Tag Archives | Ryan Mallett

Heisman D-Day No. 1: Ryan Mallett and Alabama

Setting the table for today:

There are currently four major candidates for the 2010 Heisman Trophy and several minor candidates behind them trying to gain traction.

As the race now stands, the leader (if the vote were held today) is a sophomore quarterbacking phenom from a traditional power who has burst onto the scene with his passing and running.  He is on pace for a record-breaking season.

Not far behind him–and with more overall advantages in the campaign–is a junior quarterback with elite size and athleticism (and good name recognition) who is in his third year as a starter and is also from a traditional power, though one that is competing for the national title.

Then there is the gutty and diminutive junior from the upstart national title-contending program whose passing numbers and winning percentage as a starter are unmatched and whose Heisman fortunes are, more than anyone else, tied in with those of his team. 

Finally, we get to the mountainous junior quarterback with the rocket arm who may well set all kinds of SEC records before he’s through. 

Denard Robinson and Terrelle Pryor will not see their Heisman hopes change much as a result of what happens in their games today.  And while Kellen Moore’s Heisman aspirations could be dealt a mortal blow if Boise State loses to Oregon State, he’s not going to jump over Robinson and Pryor if the Broncos win.

The one player who has the most to gain from Saturday is Ryan Mallett.

If Mallett plays well and leads the Razorbacks to a win over No. 1 Alabama, I think he’s got a chance to move into the No. 1 spot in the Heisman race or, at the worst, dislodge Pryor for the No. 2 spot.

If the Razorbacks lose a closely-contested game despite Mallett playing well–or if Arkansas wins despite Mallett being ineffective–I think he can stick around in third or fourth place and be in position for a late season Heisman run if the Hogs win out and he puts up some sick numbers.

But if Mallett plays poorly and Alabama wins, then his Heisman hopes will be difficult to revive unless the contenders ahead of him hit similiar road bumps.  One thing in Mallett’s favor is that the remainder of the Arkansas schedule features some ‘name’ teams like Texas A&M, Auburn and LSU, but the Hogs are likely to be favored to beat each of them, depending on what happens today.

What kind of game does Mallet have to have to take control of the race?  I’m thinking he needs over 300 yards and 3 TDs with no costly picks.  That would be impressive against a tough–although untested–’Bama defense. 

Well, the table is set.  Time to watch the games.

Feel free to comment below as the day goes on…I’d love to get everyone’s thoughts on week four.

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The 2010 HP Preseason All-American Team — Offense

With the season upon us, it’s time for me to reveal the the 2010 edition of the very prestigious HP All-American team.

First, the offense:

Quarterback

1st team: Ryan Mallett, Arkansas  

2nd team: Kellen Moore, Boise State 

3rd team: Case Keenum, Houston

Honorable Mention: Terrelle Pryor, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Jacory Harris, Andy Dalton, Jerrod Johnson, Andrew Luck

Comments: There are a ton of great candidates for this position, but I think Mallett is poised to have the best season of the bunch.  A 4,000-yard, 40 TD season is not out of the question given that he played so well last year and he is now in his third year in the system.  Moore is as savvy as they come and his numbers are incredible, while Keenum is simply the most productive quarterback in NCAA history.

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Heisman Pundit’s 2010 Preseason Heisman Watch

August is upon us, camp is right around the corner and the games are a month away, which means it’s time for my annual preseason list of the players with the best chance of actually winning the Heisman.

This is not–repeat, not!–how I think the vote will fall.  The players listed here are the ones who I think can win and therefore they are listed in the order of their odds of doing so (if all things, including stats, are equal).  This means that there may be several players not listed here who will indeed finish in the top 10 of the voting but can’t actually win.  Conversely, some of the players listed below may not end up sniffing any Heisman votes, but could win if certain things go right .  

This list takes into account the strengths of the candidates and the traditional power of the teams involved, their level of name recognition entering the season, their statistical past, their statistical potential for 2010, their talent, their schedule and all the intangibles that could possibly come into play.   As the season goes on, we will whittle the list down.

I will say that 2010 does not feature a slam dunk preseason favorite.  There is not a whole lot separating the top 10 or so candidates.  But, if they were all perceived to have the same type of year, this is how it would go:

1. Terrelle Pryor, QB, Jr., Ohio State–Pryor gets the top spot on this list thanks to his superior name recognition, his rapidly blossoming talent and the fact that he is a junior quarterback for a traditional power expected to vie for the national title.  He helped the Buckeyes finish strong last year, culminating in an MVP performance in a win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl [note: always helps to be a bowl MVP].  He threw for 2,087 yards, 18 TDs and 11 interceptions while rushing for 779 yards and another seven scores.      If, as expected, he improves upon those numbers and Ohio State is in the thick of the national title hunt, he’s got a great shot at winning the Heisman.  An early showdown with Miami gives him the platform to launch his campaign.  A trio of games with Penn State, Iowa and Michigan is there at the end for him to seal the deal.  I think he’ll need minimum 2,500 passing yards with 25 TDs and at least 800 additional rushing yards in order to be deemed Heisman worthy.  If the Rose Bowl is any indication of his future potential, then it shouldn’t be a problem.      

2. Jacory Harris, QB, Jr., Miami–This could be the year of the ACC Heisman contender and in my eyes Harris leads the pack.  He’s a junior quarterback on a traditional power that has a chance to contend for the national title.  He’s got decent name recognition and is coming off a sophomore season where he threw for 3,352 yards and 24 touchdowns (plus 17 interceptions).  Obviously, he needs to cut down on his picks, but I think he’ll do that as he now has a full year in Mark Whipple’s system.  The compelling narrative in Harris’ favor is that he could be the guy who leads Miami back to prominence after about half-a-decade of mediocrity or worse.  He’ll have the showdown against Ohio State early to state his case, then tough road games at Pitt and Clemson to punctuate it.  And he’s got Florida State and Virginia Tech at home, which makes things easier.  If he can keep his rather rail-like body intact, he should have a big season and lead Miami to the ACC title.  That could mean a trip to New York.    

3. Christian Ponder, QB, Sr. Florida State–As with Miami’s Harris, Ponder’s appeal is that he could be the quarterback to lead his program back to national relevance.  He’s the senior quarterback for a traditional power that has a chance to have a really good season.  While he doesn’t have a huge amount of name recognition heading into the year, the FSU sports information office has done a masterful job getting the word out about Ponder in the offseason.  Last year, he threw for 2,717 yards, with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing nearly 69 percent of his passes.  However, he missed the last four games due to injury and wasn’t able to put up the kind of numbers you usually see from a Heisman candidate.  If healthy, he should do just that in 2010.  Early games at Oklahoma and versus BYU will help show he is back, while slaying the Gators at the end could be the key to his whole Heisman rationale.

4. Ryan Williams, RB, So., Virginia Tech–Yet another ACC contender.  The last three winners have been sophomores, so maybe Williams will keep the trend alive in 2010.  He was an absolute stud as a freshman, rushing for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns while averaging 5.7 yards per carry.  He played well against good teams, rushing for 71 yards and two scores on 13 carries against Alabama (in his debut), 107 yards and a score on 21 carries against Nebraska and 117 yards and two touchdowns in the bowl thrashing of Tennessee.  Due to his youth, Williams doesn’t have a whole lot of name recognition, but I expect that to change quickly in 2010.  He starts out with a Monday night prime time matchup against what will be a top three Boise State team, then hits a fairly soft schedule for the next seven games.  By the time the Hokies host Georgia Tech in a Thursday night game in early November, he may well be leading the nation in rushing and perhaps the Heisman race as well.  Late games against a tough North Carolina defense and a very good Miami team will make or break his final Heisman case.  If Virginia Tech is winning the ACC and Williams is racking up the yards, look out.

5. John Clay, RB, Jr., Wisconsin–The more I looked at Clay, the more I liked his viability as a Heisman candidate.  He’s coming off a 1,517-yard, 18-touchdown sophomore season and the Badgers return 10 starters on offense, including all five linemen.  Good yardage is an almost certain guarantee for backs in the Wisconsin system, but Clay has the kind of talent that reminds one more of Ron Dayne than P.J. Hill–he’s a powerful bruiser with a fair bit of nimbleness in his step.  Noteworthy in looking at his stats last year is that he did not pad his numbers against Northern Illinois or Wofford, though his two worst games were against Iowa and Ohio State–both Badger losses.  But he finished strong with 801 yards and 11 scores in his last six, with 121 and a couple scores against Miami in the bowl.  To me, the likely path for Clay to win the Heisman is a 2,000-yard season as I don’t think the Badgers will get out of the Big Ten unscathed.  But considering the history of Badger backs, I don’t think 2,000 is out of the question and it may even be a decent possibility if he can stay healthy. 

6. Ryan Mallett, QB, Jr., Arkansas–As I wrote earlier, there is very little separating the top 10 or so candidates on this list.  Mallett could very easily be in the top three here, but one has to take into account how his team will finish in the SEC.  The Razorbacks could very well make a run at the conference crown [I actually have them in my top 10 preseason list nationally], but that is not a given.  This is where Mr. Mallett comes in, as his play must elevate the Hogs into that upper echelon in order for his Heisman hopes to take sail.  I don’t think we need worry about his numbers.  He is coming off a 3,624 yard season with 30 scores and seven picks.  He’s a major talent with a howitzer for an arm and he plays in one of the best offensive systems in college football.  So, he’s going to have an outstanding season individually.  But how Arkansas does in a four game stretch against Georgia, Alabama, Texas A&M and Auburn will determine the resiliency of his candidacy.  The regular season finale against LSU and a possible SEC title game appearance would help a possible late run at the trophy.  He’s the SEC’s No. 1 Heisman candidate.     

7. John Brantley, QB, Jr., Florida–To understand why a player who has never started a game could be seen to have a shot at the Heisman, you have to look at a few underlying factors.  Namely, Brantley is taking over at quarterback for a college football legend and therefore many eyes will be surveying his progress.  Given the past success of Urban Meyer quarterbacks in their first years starting and the obvious talent that Brantley possesses, it is not far-fetched to assume he will do quite well.  And if Brantley has a very good season, he will be widely perceived as the guy who kept a good thing going, the next in line, etc., and he could emerge as a legitimate Heisman contender.  As a sophomore in mop-up duty for Tim Tebow in 2009, Brantley threw for 410 yards and seven scores with no picks.  Obviously, he’ll blow those numbers away in 2010.  There’s the usual high-profile SEC slate that includes a game at Alabama, which could be a boon…or it could sink him fast. 

8. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Jr., Oregon State–Rodgers is one of the most versatile backs in college football and has been a well-known commodity since the fourth game of his freshman season.  He’s coming off a sophomore season where he rushed for 1,440 yards and 21 touchdowns, while also catching 78 passes and another score.  He’s on pace to break a slew of school and Pac-10 records.  The key for Rodgers is going to be how his team fares.  If the Beavers can once again challenge for the conference crown and he has another huge season, he’ll be in the Heisman conversation.  An opener against TCU will help make an early case, as will playing at Boise State.  As always, marquee matchups with USC and Oregon later on in the year will be critical.  I think Rodgers needs 1,800-plus yards to really contend.

8. Case Keenum, QB, Sr., Houston–Keenum is on track to become the NCAA’s all-time leader in passing yards.  He finished eighth in the Heisman vote last year after a brilliant season in which he had 5,671 yards and 44 touchdowns while completing 70 percent of his passes.  There will be much well-deserved consternation this year about why Keenum is not in the thick of the race and unfortunately this issue will not be resolved as long as there is a two-tiered system called the BCS in place.  As it stands, it is very difficult for a player from a non-BCS team to win the Heisman.  The last player to do so from a non-power conference was BYU’s Ty Detmer in 1990.  Keenum just won’t get many chance to showcase his abilities against top level teams.  I think Keenum’s best chance to win is for the rest of the contenders to have lackluster years, while he sets the NCAA single-season AND career marks for yards and touchdowns.  I think that’s what it will take and I don’t rule it out, but it’s a longshot.

9. Noel Devine, RB, Sr., West Virginia–Devine has excellent name recognition and is a human highlight reel.  Voters love exciting highlights.  He had a good junior year, rushing for 1,465 yards and 13 touchdowns, but he’ll need to light it up as a senior to have a chance at the Heisman.  Unless West Virginia captures the Big East and lands itself in the top 10, that means approaching the 2,000-yard mark in spectacular fashion.  Coming up big at LSU in late September would help, as would production against Cincy and Pitt, but the schedule isn’t highly conducive to a serious Heisman run.  However, this could be overcome by pure numbers and Devine is the kind of back who would do it with style.

10. Jake Locker, QB, Sr., Washington–Locker has come a long way, both as a quarterback and as a potential Heisman candidate.  The last year has seen him transform from a fantastic athlete who happened to be playing behind center into a consensus high NFL draft pick…which in turn has propelled his Heisman talk.  For those Heisman voters who place a high premium on NFL talent, he will be very attractive.  There’s no doubting his value to his team as Washington went from 0-12 when he was hurt in 2008 to 5-7 when he was healthy in 2009.  But for Locker to have a real shot at the Heisman, he’s got to push Washington to heights not seen in a decade.  Last year, he threw for 2,800 yards, with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while rushing for 388 and another seven scores.  He needs to do all that and much more while leading the Huskies to at least nine wins–and hope that other candidates screw up–in order to be in serious consideration for the Heisman.  Early games against BYU, Nebraska and USC will test his campaign.  A late season run will be difficult unless Washington has a chance at the conference crown.  In short, Locker will need to pull off a miracle to take home the trophy. 

The Rest:

11. Kellen Moore, QB, Jr., Boise State

12. Garrett Gilbert, QB, So., Texas-

14. LaMichael James, RB, So., Oregon

14. Andrew Luck, QB, So., Stanford

15. Dion Lewis, RB, So., Pittsburgh

16. Jerrod Johnson, QB, Sr., Texas A&M

Waaaaait a second.  Where’s Mark Ingram?

Nothing personal Tide fans.  Ingram is merely a victim of Heismandment No. 9, which states there will never be another two-time Heisman winner.  Since starting this site, here are the returning Heisman winners who have failed to make my preseason list the following season:  Jason White, Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford.  So Ingram will end up being the latest player to fall prey to the repeat curse.  Can he finish 2nd?  Sure.  But he won’t win and the list above is about who is most likely to win.

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Q & A With Ryan Mallett

There’s a bit of an offensive juggernaut building at Arkansas.  The trigger man for that offense is junior quarterback Ryan Mallett, a tall, big-armed Texan who made quite a splash as a 2009 sophomore.

Though he started out at Michigan, Mallett always wanted to play for the Razorbacks.  He got his wish last year following sitting out the 2008 season due to transfer rules.  In his first year starting for the Razorbacks, Mallett threw for 3,624 yards and 30 touchdowns with just seven interceptions.  He set or tied 16 school records and led the nation with 44 completions of 25 yards or more.

It’s no wonder that he’s considered a top candidate to go high in the next NFL draft (should he choose to leave school early).  Not since Joe Ferguson has Arkansas had a talent like this at quarterback.

Big things are expected in 2010, as the Razorbacks return 10 starters in Bobby Petrino’s offense.  Look for Mallett–currently rehabbing from a broken bone in his foot–to have another huge year and be mentioned in the running for the most prestigious award in sports.  We talked to him this week and here’s what transpired:

So how is summer going?  What have you been up to?

I’ve been rehabbing and getting in shape.  The whole team is here getting ready for the season.

You went from Texas high school football to Michigan and then back down to Arkansas.  What was all that like?

It’s been a learning process.  I started out at Michigan and then Coach Carr retired.  Things were really tough in that aspect.  Everyone knows what happened there.  There was a new system and I wasn’t really a fit for it.  So I decided to come back down here.

Describe the difference in what you did under Coach Carr at Michigan and how you do things under Coach Petrino at Arkansas.

Michigan’s offense under Coach Carr was primarily based on power running.  We ran first and then we did play action.  Here with Coach Petrino, we throw it a lot more.  The system starts with the quarterback.  As a quarterback, you want to be in a system where you can take control of the game.  It’s great that Coach Petrino trusts me to do that.

Did it take a while to adjust to the new system?

I don’t feel it took that long to grasp it.  I’ve been a quarterback since I was little.  But I think the year off (due to transfer) helped.

How long have you been a quarterback?

I’ve played the position since the seventh grade.  I would’ve played it in sixth grade, but I was over the weight limit for Pee Wee football and I had to play offensive guard.

Were you always the tall kid?

Yeah.  There are pictures of me in elementary school and I’m always head and shoulders taller than everyone.

How is the offseason going for you and your teammates?  Who do you predict will breakout on the team?

It’s been a lot of fun.  We have a lot of guys here who are working hard to get a lot better.  This is the closest team I’ve ever been on.  There’s a ton of great athletes and leaders.  We’re loaded with guys on the perimeter, from Joe Adams, to Greg Childs, to Jarius Wright.  We are five deep at running back.  It’s hard to say exactly who will break out, since there are so many guys who could.  But we’ve got a lot of big-time games on our schedule.  We’re ready to get to camp and get started.

How does it feel to be mentioned as a Heisman candidate?

It’s great.  It’s an honor to be mentioned with all those other guys.  Individual honors like that are cool, but what I want most is to get wins for the team.

How have the past Heisman winners influenced you?

I remember watching the guys who were up for it in the past, guys like Peyton Manning, though he didn’t win it.  Watching them makes you want to be like those guys.  Seeing them gives you a good grasp of their approach and how they prepare.  I just want to enjoy the whole experience and have fun.

How are you handling all the added media attention?

I don’t like to be talked about that much.  I’d rather talk about stuff like our offensive line.  We’ve got three three-year starters and four overall starters returning.  I’d rather talk about our receivers.  We’re six or seven deep there.  We’re all excited to go out and perform.

What do you have to work on to become the quarterback you want to be?

I’ve got to continue to work harder in the film room and in the weight room to get stronger.  Also, I need to work on my decision-making.  I overthink things sometimes.  Also, I could stand to improve some of the little things in my technique.

You say you want to get stronger…what is your size now?

I’m 6-7 and 238.  That’s about where I want to be.  You definitely take a beating back there in the pocket with all those great players in the SEC.

I first saw you out at the Elite 11 camp back in California a few years back.  Back then, did you ever think you’d be in this position you are right now?

When you’re that young, you always picture this.  But you never know.  I always wanted to be the best since I was in high school.  So, I’m where I always thought I’d be.

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