|Jadeveon Clowney is our Heisman Player of the Week (US Presswire)|
Here are some questions and thoughts on a Monday, with just one week to go before Heisman finalists are announced.
1. Is small-town Johnny ready for the bright lights and the big city?
Given that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel hadn't spoken to the media all season until Monday, there was some question as to how prepared he would be to face the onslaught coming his way once he makes it to New York as a Heisman finalist.
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Manziel is in for a whirlwind week starting Dec. 3. First he'll go to Orlando to take part in the college football awards show, then he'll be brought up to New York. On Friday, he'll face the assembled Heisman media and then Saturday he'll be featured on national television. If, as expected, he does win the Heisman, he'll stay behind for a couple of days and do about a thousand interviews.
Will he be ready?
If Monday's teleconference with Manziel was any indication, he should do just fine. He sounded mature beyond his years, in control and very measured in his responses. He's as prepared off the field as he is on it.
2. The changing Heisman landscape
It's pretty clear now the changes going on in the college football world as a whole are also being reflected in the outcomes of recent Heisman races. To recap, the Heisman since 2007 has gone absolutely bonkers:
-- 2007 saw the first sophomore win the Heisman (Tim Tebow).
-- The 2008 and 2009 winners were also sophomores, with the 2009 winner (Mark Ingram) being the first winner from Alabama.
-- The 2010 winner was a double-transfer from Florida and Blinn Junior College who had a brief stop at Auburn before going on to be picked No. 1 in the NFL Draft.
-- The 2011 winner was the first from perennially downtrodden Baylor.
-- The 2012 winner is about to become the first freshman to win the award.
-- Defensive players have been finalists in 2009, 2011 and, most likely, 2012.
So why all the craziness? Why is the Heisman electorate suddenly shifting so far from the very conservative and predictable behavior it exhibited for years?
I think there are a few reasons:
A.) The dominance of the spread offense in college football. Five of the last six Heisman winners (if we include Manziel) were quarterbacks in some form of the spread. The numbers put up by these players have been downright phenomenal, with Tebow, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III and Manziel averaging about 4,500 combined yards and 48 total touchdowns in their Heisman-winning seasons. Tebow, Newton, Griffin III and Manziel also had significant production running the ball. These crazy, video gamelike numbers are overwhelming other factors in the race and causing more voters to place less emphasis on things like class status, or team record, or program tradition.
B.) Social media now often prevents dominant media narratives from taking hold. It doesn't matter as much if ESPN's talking heads proclaim a player to be the frontrunner, since thousands of people on Twitter can counter that by coming up with their own message. The right hashtag can work wonders.
C.) College football's structure is changing rapidly. Conference realignment is tearing up old traditions by their roots and so, too, will the new proposed playoff. Perhaps the media, as a result, is taking a different approach to how it chooses its Heisman winner. Also, the Heisman electorate is getting younger and is probably more willing to break with old voting patterns.
The basic tenets of the Heismandments are still sound, but they will have to be updated to reflect the current reality. What barriers are left to break? Stay tuned.
3. What about Collin Klein?
The Kansas State quarterback still has a chance to influence some voters when his Wildcats play Texas on Saturday.
I'd be shocked if Klein didn't make it to New York as a finalist. He's got a chance to replicate Michael Bishop's 1998 runner-up finish if he can put up good production against the Longhorns. But I think he'd have to do something really nuts, like combine for seven touchdowns and combine for 400-plus yards of offense, to shift the race back in his direction. If not for the bad loss to Baylor, he'd be getting ready for his coronation right about now.
4. Some really good seasons that won't get recognized ...
It's not my usual business to proselytize on any player's behalf, but I thought I'd point out some really good seasons that, nonetheless, won't garner much attention in this year's Heisman race:
HEISMAN PLAYER OF THE WEEK -- Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Clowney's herculean effort against Clemson garners him Heisman Player of the Week honors.
The 6-foot-6, 260-pound sophomore had seven tackles and 4.5 sacks against the Tigers to help lead his team to a 27-17 win in Death Valley.
On the year, Clowney has 50 tackles and is the nation's leader in sacks (13) and tackles for loss (21.5).
While he won't get much mention in the Heisman race this year, he might have set himself up as the leading defensive candidate for 2013.