Who do you think wins the Heisman Trophy? John (South Bend, Indiana)
Top Ten Heisman Candidates 1) Brian Brohm (QB) Louisville – Junior If healthy Brohm will have the numbers but he will only be a sexy pick if he leads Louisville to wins, especially against the 'Canes and Mountaineers, who they play at home.
2) Michael Bush (RB) Louisville – Senior Bush is such a dynamic and versatile player and he has to be one of the best athletes in college football. He is going to score a ton of touchdowns in a variety of ways and he will likely rush for 1,000 plus yards while sharing the RB load. The key is Louisville and Bush must play well against Miami and West Virginia, their two showcase games.
3) Ted Ginn, Jr (WR) Ohio State – Junior The question with Ginn is will he get enough touches to make his case? There is no question he has the talent. Ginn will also have to share in the voting with teammate Troy Smith, which could hurt.
5) Calvin Johnson (WR) Georgia Tech – Junior Johnson just may be the best player in college football. His audition for the Heisman Trophy will be in week one when Georgia Tech hosts Notre Dame on national TV. It should be a high scoring affair and Johnson will have ample air time to display his talents against the Irish. His chances will ride on the arm of quarterback Reggie Ball and his consistency and ability to get him the ball.
6) Chris Leak (QB) Florida – Senior There is no question that Leak will have the opportunity to put up mind boggling numbers but Florida has a schedule loaded with land mines. They play at Tennessee, Auburn and Florida State, they host South Carolina, LSU and Alabama and they get Georgia in Jacksonville. If he guides the Gators to an unbeaten season or ever one loss he will put up numbers too strong to ignore.
7) Adrian Peterson (RB) Oklahoma – Junior More than ever OU needs Peterson to have a monster year, especially with the dismissal of quarterback Rhett Bomar. Peterson was banged up as a sophomore and the Sooner offense just never clicked. He needs to put the OU offense on his back and put up the same type of numbers that he did as a freshman.
9) Troy Smith (QB) Ohio State – Senior Smith is in an ideal position for the Trophy. Ohio State is the top rated team in America, he has a great offensive line, a receiver to stretch the field and a ground game to set the table. He just needs to distribute the ball, make some big plays and win. The schedule sets up with big games early (Texas, Iowa, Penn State) and late (Michigan).
10) Drew Tate (QB) Iowa – Senior Tate is the sleeper of this bunch and he has proved he can put up the numbers. If Iowa were to get by Ohio State and Michigan...
Here are five guys off the radar that could get right into the Heisman mix:
John David Booty (QB) USC – Junior
Booty has been waiting for his time and his time is up. He could lead Southern Cal to another title appearance and be the latest Trojan to be invited to the Downtown Athletic Club. Booty has the talent and the talent around him, including star wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett.
Rudy Carpenter (QB) Arizona State – Sophomore
With quarterback Sam Keller now off the team, the reigns all belong to Carpenter. Last season these two combined for 4,400 plus passing yards and 37 touchdown passes!
Darren McFadden (RB) Arkansas – Sophomore
McFadden was absolutely spectacular last season and he could very well be the second best back in the nation behind Peterson. He is battling a toe injury and may miss their opener against Southern Cal.
Pat White (QB) West Virginia – Sophomore
White is now college football version of Michael Vick and Vince Young. He's young, exciting but like his two predecessors he needs to improve his passing. If that happens and WV runs the table White will find himself in the Heisman mix.
Garrett Wolfe (RB) Northern Illinois – Senior
It's simple for Wolfe. NI opens against Ohio State on the road. He needs a monster game against the Buckeyes to ignite his Heisman campaign. If that happens you just never know. They also play Iowa which will be huge for him in this race.
In the end, I think Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn is the guy to beat. He is going to put up great numbers once again, he has spotlight games early and late to state his case, and he plays for Notre Dame. The Irish offense should also be better, he has a running game with Darius Walker and wide receivers to throw to like Jeff Samardzija.
One thing is certain, running back Chris Wells will make an impact in Columbus. Will he help lead Ohio State to a National Title like Maurice Clarett did? That remains to be seen but the situation this season is eerily similar to that of 2002.
If you look back to that magical season for the Buckeyes several key things happened for them offensively. First of all a true freshman running back named Maurice Clarett ignited their running game from the moment he stepped on campus. Say what you want about Clarett but he came into spring ball ready and prepared. Not only was he a powerful runner but he was also a complete back that could block and catch. He won the job out of spring and never looked back. Clarett had to beat out two juniors that never quite lived up to the hype in Lydell Ross and Maurice Hall. Jim Tressel's offense also had a super quarterback at the helm in Craig Krenzel. He may not have all those physical tools you desire in a quarterback but he was a leader and he knew how to manage their offense. When he had to make a play Krenzel did so.
If we fast forward to today and what's lies ahead offensively for Ohio State, it's going to start with their quarterback, Troy Smith. He is a great athlete that can run and throw. Smith brings an added dimension that will be tough to defend. The Buckeyes can stretch the defense in their vertical game with one of college football's fastest and most exciting players in Ted Ginn, Sr. On top of that this Ohio State offensive line should be very good and certainly has the potential to be better than the one they had when they won the National Championship.
But their success hinges on the running game and much of that responsibility will likely fall on the shoulders of Chris Wells. Like Clarett he showed up early and participated in spring ball. Wells, 6-3 and 232 pounds, was the Scout.com No. 1 rated prospect in the country and he has not disappointed anyone in Columbus. He has been very impressive from his first hand off and he has worked hard to earn the respect of his teammates and learn the Ohio State offense. Right now he is backing up junior Antonio Pittman. Pittman rushed for over 1,300 yards and seven scores last year. But Wells will see significant carries and they will need him early with Texas, Penn State and Iowa looming on their schedule.
Wells will play a key role in Ohio State's offense this season. Will he match Clarett's numbers of 1,200+ yards? That's hard to say, especially with the other firepower the Buckeyes have offensively. But the only thing from stopping Chris Wells from making an impact for the No. 1 rated Buckeyes is injury. He will be a major contributor to one of the game's most potent offenses.
I did say back in January that I thought Matthew Stafford would be the starting quarterback for Georgia at some point this season. There were several reasons. First, Georgia really doesn't return a signal caller with much quarterback experience. Joe Tereshinski did start against Florida last season and he finished the year 25/49 for 371 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He is a fifth year senior that knows the Georgia offense the best. Tereshinski was recently named the starter.
Second, Stafford graduated early, enrolled at UGA in January and participated in spring practice. Lastly, he has all the talent in the world. But like fellow five-star quarterback Mitch Mustain (Arkansas) from last season, it's tough to make that quick adjustment to the college game. You are learning a new offense with new teammates, you are looking at defenses and coverages you have never seen before, and most importantly the speed of the game is ramped up a hundred fold.
The pressure is on Tereshinski because he probably won't have much room for error. In week two the Dawgs travel to Columbia to take on Steve Spurrier and South Carolina. Joe Cox was named the backup and he will see time in week one against Western Kentucky. That leaves Blake Barnes and Stafford currently battling it out for the No. 3 spot.
Talent wise there is a number one and it's Stafford and the one thing he can count on is coaching. I said it before and I will say it again, Georgia coach Mark Richt does an outstanding job with his quarterbacks. He always has. Look at his track record while he was an assistant at Florida State. Quarterbacks like Charlie Ward, Thad Busby, Chris Weinke, Danny Kannel, Brad Johnson, Casey Weldon, Peter Tom Willis and Danny McManus were all very good college QBs. Weinke and Ward won the Heisman Trophy while Weldon was a runner-up. Johnson rarely played in Tallahassee but led Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl.
Then Richt arrived in Athens and did a great job with David Greene for four years and D.J. Shockley last season. The common denominator with all of these quarterbacks in Richt. And he will do a wonderful job with Cox and Stafford because they are Georgia's future. Sooner or later Stafford will just take huddle and never look back. He's just too talented.
The question is will it be this season? I think that depends on a few factors like how will Tereshinski play in a starter's role and how much progress can the true freshman make? I don't think anyone can answer these questions, Not even Mark Richt knows at this time whether Stafford plays or red-shirts until the season starts and the bullets start flying for real.
Saying it's a good year at that position in Florida is actually an understatement. Torrey Davis (Seffner), D'Angelo McCray (Jacksonville), and John Brown (Lakeland) are all five-star recruits and ranked No. 2, 3 and 4 respectively in the country at this position.
Davis, 6-4 and 285 pounds, is extremely athletic for a guy his size. He's taller than John Brown and looks quicker and faster. They may project to play the same position in college but they have different styles. Davis is all speed and quickness where Brown is more about power and leverage. Davis plays a tad high but that will come with more experience. Davis just dominates what's in front of him. He runs things down from the backside and doesn't give up on plays. If Davis loses his feet he gets up and chases the play down. He's got a great frame and long arms and should get in the 320 or so range in a few seasons. Davis is strong, uses his hands well and has terrific footwork. This kid could and should be a dominating force on Saturdays and beyond. He has that much upside and potential.
Brown, 6-1 and 285 pounds, is strong as an ox and moves exceptionally well both laterally and north-south for a big man. He kind of reminds you of a Warren Sapp type defensive tackle. Brown isn't the biggest D-tackle out there but he makes up for it with his dominating play. He is quick off the ball, plays low, uses leverage and can take on a double team and beat them. Brown is just a disruptive force and not too many offensive linemen can handle what he has at this level. He uses is hands pretty well and plays both the run and pass very well.
Davis has committed to Florida, while McCray was committed to the Gators but he has since opened things up and is now considering Florida, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Ole Miss, South Carolina and USC. Brown likes Alabama, LSU, Florida, Florida State and Ole Miss.
These three aren't the only big time defensive tackles in the state. There's more and this group is led by Jacoby Monroe (Jacksonville), Ian Williams (Longwood), Jasper Grimes (Palm Beach Gardens), Linval Joseph (Alachua), Tim Lamb (Tallahassee) and Dontee Nicholls (Pompano Beach). Monroe is the highest rated out of this second group and he has committed to Georgia Tech. He is a four-star recruit and the No. 21 rated d-tackle. The remaining tackles above are all three-star prospects.
As you can see, these are some great prospects at the defensive tackle position from the state of Florida. This state always produces great players but I can't recall a year with this many elite defensive tackles.
What's the deal with all the early verbal commitments? How much of an advantage is it for teams to load up early like Texas?
Larry (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
Early commitments are getting more common with each recruiting season. There are many reasons for them. First, more prospects than ever make earlier and earlier visits to college campuses. These visits are unofficial and many are happening in the spring and summer months. In many cases they coincide with a team's spring football or summer camps. And more than ever these college football summer camps play an intergal part of the recruiting process and make a big impact on a player's decision. A good example of this is Virginia Tech. They are sitting on two dozen commitments and about half participated in their summer camp.
Technology is also playing a factor in early decisions because the communication is better between college coaches and the prospects. There's text messaging now and email. Also, players, their parents and coaches can research schools more effectively because of the power of the Internet and the things you can access. In addition, prospects can track other prospects and what they are doing and thinking in terms of recruiting and they can also track the college football teams and who else they are recruiting.
So, with all that being said, there are more early decisions than ever before. Is that a good thing? Well, yes and no. I am a firm believer that if you know where you want to go to college and you have a scholarship offer then go ahead and make your decision. That's a good thing. Get it done and enjoy your senior year. Another positive out of early commitments from the team perspective is that once you are full or close to getting full (in terms of scholarship numbers), you can concentrate your recruiting efforts on the next's years class.
Lets take Texas for example. They are the reigning National Champions and by June 22 of this year they already had 22 commitments. 17 of those commitments were made by prospects before April 1. That's amazing and almost unheard of. The Longhorns had similar numbers the year before. They fill up early. This allows Texas to get a big jump on everyone else in regards to recruiting for the following season. And in recruiting, being on a prospect first is big because prospects always remember who they got their first letter, call or offer from.
The bad thing about early commitments is that prospects can change their minds. That's okay in my book as long as there are legitimate reasons as to why they want to open things back up. Maybe they made a hasty decision or there was a coaching change. There are many good reasons why prospects do this. At the same time, coaches have to continue to recruit prospects even though they have pledged a commitment to their team. George O'Leary (Central Florida) once told me that he calls this babysitting. You have to continue to recruit because other teams don't quit on prospects. This is a big reason why I am all for a second signing period for football, like they have for basketball but that's a topic for another mailbag.
The early commitment is something that we are seeing more and more of each year and I expect the pace to be even greater next season.
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