiting rankings this season. Some will take time to adjust to the rigors of college life and go on to redshirt. Some will find ways to contribute as backups or on special teams. Others will be pressed into action due to injuries. Only a select few will become stars this fall.

Here at HeismanPundit we are always on the lookout for future Heisman candidates, so it’s a tradition of ours to try to pick out the players from each recruiting class who best fit that bill. It’s an inexact science, but in 2007, we had a guy named Cameron Newton on our list. Here are our picks from 200820092010 , 20112012 and 2013.

It’s important to remember that not every recruiting class will produce a Heisman winner, or even a Heisman candidate. Johnny Manziel was from the class of 2011, while Robert Griffin and Mark Ingram were from the class of 2008. Cam Newton was in the high school class of 2007.  The classes of 2009 and 2010 were somewhat devoid of serious candidates. In other words, it’s possible that Heisman glory passes over this group.

Selecting the candidates is not as simple as checking off some 5-star players from the recruiting sites.

First off, we narrow the list down to quarterbacks, running backs and multi-purpose athletes. No matter what anyone says, you can forget about tight ends, linebackers or linemen winning the trophy.

Second, we assess the abilities of the players in question. Do their skills translate to the next level? How quickly will they make an impact? Do they have the physical measurables and the intangibles needed to succeed?

Third, how well does the player fit into the system in which he will be playing? Does his team’s system produce the numbers needed to win a Heisman?

Let’s see what’s in store for this year’s class, along with a few of their highlights. Keep these guys on your radar and expect at least one of them to make a strong run at the Heisman within the next four years. Here they are (in no particular order):

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The 2014 HP All-American team

Now that the season is finally over, it’s time for the latest edition of the very prestigious HP All-American team.

First, the offense:

QB

1st team – Johnny Manziel, So. Texas A&M

2nd team – Jameis Winston, Fr. Florida State

3rd team – Marcus Mariota, So. Oregon

Honorable Mention: Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois; Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville; Bryce Petty, Baylor; Derek Carr, Fresno State.

RB

1st team – Andre Williams, Sr., Boston College; Tre Mason, Jr. Auburn

2nd team – Bishop Sankey, Jr., Washington; Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona

3rd team –  Melvin Gordon, So., Wisconsin; Kapri Bibbs, So, Colorado State

Honorable Mention:  Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska; Carlos Hyde, Ohio State; Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky; Tyler Gaffney, Stanford; Jeremy Hill, LSU

WR

1st team – Brandin Cooks, Jr., Oregon State; Sammy Watkins, Jr., Clemson

2nd team – Devante Adams, So., Fresno State; Mike Evans, So., Texas A&M

3rd team – Antwan Goodley, Jr., Baylor; Paul Richardson, Jr., Colorado

Honorable Mention: Allen Robinson, Penn State; Tyler Lockett, Kansas State; Odell Beckham, LSU; Willie Snead, Ball State; Kelvin Benjamin, FSU; Jace Amaro, Texas Tech

TE

1st team – Eric Ebron, Jr., North Carolina

2nd team – Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jr., Washington

3rd team – C.J. Fiedorowicz, Sr., Iowa

Honorable Mention: David Funchess, Michigan; Nick O’Leary, FSU; Troy Niklas, Notre Dame; Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State.

OFFENSIVE LINE UNIT

Per HP tradition, we will not choose individual All-Americans, but rather a single unit for our offensive line honors.

Face it: There are no individual stats to go by. Highlights rarely show what they do. We could go purely off of hearsay, but wouldn’t that be dishonest? What’s more, there are 600 starting offensive linemen in Division One. It’s almost impossible to have seen enough of them to know who is really the best.  So, while other All-American teams choose linemen based almost solely on reputation, we will not.  Instead, we look at a combination of factors, including sacks allowed, rushing offense, tackles for loss allowed, etc., to come up with our All-American unit.

1st team – Arkansas

2nd team – Stanford

3rd team – Notre Dame

Honorable Mention: Florida State; Alabama; Oregon; Toledo; Baylor

Now, the defense:

DE

1st team – Michael Sam, Sr., Missouri; Vic Beasley, Jr., Clemson

2nd team – Jackson Jeffcoat, Sr., Texas; Leonard Williams, So., USC

3rd team – Shilique Calhoun, So., Michigan State; Trevor Reilly, Sr., Utah

Honorable Mention: Kareem Martin, North Carolina; Marcus Smith, Louisville; Scott Crichton, Oregon State; Dee Ford, Auburn; Noah Spence, Ohio State; Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State

DT 

1st team – Aaron Donald, Sr., Pittsburgh; Kelcy Quarles, Sr., South Carolina

2nd team – Ra’Shede Hageman, Sr., Minnesota; Tim Jernigan, Jr., Florida State

3rd team – Will Sutton, Sr., Arizona State; Michael Bennett, Jr., Ohio State

Honorable Mention: DaQuan Jones, Penn State; Ego Ferguson, LSU

OLB

1st team – Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford; Anthony Barr, Sr., UCLA

2nd team – Ryan Shazier, Jr., Ohio State; Khalil Mack, Sr., Buffalo

3rd team – Kyle Van Noy, Sr, BYU; Denicos Allen, Sr., Michigan State

Honorable Mention: Shaquil Barrett, Sr., Colorado State; Eddie Lackey, Baylor; Telvin Smith, Florida State; Myles Jack, UCLA; Devon Kennard, USC

ILB

1st team – C.J. Mosley, Sr., Alabama; Chris Borland, Sr., Wisconsin

2nd team – Shayne Skov, Sr., Stanford; Lamin Barrow, Sr., LSU

3rd team – Preston Brown, Sr., Louisville; Stephone Anthony, Jr., Clemson

Honorable Mention: AJ Tarpley, Stanford; AJ Johnson, Tennessee; Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut; Dee Dee Lattimore, South Florida

CB

1st team – Darqueze Dennard, Sr., Michigan State; Lamarcus Joyner, Sr., Florida State

2nd team – Justin Gilbert, Sr., Oklahoma State; Jason Verrett, Sr., TCU

3rd team – Vernon Hargreaves, Fr., Florida; Aaron Colvin, Sr., Oklahoma

Honorable Mention: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon; Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech; Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska; Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State

SS

1st team – Deone Bucannon, Sr., Washington State; Ahmad Dixon, Sr., Baylor

2nd team – Anthony Harris, Jr., Virginia; Jimmy Ward, Sr., Northern Illinois

3rd team – Landon Collins, So., Alabama; Hakeem Smith, Sr., Louisville

Honorable Mention: Alden Darby, Sr., ASU; Craig Loston, LSU; Brock Vereen, Minnesota; Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State; Sean Parker, Washington.

FS

1st team – Ha Ha Clinton Dix, Jr., Alabama; Calvin Pryor, Jr., Louisville

2nd team – Karl Joseph, So., West Virginia; Ed Reynolds, Jr., Stanford

3rd team – Terrance Brooks, Sr., Florida State; Derron Smith, Jr., Fresno State

Honorable Mention: Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State; Dion Bailey, USC; Tra’Mayne Bondurant, Arizona.

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