State of the Hogs: Heisman

The way to winning a Heisman Trophy rests more on winning games -- and improved defense -- than posting big numbers.

There are a few Arkansas fans -- maybe more than a few -- upset that Ryan Mallett isn't getting more attention from ESPN in the preseason Heisman Trophy watch. Never mind that the sports network has had Mallett on their broadcasts for one-on-one interviews several times in the last few months.

He's been given plenty of mention for a quarterback coming off an 8-5 season. He'll get more if the Hogs get hot. More to the point, he'll be front and center if the Hogs get hot on defense.

What? He doesn't play defense. How could that be?

It's simple. If the Arkansas defense holds up its end of the bargain, Arkansas will win plenty of games this season. Winners get the attention of Heisman voters. Right or wrong, that's the way it is.

You can be the most outstanding player in the nation -- the only qualifying remark on the Heisman ballot -- and not show up in the final results if your team isn't successful on the field.

Yes, good numbers are important, too. But the most important factor in standing out for a Heisman voter is to get to double digits in the win column. If the Hogs play good defense, that will happen.

Oddly, Mallett might be more of a factor with lower passing numbers. He could throw for fewer touchdowns and be a better quarterback. It could be that the running game is better and he doesn't have to throw as much.

It would be nice if the Hogs were pounding the opposition in the fourth quarter with the running game and didn't need Mallett's big right arm as much. All of that would come to pass if the Hogs are better on defense.

Mallett downplays the Heisman hype in all of his interviews. He said the way to win the trophy is to win games. He said that's his only goal these days. That's the way it should be at this time of year.

That's not to say his teammates haven't thought about it. Several have mentioned that it would be fun to help Mallett win it. They think it's fun.

One thing is clear, Mallett is the leader of this team. And his teammates are ready to follow him into battle. They rally to him.

There are no signs he's anything but a team player. Coaches say he's first to the Broyles Center, first to the training room and first to the meeting room. He's all in, as they say.

That's the way you win a Heisman. You do it in the meeting room. You do it on the practice field.

There may be some fans that believe you do it on ESPN, but don't count me in that crowd.

Right now, Ryan Mallett has the right goals. It's all about the process of winning games. If he maintains that focus, Heisman Trophy voters will find him.

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