Enough talking about Heismans from other schools. What if we talk about a potential Heisman Trophy winner from our school?
I know, I know. It's a long shot. A real, real long shot. But even if you're like me and sort of have a hard time getting excited about the Heisman in general, it would sure be something else if somehow Jeff Tuel or Marquess Wilson were able to wedge their way into the conversation for what is still probably the most prestigious individual award in sports.
The big question is this: What would it take?
I referenced the Heisman Pundit in my Steve Emtman post the other day, and rather than spend a bunch of time talking about what I think it would take, I'm going to build on his work by examining how each guy fits in with his 10 Heismandments, and just what they could do to get on the radar of Heisman voters.
The 10 Heismandments
Chris Huston, a.k.a the Heisman Pundit, has spent an ungodly amount of time studying the Heisman Trophy and the tendencies of voters. It led to him putting together a list of guidelines -- or Heismandments -- that allow you to analyze the legitimacy of anyone's candidacy. Here we go.
1. The winner must be a quarterback, a running back, or a multi-threat athlete. So far so good for Tuel, but not so much for Wilson. He hasn't returned kicks or punts in his career, and that would likely be something he'd need to start doing to get the attention of the voters.
2. Juniors and seniors have the overwhelming advantage in the Heisman race and, as a general rule, will win over an underclassman. But a sophomore from a traditional power who puts up extraordinary single-season numbers can’t be discounted. Again, good news - Tuel is a senior, Wilson a junior.
3. The winner must put up good numbers in big games on TV. OK, this is where it starts to get a little tricky. How would you define "big games"? I think that generally falls under the rule of matchups between ranked opponents, or when an underdog plays a ranked opponent. However, I think Tuel and Wilson have a unique opportunity in front of them: The season-opening game against BYU is on Thursday night, it's on ESPN, and it's the only game at that time. It's not ideal that the game is going to start after 10 p.m. on the east coast, but there will be plenty of curious football writers who will be staying up late to watch Mike Leach's return to football. And if Tuel or Wilson light it up, they'll get plenty of play the next day on SportsCenter. In that sense, if this thing has any chance of getting off the ground, these guys will need a huge performance in that first game. If that happens, and if the Cougs can avoid stubbing their toes against Eastern Washington, UNLV or Colorado, the game in Seattle against Oregon becomes the next opportunity.
4. The winner must have some prior name recognition. The only way to overcome lack of prior name recognition is by producing a season that is head and shoulders above the other challengers. Wellllll ... this is a distinct disadvantage for both of these guys. The best thing is to be very good the year before, so that people recognize you out of the gate. While Wilson has been a beast for two years, he's still pretty much only known to hardcore fans and writers. To overcome it, we're probably talking about needing a 5,000-yard/40 TD season from Tuel or a 1,500-yard season from Wilson.
5. The winner must be one or more of the following three: a) The top player on a national title contender; b) A player who puts up good numbers for a traditional power that has a good record; or c) A player who puts up superlative single-season or career numbers on a good team, or numbers that are way out ahead of his Heisman competitors. Well, it's unlikely that WSU will be a title contender, and WSU is not a traditional power, so we're back to stats. It's possible, but it's going to take something really huge.
6. The winner cannot be considered an obvious product of his team’s system. Well, booooooooooooooooo. This is, by far, the biggest hurdle Tuel and Wilson would have to overcome. On the one hand, they need crazy big numbers. On the other hand, crazy big numbers are likely to be attributed to the Air Raid. So, they're likely between a rock and a hard place -- Graham Harrell finished fourth in 2008 after throwing for 5,111 yards and 45 TDs. And fourth place makes it sound better than it actually was, considering he was more than 1,500 points behind the winner, Sam Bradford. You'll note that Bradford was a product of his system, but A) his system didn't have a catchy name like "Air Raid," and B) he gets a boost from meeting some of the previous criteria. If Tuel is going to break this stigma, it's likely going to be have to be by doing something like rushing for a whole mess of yards, too.
7. If you are a quarterback, running back or multi-purpose athlete at one of the following schools, you have a good chance to win if you have a very good statistical season, are an upperclassmen and your team wins at least 9 games: Notre Dame, USC, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan, Miami, Florida and Florida State. Yeah, no.
8. Statistical benchmarks exist for each position to help voters gauge a player’s ‘Heisman worthiness’. A passing quarterback who is NOT on a traditional power or national title contender, must produce a season that is considered to be statistically above-and-beyond that of his competitors, preferably breaking both single-season and career NCAA records. In case you're wondering, the single season record for passing yards is 5,833, set by Texas Tech QB B.J. Symonds in 2003. He finished 10th in the voting that year ... one spot behind some Miami of Ohio QB named Ben Roethlisberger. Tuel likely would have to do something crazy, like throw for 6,000 yards to truly get the voters to take him seriously. A multi-purpose athlete can only win by producing spectacular plays on special teams, specifically kick and punt returns. Again, Wilson's going to have to return some kicks. And that probably isn't going to happen.
9. There will never be another two-time Heisman winner. Not something we have to worry about!
10. The winner must be likeable. Honestly, that won't be an issue with Tuel if he ends up in the spotlight. Wilson? He's quieter. I'm not sure how he'd be.
So there you have it. In a nutshell, this is what it comes down to: Both are long shots, but Wilson is longer than Tuel. If Tuel's going to become a serious candidate, he's going to need to start with a big game against BYU, and probably follow it up with another big game against Oregon. In the end, he's going to need to threaten the single-season passing yardage record, and probably add some "multi-threat" stats on top of it to show he's not just a product of the system. And WSU needs to win some games.
What do you think? Do either of these guys have a prayer of getting themselves in the Heisman Trophy conversation at any point this year?