Looking back at Archie Griffin’s Heisman repeat — and what it means for Jameis Winston

Since we once again have a player looking for that elusive second Heisman, I thought it would be appropriate to take a peek back at the circumstances that created the only two-time winner to date.griffin

Archie Griffin is probably a shade under 5-8, but his shadow looms large over Heisman history.  He won the award in 1974 after rushing for a Big Ten-record 1,620 yards and then returned in 1975 as the favorite to become the first two-time winner.

There weren’t a whole lot of established candidates to challenge Griffin in ’75.  Going in, his main competition was probably senior running back Joe Washington of Oklahoma, who was coming off a 1,321-yard (8.4 ypc) junior season in which he led the Sooners to a share of the national title.   Washington finished third in the 1974 Heisman voting, but he had one major hurdle to face in his quest for the 1975 trophy:  The Sooners were on probation and banned from television.  As we know, big performances on TV are key in the Heisman race.

Of the top 10 Heisman finalists in 1974, only Griffin and Washington returned in 1975.  That paved the way for some up-and-coming names to make a move in the race.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }

By the numbers: How returning Heisman winners fared

How hard will it be for Jameis Winston to get that second Heisman?

Here’s a look back at the Heisman winners who returned the following season (and in Tim Tebow’s case, the following two seasons) to play college football and how they finished in the Heisman vote:

Player/Team/Year      Following Yr Finish/Pts behind winner

Doc Blanchard, Army, 1946 4th 535
Doak Walker, SMU, 1949 3rd 765
Vic Janocwicz, OSU, 1951 DNP DNP
Roger Staubach, Navy, 1964 DNP DNP
Archie Griffin, OSU, 1975 1st
Billy Sims, Okla., 1979 2nd 922
Ty Detmer, BYU, 1991 3rd 1,632
Jason White, Okla., 2004 3rd 368
Matt Leinart, USC, 2005 3rd 1,744
Tim Tebow, Florida, 2008 3rd 151
Tim Tebow, 2009 5th 914
Sam Bradford, Okla., 2009 DNP DNP
Mark Ingram, Alabama, 2010 DNP DNP
Johnny Manziel, TAMU, 2013 5th 1,784

DNP=Did not place in final top 10

As you can see, only the legendary Tebow–with all his accolades, hype, larger-than-life heroics and statistical accomplishments–came within 200 points of becoming the second player to win a second Heisman.

The nine players who managed to garner any votes following their Heisman years lost out by an average of 978 points.  For perspective’s sake, that’s more than the winning total points captured by Eric Crouch in 2001.

Only Archie Griffin managed to win that second Heisman.  And he did so to cap a four-year legendary career in which he became the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher while leading his Ohio State team to four-straight Rose Bowls and an 11-0 finish as a 1975 senior–a year, incidentally, in which he beat a very weak field.

But he was the exception, not the rule, when it comes to the Heisman.

So, I think it’s clear why Winston’s chances of repeating are remote.  Not only is there a clear voter bias against repeat winners, there is also the difficulty of duplicating a Heisman-type season and then once again being judged to be more worthy than your competitors.  It’s just so hard for lightning and good fortune to strike twice. Plus, voters are well aware that to give him a second Heisman would put him on hallowed ground and, as good as he is, there doesn’t appear to be a rush by the voters to do that.

Comments { 0 }

Jameis Winston will not win a second Heisman

jameis winston

The Heisman and the unofficial rules that govern its selection process — the 10 Heismandments — have evolved a bit over the past decade.

That’s to be expected. The dramatic changes in offensive football since 2004 were bound to influence the Heisman race at some point. As lofty as they sound, the Heismandments were never meant to be etched into stone. They were meant to reflect the current reality of the Heisman environment so that we could more easily analyze the state of the race in a given year.

That said, the only real departure from the original Heismandments has been the sea change that came about from the quintet of underclassmen who’ve won the trophy since 2007. Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston all captured their Heismans before their second seasons of eligibility expired. Prior to Tebow, we thought that underclassmen couldn’t win. After all, every one of the previous 72 winners before Tebow were either juniors or seniors. As that is clearly not the case anymore, we’ve adjusted the language of Heismandment No. 2  to reflect this reality. While junior and seniors still have a built-in advantage, underclassmen who put up extraordinary single-season numbers can win the Heisman. Aside from Ingram, who was a sentimental winner in the closest race in Heisman history, each of the five underclassmen produced seasons that could arguably be considered among the best in college football history. That’s what it took for them to win.

The underclassman rule was one of those rules that required us to go out on a limb. So, too, was Heismandment No. 9, which states there will never be another two-time winner of the award.

But while the strictures of Heismandment No. 2 have relaxed over the years, Heismandment No. 9 appears to be stronger than ever.

Jason White and Matt Leinart couldn’t repeat. Neither could Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram or Johnny Manziel. And that’s just in the past 10 seasons. Before them, there was Doc Blanchard of Army, Doak Walker of SMU, Roger Staubach of Navy, Billy Sims of Oklahoma and Ty Detmer of BYU. 

The failure of these players to win that second trophy raised the bar very high for future players attempting a double. After all, the next player to match Archie Griffin’s feat will have to be put on the short list of all-time college football legends, right? The Heisman electorate went against normal convention by selecting underclassmen in recent years, but casually doling out two Heismans is another story.

And that’s why I’m very confident in predicting that Jameis Winston will not win a second Heisman.

You would think by now that writers putting together preseason lists would understand the challenges inherent to repeating as Heisman winner. Yet Winston still appears on the top of such lists, as did Manziel last year and Tim Tebow in the seasons before that.

But at HP, we’ve always said that the return winner would not repeat. Each time, we’ve pissed off that player’s fan base.

And, each time, we’ve been right.

As the ninth Heismandment reads:

It’s not easy to win the Heisman once.  So it really is just too hard for a player to have a Heisman-worthy season two years in a row. Both of those seasons must be arguably better than each of the other candidates in the running in both years.

There are a lot of other factors working against a would-be repeat winner, namely media fatigue and fickleness that tends to reward the fresh face and requires a higher burden of proof the second time around.

Besides all that, there is also that mysterious Heisman karma that seems to take hold of a race every year. In the end, everything has to fall perfectly in place for someone to win the Heisman just once. So in order to win it again, things have to fall perfectly in place twice.

Think of all that had to happen for Winston to win the Heisman last year. The preseason front runner, Braxton Miller, had to get hurt early and miss three games. Marcus Mariota, who took control of the race mid-season, also suffered an injury that slowed him down in big losses to Stanford and Arizona. Meanwhile, Winston didn’t just glide his way to the Heisman. He had to produce a remarkable season with 42 touchdowns running and passing and a passer rating that, at the time of the Heisman vote, was the highest in college football history. This doesn’t even take into account the off-the-field issues he had to weather.

Both Miller and Mariota are back for a second bite at the apple. Meanwhile, Winston’s off-the-field issues have piled up. Heisman voters, satisfied that Winston got the Heisman he deserved in 2013, will likely look elsewhere in 2014. Plus, the statistical bar he set in 2013 is a challenge — anything less than 42 total touchdowns will be seen as a drop off.

This doesn’t make Winston any less special as a player. It just means that it’s going to be nearly impossible for him to pull off this feat.

I fully expect Winston to be in the Heisman conversation throughout the season, which is why I have him on my post-spring Heisman Watch list. There’s a pretty good chance he returns to New York as a finalist. After all, White, Leinart, Tebow and Manziel all did so in recent years.

But he’s not going to win. The smart money says that some other player is going to capture the spirit of the 2014 season, the same way Winston did so in 2013.

Who will that player be?

Well, that’s the fun part. Stay tuned.

Comments { 0 }

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

 

Comments { 0 }

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.

Comments { 0 }

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.

Comments { 0 }

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.

Comments { 13 }