State of the Hogs: Heisman

It's time to finish up the Heisman Trophy ballot. Who to pick? If he plays well this weekend, Nebraska's great defensive tackle might be on one of the slots.

There are no true Heisman Trophy watch lists. There are no names on the ballot. I listen to sportscasters talk about such a thing.

They don't exist.

There are no finalists on the ballot. It comes blank.

I know. I've seen one in my mailbox for the last 31 football seasons.

It comes with three blank lines with simple instructions. Vote for the "most outstanding" college football player this season.

It doesn't say consider their career. It doesn't say most valuable player to his team. It doesn't say vote for the player who helped his team to the national title game.

You can factor in all of things if you wish. Or you can just vote for the three you think are the most outstanding.

Last year, I voted for Texas quarterback Colt McCoy as my first choice. I saw McCoy and Tim Tebow in back-to-back weeks. I thought McCoy was simply better.

I'm leaning towards McCoy again, but I'll wait until I see the last weekend of games. The others under consideration for my ballot are Toby Gerhart of Stanford, Tebow of Florida and Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska.

Yes, Ndamukong Suh.

He may be my first choice. I've watched him play several times this year. He's been impressive.

Traditionally, defensive players don't win the Heisman Trophy. It's happened before, but it is an unlikely event.

All of these players on my personal list are seniors. You don't have to vote a senior. I voted for Darren McFadden when he finished second as a sophomore.

I would vote for Ryan Mallett, the sophomore Arkansas QB, if he had been more consistent in the losses. He slipped in the fourth quarter against Georgia and had shaky moments in the four road losses to Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss and LSU.

Mallett might be one of the front runners if he comes back for his junior year. I believe he should based on his play on the road.

None of those others are more talented than Mallett, but they have played better over the course of this season.

More often than not, quarterbacks and running backs are going to win the Heisman. Their work is easily measured by statistics. And, they can be the true difference-makers for a team that has 22 starters. Quarterbacks can put a team on their back by making great plays.

As much as that is true, I believe the old coaching adage that the team — if quarterback play is close — with the best tackle will win.

Suh is the first defensive tackle I've seen worthy of winning the Heisman. He's the most dominant interior tackle since the Selmon brothers smashed everyone in the 1970s.

Few defensive tackles have ever made the impact Suh has at Nebraska this year. The Cornhuskers are in the Big 12 title game despite a poor offense and shaky quarterback play. Suh has made a shambles of the Big 12 North. Big 12 QBs see Suh in their nightmares.

I've considered Suh a Heisman candidate all season, although I kidded a Nebraska graduate early this week that I didn't know his name and would never vote for a Cornhusker.

The problem with naming a defensive tackle as the most outstanding player has to do with the way offensive coordinators scheme them out of a game. A double or a triple team can usually neutralize a tackle.

You can't do that to a quarterback like McCoy. He can then beat you with whatever you take away, the pass or the run.

But if you put too much on Suh, it opens up the rest of the defensive front to make plays. Good players become great and that's happened at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers rarely blitz because of Suh and his side kick at defensive tackle, Jared Crick. Both were on the All Big-12 first team. Crick actually had more sacks than Suh, 9 to 7 1/2.

There is still the possibility Tebow (2007 winner) can become just the second player to win more than one Heisman. I had him on my ballot behind McCoy last year. It would be ironic if Suh wrecked McCoy's chances in the Big 12 Championship game, handing the award to Tebow again.

Suh might catapult to the top spot on my ballot, but I worry that not enough Heisman voters will consider a defensive tackle.

I saw nothing wrong with Tebow winning last year. He is still deserving this year. He is not a great pro prospect at quarterback, but he's an outstanding college football player, one of the best of all time.

The problem is that so are McCoy and Suh. Gerhart, the bruising Stanford runner, is a fine player, too. He might deserve it as much as any.

I'll make up my mind early next week. Ballots must arrive before 5 p.m. Wednesday. I'll use the online option to beat that deadline so I can watch the games this weekend. I will watch the Nebraska tackle one more time.

Ndamukong Suh. Check him out against McCoy. He might be the most outstanding player in college football this season.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories