Over the last few weeks, I’ve heard more and more talk about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o being a Heisman candidate, even a “front runner” for the award. Both the odds, and history, are not in his favor.
The Heisman trophy is annually awarded to the “most outstanding player in college football.” Or at least, that’s what they say.
Over the years, the Heisman Trophy has been awarded to a quarterback or running back in 73 of the 78 years that it has been awarded. Twice to a tight end, twice to a wide receiver and once to an amazing athlete who played offense, defense and returned punts. Never has it been awarded to a player who played only defense. People often point to Charles Woodson as the lone defensive player to win the award, but that’s not telling the whole story. Woodson had two receiving touchdowns, one rushing touchdown as well a punt return for a touchdown against Ohio State in front of a national audience. In that game, he also had an interception in the end zone. Michigan won 20-13, propelling them to a national championship. Without that performance and his offensive statistics, Woodson doesn’t win the award over Peyton Manning.
Manti Te’o isn’t going to have any offensive touchdowns. He probably isn’t going to have 8 interceptions, as Woodson did, or any punt returns for touchdowns, either. He also isn’t likely to have a signature game like Woodson’s against the Buckeyes.
That’s not to say that Manti Te’o isn’t having a terrific season, because he is. His 10 tackles per game, 5 interceptions and leadership of one of the top defenses in the country are all superb accomplishments. Unfortunately for the senior Hawaiian, they won’t be enough.
In order for a defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy, he is going to need a perfect storm that includes one of the best defensive seasons ever, coupled with poor offensive performances from the top offensive players on the top teams. Te’o doesn’t have either of those things going for him this year.
Guys like Colin Klein (28 total TDs), AJ McCarron (18 TDs, 0 Ints) and Geno Smith (2400 Yds 26 tds 2 Ints) are all having great offensive seasons. Though Smith may be on the outside looking in, remember that RG3 wasn’t on an undefeated team last year when he won the Heisman. Another thing going for all three of those players: they’re quarterbacks.