Rule #1: Numbers don’t mean everything. Sure, big numbers are nice but to me they do not tell the complete picture of a player. For example, if an opposing team has to gear their entire defense to stopping one guy, while that player may not put up monster numbers, he opens things up for his teammates and makes his team better. So if a guy you like didn’t make the list and you want to complain, you need something more than “he averaged 0.3 yards per carry more than ________.” Tell me what makes your guy a player.
Rule #2: Wins don’t mean everything. As a general rule, players having great seasons will carry their team to wins. However, outstanding players are not always surrounded by great supporting casts. Under the current system, many truly outstanding players are penalized for a loss that may be no fault of their own. If someone had a monster game in a loss, I won’t necessarily hold that loss against him.
Rule #3: The most deserving candidate probably won’t win. Sure, once in a while the real Heisman voters get it right. But more often than not, they don’t. The current Heisman voting system has gotten so out of whack that the award has basically become a trophy for the Most Photogenic (Preferably White) Skill Position Player on a BCS Top 5 Team. That’s why most of the “expert” Heisman polls still show Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow near the top of the list, despite other players having better years. I don’t think that’s how it should be. With my choices I will try as best I can to judge who are the most outstanding players, regardless of position or BCS standings. This is not my attempt to predict who will win; it’s my belief about who should win.
So with that, here are my three finalists:
#1: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
Very simply, Suh is the most dominant defensive player in a generation. There just aren't enough superlatives to describe this guy. Think about this—as a defensive tackle, Suh still led the Cornhuskers in tackles (good), sacks (impressive) and kicks blocked (uh, say what?). His 11 passes defended would rank him as a top-50 DB (are you freakin’ kidding me?). And yet the numbers only tell half the story, as the double-teams and plays designed to run away from him made the players around him even better (Nebraska finished 9th in total defense and 2nd in scoring defense). His quickness and natural instincts would be impressive for a man half his size. But for somebody who is 6’4” and 300 pounds to be making those kind of plays is downright scary. Unfortunately, Suh’s candidacy is being unfairly brought down by an atrocious Nebraska offense. If the Husker offense was average or even sub-par, as opposed to shockingly atrocious, Nebraska would be in a BCS bowl and possibly getting ready to play Alabama in the title game. While there are a lot of good players in contention for this year’s Heisman, Suh is the only player on the board that we’ll still be talking about 20 years from now.
Suh had 12 tackles, 7 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in the Big 12 Championship Game. That is a Heisman performance.
While his numbers are impressive, what intrigues me most about Keenum is his ability to step up in tough situations. He engineered early season upsets of Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. And, most tellingly, look at his numbers in Houston’s three losses: 1440 yards, 13 TDs and 4 INTs. You certainly can’t pin those losses on Keenum, and he did just about anything anyone could ask of him to keep his team in the games.
#3: Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford
I’m a sucker for a guy who can take their whole team and carry them on his back, and that’s exactly the player Gerhart was this year. Sure, I know Ingram had a higher YPC average (see Rule #1 above), but Gerhart almost singlehandedly willed Stanford to an 8 win season and kept running hard in four tough losses. Most of all, he showed up every week (only one game with less than 80 yards and one game with no scores) and had an eye-popping nine multi-TD games. Without Gerhart, Stanford would be home for the holidays instead of taking on Oklahoma in a bowl game.
Gerhart hopes to be the second sophomore to carry home the Heisman in three years.
Honorable Mention: CJ Spiller, RB, Clemson
It was really hard for me to leave Spiller off the list, as I love his ability to score from anywhere on the field. He’s the stuff of nightmares for opposing defensive and special teams coaches. But in the end I felt that Gerhart had been a more consistent offensive threat throughout the season.
So there you go. The three most outstanding players in college football in 2009. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to post your comments.