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The Heisman people have it right

A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning...

Dennis Dodd of cbssports.com suggests that it is time to change the voting for the Heisman Trophy. Dodd suggests that instead of voting before the playoff and bowl games, the vote should take place afterward.

Derrick Henry of Alabama won the award this year by a comfortable margin over Christian McCaffrey of Stanford and Deshaun Watson of Clemson. But Henry wasn’t dominant (20-75 rushing, 2 TDs) in Alabama’s semifinal playoff win over  Michigan State while McCaffrey ran wild (18-172 rushing; 4-105 receiving, 1 TD; 1-28 kickoff returns; 1-63, 1 TD punt returns) in Stanford’s Rose Bowl win over Iowa and Watson (16-31 passing, 187 yards, 1 TD; 24-145 rushing, 1 TD) was a spectacular difference maker in Clemson’s semifinal win over Oklahoma. And, would Leonard Fournette’s man among boys performance against Texas Tech (29-212 rushing, 4 TDs; 1-44 receiving, 1 TD) earned him a place on the podium? 

Consider the case of Tim Tebow in 2008. He finished third in the Heisman voting behind winner Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and Colt McCoy of Texas, but after his performance against Bradford and Oklahoma in the national championship game (231 passing yards, 2 TDs; 109 rushing yards), there was a good bit of voters’ remorse among Heisman voters who covered the game. Tebow didn’t do anything wrong in the regular season but his statistics weren’t as gaudy as they were in 2007 when he won the trophy as a sophomore. It can easily be argued that Tebow was a far better football player in 2008 than he was in 2007 and that the national championship game proved it, but should one game decide who is the nation’s best football player?

And, should we give so much credence to a game three or four weeks removed from the regular season? Bowl games aren’t always a real test of a team’s true strength. Just ask Steve Spurrier. In 1995 Nebraska had a month to prepare for the Gators and Tom Osborne brought in NFL defensive coaches to come up with a game plan to suffocate the Florida offense. Had that Florida-Nebraska game taken place a week following the SEC and Big 12 conference championship games a lot of people believe Florida would have won that game. The extra month worked to Florida’s favor in 1996 when Steve Spurrier had a month to alter his offense with the shotgun to offset Florida State’s pass rush for the Sugar Bowl.

You can also argue successfully that a great bowl performance can obscure what happened in the regular season yet the trophy is supposed to go to the player who was the best for an entire season, not just one game. Also, if we’re going to tinker with the Heisman Trophy shouldn’t there be more attention paid to non-skill position players? Who is to say that the best player in the country is always a quarterback or a running back?

As one who covered and wrote about every single Florida game during the Tebow era, nothing will ever convince me that Tebow wasn’t the best football player in the country, particularly in 2008. He put up outstanding numbers against SEC defenses and led the Gators to the SEC and national championships. I though his head-to-head performance against Sam Bradford proved Tebow was the nation’s best player, but I’m not convinced that the voting outcome of 2008 or any other year when someone put up gaudy numbers in a bowl game is worth tampering with the Heisman process.

So while I can understand why the folks who saw Watson and McCaffrey feel the bowl game made a case for delaying the vote, I think the current process is more fair. I’m far more concerned with this prevailing notion that the Heisman should always go to a player whose team is contending for the national championship. It’s supposed to go to the best player period.

NEAL DECLARES FOR NFL

Florida junior safety Keanu Neal has elected to forego his senior season to declare for the NFL Draft. Mel Kiper Jr. has Neal rated the #10 safety prospect in the 2016 draft which would typically mean he’ll go somewhere between the third and fifth round.

The Gators are still awaiting a decision from safety Marcus Maye. Just a couple of weeks ago, it was thought that Maye would go pro while Neal would stay on campus for one more year, but there are reports that Maye is leaning toward returning for his senior season.

WHEN THE DEFENSE RESTS

Because the shooting is so erratic, the Gators can’t afford an off night on the defensive end of the floor like they had Wednesday night in Knoxville when Tennessee blew Florida out, 85-67. Tennessee is not that good but the Gators made the Vols look like championship contenders. There was no excuse for the Gators to be so inept on the inside and incapable of dominating a team with no starter taller than 6-5 on the backboards. What made the game particularly painful to watch was Tennessee beating the Gators to the basketball on nearly every hustle play.

The officiating was horrendous, particularly Tony Greene whose sell-by date expired about eight years ago, but instead of adjusting the officiating, the Gators kept staring at the zebras waiting for calls that just weren’t going to go their way.

This was a poor effort on the part of the Gators. Yes, teams will have off nights but this went beyond an off night. Tennessee played like a team possessed while Florida played like a team that had taken a mass dose of Sominex.

VOLS PART WAYS WITH DC

Butch Jones is looking for a new defensive coordinator after John Jancek was let go Wednesday morning. Apparently Jones has already made inquiries and had discussions with potential candidates because he expects Tennessee will have its new DC by the end of the week.

The timing of the change is interesting, particularly since Jancek’s defense improved all three years he was the DC. In 2013, the Vols gave up 29.3 points and 418.4 yards per game. In 2014, the Vols gave up 24.2 points and 364.6 yards per game. This past season, even with injuries that took away some key players, Jancek’s defense held opponents to 20 points and 362 yards per game.

CLEMSON VS. ALABAMA METRICS

K.C. Joyner of ESPN thinks Clemson has a very good chance to knock off Alabama in Monday’s national championship game. Here are some of the metrics he uses to make his case that the Tigers could spring the upset against an Alabama team that is a prohibitive favorite.

Rushing defense: Alabama runs for 204.36 yards per game and 4.8 yards per rushing attempt. Clemson’s defense holds opponents to no gain or a loss on 36.7% of all rushing attempts. Clemson held top 25 opponents Notre Dame, FSU and Oklahoma to no gain or a loss on 36.4% of their rushing attempts.

Passing defense: Of Alabama QB Jacob Coker’s 421 pass attempts, 43.3% were thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage while 42.6% of his passes traveled no more than 5 yards downfield. Clemson’s defense holds opponents to 4.7 yards on passes no more than 5 yards downfield and against teams that throw the ball at or behind the line of scrimmage, the Tigers allow only 3.8 yards per attempt.

Clemson passing: While Alabama’s defense is considered best in the nation, the Crimson Tide gives up 9.6 yards per pass attempt on vertical throws (at least 11 yards) and 26 yards per vertical completion. Bama gives up 15.9 yards per attempt on stretch vertical (throws of at least 20 yards downfield) throws and 37.9 yards per stretch vertical completion. Clemson QB Deshaun Watson averages 12.5 yards per attempt on vertical throws and 14.8 yards per attempt on stretch vertical throws. Watson threw 17 TDPs on vertical throws and 13 on stretch vertical throws.

BY KENTUCKY STANDARDS, THIS COULD BE A BAD YEAR

If you caught part or all of LSU’s dismantling of Kentucky in Baton Rouge Tuesday night then you know that the Wildcats have been exposed. Alex Poythress is no better than he was when he was a freshman (you should have been a Gator Alex, you would have developed). Marcus Lee is showing why he rode the pine his first two years. Skal Labissiere? He took his basketball lessons at a sector of a Disney Park – Never, Never Land. These Kentucky big men are softer than the Charmin. Kentucky will still win a lot of games and make the NCAA Tournament, but this isn’t your typical UK team and by recent standards this one has the potential to go down as a bad year.

GRIFFEY, PIAZZA VOTED INTO HALL OF FAME

The Baseball Writers Association of America has elected Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Griffey was voted in on 99.3% of the ballots, the highest total for a first year eligible player in history. Tom Seaver (98.8%) was the previous record holder. Piazza was named on 83% of the ballots.

Falling 15 votes shy of the required 75% to get into the hall was Jeff Bagwell. Also missing by just 23 votes was Sanford native Tim Raines.

Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, who accumulated Hall of Fame numbers during their careers, both missed getting in by a substantial margin due to the accusations that they used performance enhancing drugs. Clemens received only 199 votes (45.2%) and Bonds only 195 (44.3%).

Pitcher Ray Halladay, perhaps a Hall of Famer one day, tweeted, “When you use PEDs you admit you’re not good enough to compete fairly! Our nations past time should have higher standards! No Clemens no Bonds!”

RANDOM THOUGHTS

Ole Miss extended Hugh Freeze’s contract and gave him a raise to $4.93 million per year. The assistant coach salary pool will increase from $3.11 million to $4.26 million and $260,000 a year will go toward raises for the support staff.

A very telling stat: If you take Tennessee (1998), Virginia Tech (1999), Nebraska (2001) and Notre Dame (2012) out of the national championship equation of the last 17 years, all the other national championship game slots were filled by 11 schools.  

Among the two participating teams in the national championship game, which one has the fewest players since 2011? It’s Alabama by a wide margin: Alabama has had 19 players arrested while Clemson has had only 6.

How dysfunctional are things at Texas A&M? Kevin Sumlin has been the football coach four years. During his time on the job A&M has gone through two presidents and two athletic directors. Washington AD Scott Woodward is expected to become the third AD during Sumlin’s tenure and soon A&M will have a new president.  

And while on the subject of A&M, TCU’s co-offensive coordinator Doug Meacham has turned down an offer to become the Aggies’ offensive coordinator. Meacham also turned down an offer to become the head ball coach at Texas State because the money wasn’t right.

Former UF offensive coordinator Brent Pease has been named offensive coordinator at UTEP. Pease spent the last two years at Washington as wide receivers coach but his contract was not renewed for 2016.

Kentucky is stepping up the pay scale for assistant football coaches. New OC Eddie Gran will be paid $650,000 and QB coach Darin Hinshaw will be paid $400,000. Gran’s contract is good through 2019 while Hinshaw’s is through 2018.

Johnny Manziel seems on the fast track for self destruction. It is being reported that he was in Las Vegas gambling last Saturday night wearing a blonde wig and a fake mustache. There are reports that Manziel partied until 6 a.m., three hours before he failed to meet with a member of the Cleveland Browns’ medical staff. Manziel is through in Cleveland and LeBron James’ marketing firm has cut ties with Manziel as well.

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Are you in favor of moving the voting for the Heisman Trophy back until after the bowl and national championship games or should it stay right where it is?

MUSIC FOR TODAY

The 1972 album “Fragile” by the British band Yes remains one of my favorites largely because of one song – “Roundabout.” I heard them live in April of 1973 at the Savannah Civic Center and it was a memorable performance because of the keyboard work of Rick Wakeman. The second cut of “Fragile” is an extraordinary 1:38 of a Wakeman arrangement of a song by Johannes Brahms, which isn’t what you normally expect on a rock and roll album. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87xx5pzHDlY


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