Ndamukong Suh’s late-breaking run at the Heisman last year had a lot of people thinking that the time was nigh for a defensive player to finally win the trophy.
As it turns out, Suh’s presence in the race merely ended up costing Colt McCoy the award, as the Nebraska tackle took first place in the Southwest Region, keeping McCoy from gathering a ton of votes that would’ve normally gone his way.
Suh’s impressive stab at the trophy probably couldn’t have happened in the context of almost any other Heisman race, however. As it was, he finished fourth in a year when the eventual winner was a true sophomore from a program that had never won a Heisman. And Mark Ingram won in the closest race ever, squeaking by a relatively unheralded (before the season) running back from an 8-4 school best known for its nerd production.
I’m not really convinced that Suh’s finish is a positive harbinger for future defenders. I think his impact was more important in that it showed how media tools like Twitter and Facebook could influence a new generation of Heisman voters. I don’t think Suh would’ve gotten nearly the support he did without the online firestorm that was created on his behalf following the Big 12 title game.
Nevertheless, should a situation arise in 2010 where a defensive player can influence the race, who out there would be the most likely candidate to do so? It’s got to be someone who has that Suh-like presence on the field, someone who is active and can take over a game with big plays. I don’t quite see a Suh on the horizon, but here are my best bets to come close (in no particular order):
Sam Acho, DE, Texas–Talk about active. Acho fits that bill, as he had 10 sacks last year, 14 tackles for loss, three pass breakups, four fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. He’ll be the face of the Texas defense this year and that means he’ll get lots of attention.
Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA–He’s a human highlight reel at outside linebacker. Last year he had 75 tackles, six sacks, 14 tackles for loss, three pass breakups, two recovered fumbles and four forced fumbles. Oh, and he scored three touchdowns, two off of picks and one on a returned fumble.
Tyler Sash, S, Iowa–Sash is all over the field for Iowa. He had 85 tackles, 5.5 for loss, six pass breakups, two forced fumbles and six interceptions which he returned for 203 yards, including a score.
Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU–The top corner in the country had 52 tackles, 13 pass breakups, grabbed two interceptions (one returned for a score), recovered a fumble and returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown.
Von Miller, Texas A&M–The epitome of a disruptor, he led the nation with 16.5 sacks, had 48 overall tackles, five pass breakups and four forced fumbles. If he pulls off another huge sack year despite all the added attention he’ll get from offenses, look out.
Plays like this could ultimately get Heisman voters’ attention