Today’s musical question: Is there a single other Heisman Trophy voter in the entire country — besides me — who didn’t include Matt Leinart on his ballot this year or last?
Thank you. Thank you very much.
Leinart is a swell quarterback, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that every time he drops back to pass, it seems like he’s posing for the Heisman; the Southern Cal offensive line gives him that much time. He stands there looking … looking … looking, reading the defense the way most of us read a menu. “What’ll it be tonight?” he appears to be thinking. “Prime rib [Reggie Bush], lobster thermidor [Dwayne Jarrett], veal scallopini [LenDale White] or chicken cordon bleu [Steve Smith]?”
But the biggest reason I didn’t vote for Leinart this year is that he broke one of the cardinal rules: If you want to become just the second player to win back-to-back Heismans, your numbers can’t go down your senior season. (Unless, of course, you’re Archie Griffin. Then it’s OK.)
I also didn’t vote for any defensive players for the second year in a row, which is unusual for me. Unfortunately, nobody jumped out. Louisville pass rusher Elvis Dumervil led the nation with 19 sacks and 10 forced fumbles, but none of those sacks came in the last three games (and only four came in the last six games).
The Heisman is for closers, baby. You finished first in the country in two statistical categories? Big deal. You project as a high NFL draft pick? Who cares? You wanna win the Heisman — close! A-B-C. Always be closing.
Sorry, folks. Didn’t mean to go “Glengarry Glen Ross” on you.
Two other players I didn’t vote for: Notre Dame’s Jeff Samardzija and UCLA’s Maurice Drew. Aside from his 15 touchdowns — he scored in 10 of the Irish’s 11 games — I love Samardzija because, well, he’s the first Notre Dame receiver I’ve ever seen who looks like a Surfer Dude. Is he or is he not a dead ringer for Jeff Spicoli in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High?” I keep waiting for him to tell a sideline reporter, “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.”
As for Drew, the guy averaged 29.1 yards a punt return. Heck, only five kickoff returners averaged more than that (one of them just barely). He also had 900 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. Still, it wasn’t quite enough to carve out a spot on my ballot.
Without further ado, then, here are the three who made the cut, in ascending order:
3. Brady Quinn, quarterback, Notre Dame — He’s as responsible as any of the Irish for returning the program to the nation’s elite (except in the mind of the coach at South Carolina, some fellow named Spurrier, who ranked ND a mere 14th in the latest USA Today poll). Quinn’s stats were about the same as Drew Olson’s at UCLA, but unlike Olson he didn’t lose two of his final three games by scores of 52-14 (to Arizona) and 66-19 (to USC). (Once more with feeling: Always … be … closing.) What we won’t know until he turns pro is: Is he the Real Thing or primarily a Charlie Weis creation?
2. Reggie Bush, running back, Southern Cal — Everybody keeps comparing Bush to Marshall Faulk. I’ve got another speedy, slippery runner in mind: Greg Pruitt. Pruitt’s ‘71 season at Oklahoma (178 carries, 1,665 yards, 17 touchdowns, 9.4-yard rushing average) was almost identical to Bush’s ‘05 (187, 1,693, 15, 8.9). And Greg, I’ll just point out, came in third in the Heisman voting that year (behind Auburn’s Pat Sullivan and Cornell’s Ed Marinaro).
Something else to consider: Bush’s per-carry average is the best in major college football by more than 2 yards. But … the second-highest average among 1,000-yard backs, 6.7, was put up by his USC teammate, White — which tells you something about the proficiency of the Trojans’ offense. If Bush wins the statuette, he should give one limb to Leinart, one to LenDale, one to Jarrett and Smith and one to his line. He can keep the rest.
1. Vince Young, quarterback, Texas — Sorry, but any QB who can complete 25 of 29 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns (as Young did the first time around against Colorado) and rush for 267 yards and two scores (as he did against Oklahoma State) deserves the Heisman on the basis of those two games alone. Young also averaged nearly a first down every time he threw the ball — 9.72 yards an attempt, tops in the country. And from what I understand, his team is undefeated and headed to the Rose Bowl to play USC for the national championship.
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