Although serious Heisman talk does not come until the later weeks, the entire season is littered with Heisman predictions, lists, and projections. The players most often regarded as Heisman hopefuls come from two positions: running back and quarterback.
Eight of the last ten and 60 of the 66 (91%) Heisman winners since 1935 have been out of the backfield, which brings us to this season and the quarterback Marshall is promoting as its next Heisman hopeful: Byron Leftwich.
Although Leftwich has not received much serious consideration from the major publications, the Marshall Sports Information department has already begun efforts to promote the junior passer for the award on the internet via Leftwich's Heisman Site. The site offers numerous statistics and other pertinent information on the Herd QB that Heisman voters might wish to know.
The Heisman watch list maintained by ESPN is, not suprisingly, dominated by backfield players. Eight of the eleven being quarterbacks. Although Leftwich's name does not appear on the list, we can compare his stats with the rest of the more recognized field generals from other schools that are getting attention.....
Byron Leftwich, QB, Marshall: After three games, Leftwich is 69-108 for 932 yards with 9 touchdowns and two interceptions. Marshall is 2-1 on the season. Next game: Oct. 6 at Northern Illinois
Ken Dorsey, QB, Miami-Fl: In three games - all victories - Dorsey has completed 53 of 85 passes for 882 yards and 6 touchdowns with 3 INTs. Next game: Oct. 6 versus Troy State
David Carr, QB, Fresno State: In the five games of Fresno State's 5-0 breakout, Carr is 112-of-179 with 1,411 yards and 12 TDs with 2 interceptions. Next game: Oct. 13 at Colorado State
Eric Crouch, QB, Nebraska: Although Nebraska's ball-control offense is based around running the ball and using up the clock, Crouch has been able to connect on 41 of his 67 passes for 633 yards and 4 touchdowns with 3 interceptions. The Huskers are 5-0. Next game: Oct. 6 versus Iowa State
And another QB from the MAC who is not under consideration, but works in front of Heisman Hopeful Chester Taylor:
Tavares Bolden, QB, Toledo: In the Rockets' new spread offense, Bolden is 66-102 for 795 yards and six touchdowns with four interceptions. Next game: Oct. 6 at Ohio
Using a ratings system based upon NFL procedures that provides a passer efficiency percentage rating on the above quarterbacks, we get the following results:
1. Grossman, Florida - 84.24% efficiency
2. Leftwich, Marshall - 73.87% efficiency
3. Carr, Fresno State - 67.75% efficiency
4. Dorsey, Miami - 66.71% efficiency
5. Crouch, Nebraska - 59.78% efficiency
6. Bolden, Toledo - 59.07% efficiency
It is clear that Byron Leftwich is performing at a high level, but the one thing that may be holding him back is a schedule that doesn't stack up to that of many of those who play in larger conferences. Although he had a solid performance in Marshall's season-opener at the then top-ranked Florida Gators in going 27-of-43 for 274 yards and one score with zero interceptions. By no means career bests, but it proved that Leftwich belongs among the NCAA's A-list of quarterbacks and will certainly be a player that voters will be keeping their eyes on.
He is currently on pace to complete 242 of 367 attempts for 3,565 yards. Herd coach Bob Pruett is not afraid to say that Leftwich has what it takes to be the best quarterback in Marshall history. Considering the Herd has had a string of all-conference quarterbacks that lasted from 1987 up until last year, that is a mighty big statement.
Along with the fact that Byron Leftwich is a junior with one more year to play, he will surely be among the nation's elite next year, if not on the guest list in New York in the late fall of 2002.......if not sooner?
Sources: ESPN.com and collegefootball.org