It took Alabama football almost 120 years to have its first Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram in 2009. Last year the Crimson Tide got its second in Derrick Henry. Both were tailbacks on national championship teams.
There is still one-third of the 2016 season to play and the Heisman Trophy conversation has a number of players lining up in the challenge to Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson for the award.
Some are predictable – last year’s runnerup Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, Washington quarterback Jake Browning, Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers, and even last year’s favorite now back from injury LSU tailback Leonard Fournette.
Sprinkled among the others is Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. But that’s not even the biggest surprise from the Crimson Tide.
Down the line, to be sure, is Bama senior defensive end Jonathan Allen.
After all, the 6-3, 291-pound Allen is nip-and-tuck with last year’s third place finisher, Christian McCaffrey, in scoring touchdowns this year. Allen got his second fumble return for a TD last week when he picked up one forced by Bama linebacker Ryan Anderson and went 30 yards for a touchdown to help the Tide to victory over Texas A&M. In an earlier game this year, Allen took an attempted pass by Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly and went 75 yards for a score, a play later (like the next day) ruled a fumble by Mississippi officials.
This week Alen was named the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the week and the National Defensive Player of the Week by Bronko Nagurski and Lott.
There is speculation that Allen could be the first player taken in next spring’s NFL draft.
Following practice Tuesday, Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, “It's great that Jonathan Allen was recognized. I'd like to congratulate him as SEC player of the week, Bednarik national player of the week. LOTT Trophy player of the week. He had a great game, did some great things and certainly contributed to the team's success.”
Allen did have a great game in Alabama’s 33-14 win over previousluy sixth-ranked Texas A&M. He had a sack for a loss of eight yards, his 30-yard return for a touchdown with his recovered fumble, six tackles, and four quarterback pressures.
For the year, Allen has a team-high 10 quarterback hurries while ranking second in sacks with 6 (-53 yards). He has also added 6 1/2 tackles for a loss (-53 yards) as part of his 35 total tackles. Allen leads the defense with two touchdown scores, both fumble recoveries, and has two pass breakups
But let’s get real here.
The Heisman Trophy, which purports to go to the nation’s best player, almost always goes to the nation’s best quarterback or tailback.
Saban said, “He has a lot of great attributes as a player. If he continues to finish the year like he's played all year long, which he's been fabulous for us, he'll get some national accolades.
“I think the Heisman Trophy is a very coveted award that if you look at it through the years has gone to, for whatever reasons, mostly skill players.
“Sometimes linemen get a little bit left out or overlooked. I'm not saying that will or won't happen. I hope he does get considered and I think he would be a great candidate for it.”