A Little Award Called the Heisman
By Greg Kehr, 6/29/00

The call itself is still a little more than five months away. But in a few short months, the competition will begin for not only college football’s national championship, but also the piece of hardware that signifies supremacy on an individual level, the Heisman Trophy. It is never too early to talk about college football. It’s also never too early to talk about who may set the gridiron on fire come September.

We start with the obvious, Kenny Kelly of Miami, oh wait…he isn’t playing. Poor Kenny, we’ll miss you at the Downtown Athletic Club in December. Seriously, Mr. Kelly would’ve been nowhere near this list. I just felt a sudden urge to rip into the Miami Hurricanes. WE’RE BAACK!!

Yeah, we’ll see.

Anyway, the real favorite, and this should come as no surprise, is Michael Vick. Well, he’s my favorite at least. Everyone knows, whether you are a Hokie fan or not, that Michael Vick will be Mr. College Football this season (as long as the Colorado Rockies don’t get their claws into him). I may be biased, but he was Mr. College Football last year. The guy wins an ESPY, finishes an un-just third in the Heisman, and leads college football fans of all shapes and sizes on a thrill ride you can’t even get at Six Flags Great Adventure.

Michael Vick single-handedly made college football an extremely HOT commodity. It was smokin’ before he got to Tech, but now the entire nation is lined up to get a look at the kid. That is good news for Virginia Tech and its fans. I won’t run down what Michael brings to the table because a) I don’t have enough room and b) all of you reading along already know what he brings. He threw for over 2,000 yards on only 105 passes, including 13 touchdowns and only 5 picks. He also ran for almost 700 yards and scored 9 touchdowns on the ground. His quarterback rating was off the charts…oh, wait a minute; I wasn’t going to talk about Michael. Ok, we’ll move on to some other Heisman Hopefuls.

Drew Brees, QB, Purdue: Brees is going to be the other pre-season front runner with Michael Vick. The reason is simple: he was, along with Michael, a finalist last year, and returns for his senior year. If you are a finalist as a junior and elect to return for your senior season, you are automatically in the running come September. What you do the rest of the way is up to you, but you begin on top of the mountain.

Brees, who threw for over 3,900 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, could have some issues this year that he hasn’t had to deal with in quite some time. First off, his receivers are a little different than last year's, when he went off. Vinny Sutherland is back, but his main threat last season, Chris Daniels, is gone. Brees will need to develop confidence in Sutherland if he looks to throw all over the field like a season ago.

Other questions are who he hands the ball to (when he does hand it off) and what they can expect on the defensive side of the ball. Brees has loads of talent, but he’ll need help from his team when they get into the Big Ten schedule.

Eric Crouch, QB, Nebraska: Crouch may or may not make a lot of lists. The reason he may not, to me, is simple: incredible talent surrounds him. Don’t get me wrong, he is a dynamo running the option out in Lincoln, but with a guy like Dan Alexander running behind you, not to mention the defense that Frank Solich has put together, writers and prognosticators may chose to not mention him in the upper echelon just yet.

He did have off-season surgery on his shoulder, but if it’s healed, trust me, by the end of the year, Eric Crouch will have made all the necessary moves to be in the running for Heisman consideration. The guy threw for over 1,400 yards last year and ran for almost a thousand more. He scored 16 touchdowns with his feet, not his arm, and that was tops on the team. Nebraska gave the Hokies all they wanted in the worry department in the BCS race down the stretch, and reason number one was Eric Crouch. Be wary of this guy, he may surprise a lot of people outside the Nebraska state lines.

Marques Tuiasosopo, QB, Washington: The name of the Washington Huskies quarterback may be hard to look at, but his game is not. Up in the great Northwest, the city of Seattle has quite an athlete on their hands.

After our golden boy Michael Vick, Marques is quite possibly the most complete player in college football. Last season he amassed decent numbers with 2,418 passing yards and 571 more on the ground. He accounted for 13 touchdown passes and ran for six more. A little erratic in the throwing department, his 12 interceptions were probably a few more that he should have had, a product of trying to do too much.

Tuiasosopo has the kind of talent that can win him the Heisman, but he needs a stellar season from beginning to end. If he starts slow or finishes lousy, he’ll lose out to the higher profile guys like Vick and Brees.

Ladainian Tomlinson, RB, Texas Christian: The only running back in the group, this guy is another that will make you look twice at the roster. Not just because of his name, but because of his stats. Last year, and many may not know this, he led the country in rushing yards. This Horned Frog from Texas Christian ran roughshod over the WAC and should probably do the same this year.

A year ago, he ran for 1,974 yards and rushed for 20 touchdowns. Not too shabby. The problem with last year was he was up against Ron Dayne and Thomas Jones, two guys who played in much better conferences. This year, he may be the cream of the running back crop again, but that may not matter since all the talk will center on quarterbacks. Look out though, if he strings together some games with eye-popping numbers and the big guns falter, he could be on his way to the Big Apple following Thanksgiving break.

Those were my top five, four quarterbacks and a running back. But let me take a look at a few other guys who could play themselves into a finalist seat when all is said and done.

Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State: I know, I hate to do it. All I can remember of the Minnesota boy is the image of him talking trash to our Hokies after the Peter Warrick circus catch in the Sugar Bowl. A much-maligned player, it still pains me to see him so fired up after that play. I recall wanting to go down and slap him silly after he taunted our sideline, but unfortunately, that play was the dagger and he knew it. I don’t see him winning the Heisman; I don’t even see him as a finalist really. But after watching him in person, knowing that he is older and more mature than everybody he’ll play against, and the leader of the returning national champions, it’s hard to discount the possibility that he’ll be around in the end. If the ‘Noles are around at the end, it’s going to be because of Weinke.

Kurt Kittner, QB, Illinois: Most of you just went, "Who?!" Yeah, the quarterback from Illinois may have started slowly a year ago, but after the numbers he put up and the shellacking his squad put on UVA in their bowl game (I believe it was 63-21, OUCH!), he is for real. He threw for over 2,700 yards and 24 touchdowns. Couple that with only five interceptions, and now you see why the Fighting Illini are ready to go into battle this year with confidence. It won’t help that he plays in the Big Ten, then again maybe it will. Imagine if Drew Brees has some early season difficulties, and then Kittner leads his troops over the Boilermakers when they meet. The country would be still talking about a quarterback from the Big Ten, but it wouldn’t be the same one that started all the talk at the beginning of the season.

Quincy Carter, QB, Georgia: The guy is last, but certainly not least. Down in Athens, Georgia fans think this is the guy who can move the Bulldogs past Florida and Tennessee and right into the BCS. Last year he threw for almost 3,000 yards, had 18 touchdown passes and ran for six more. He is elusive, he is tough and most importantly, he knows what it will take to win in the rough-and-tumble Southeastern Conference. He could be a sleeper or he could be a front runner. A lot depends on what his team does and a lot depends on whether or not the favorites stumble out of the gate.

There you have it. A small, hopefully enlightening list of some possible guys who will be around for the Heisman Trophy announcement come December. Like in past years, the year 2000 could be the year of the quarterback. Guys like Brees, Weinke and Kittner are the classic drop-back passers who can rack up the numbers in a hurry. The guys like Vick, Crouch, Tuiasosopo and Carter are the new breed of quarterback who make plays with their arms, legs, heads, whatever.

We could have a clean sweep of QB’s sitting in the Downtown Athletic Club in early December, or maybe we’ll have some running backs and some defensive guys who came out of nowhere. I don’t claim to be correct with these picks. After all, I’m just a fan gearing up for another great college football season, and watching Michael Vick strike "the pose."

Greg Kehr is a Marketing Coordinator for Empire Sports in New York and writes about Hokie sports from the Northern perspective.


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