Friday, December 13, 2002
On the Mike: Tomlinson's chance
By Mike Diegnan
LaDainian Tomlinson may have missed his opportunity. TCU's 5-foot-11, 217-pound running back needs to rush for 2,000 yards this season to be considered a serious candidate for the Heisman Trophy. With many leading candidates at quarterback, it's highly unlikely a running back will win it.
However, no matter how exciting Michael Vick is or how much NFL scouts drool over Drew Brees' arm and brain, there are flaws with every candidate. Because of that, there is a slight opening for a record-breaking back.
That's why Tomlinson and TCU are taking their shot with a mega-hyped campaign. The only problem is that LT stalled a bit against Arkansas State this past weekend. He needs to average 182 yards a game to reach the 2,000 mark; he finished with 140 on 23 carries.
But forget the numbers for a second. Five weeks into the season, it is time to take a closer look at the Heisman race and what the chances are for the kid from Waco.
Here's a few factors to consider:
The Heisman race
1. Michael Vick, Virginia Tech QB
Last week: Off
Season: 26-44-412, 4 TD, 1 int.; rush: 25-219, 3 TD
This week: at Boston College
Comment: The good news is that Va. Tech doesn't have another bye until mid-November.
2. Drew Brees, Purdue QB
Last week:33-49-409, 2 TD; rush: 12-88, 1 TD
Season: 103-159-1363, 9 TD, 2 int.; rush: 28-170, 3 TD
This week: at Penn State
Comment: Brees jumped back into the race with a huge game against Minnesota. There's no doubt that he will be Vick's main challenger.
3. Eric Crouch, Nebraska QB
Last week: 10-13-159, 5 TD; rush: 12-93
Season: 21-38-329, 6 TD, 3 int.; rush: 36-230, 6 TD
This week: Missouri
Comment: Crouch showed he can do it by air against Iowa, but would those passes really work against K-State's secondary?
4. LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU RB
Last week: 23-140, 2 TD
Season: 86-559, 5 TD
This week: at Navy
Comment: The Tailgate scandal had renewed focus. Was it preceding TCU's visit to the Naval Academy?
5. (tie) Woody Dantzler, Clemson QB
Last week: 15-24-154, 1 TD, 1 int.; rush: 18-220, 2 TD
Season: 52-79-691, 7 TD; rush: 58-495, 5 TD
This week: at Duke
Comment: If Dantzler only had the preseason Heisman pub. that Vick had ...
5. (tie) Chris Weinke, Florida St. QB
Last week: 18-29-221, 1 TD, 3 int.
Season: 87-139-1244, 9 TD, 3 int.
This week: at Maryland (Thurs.)
Comment: After the Terps, Weinke will get his first real challenge with Miami's secondary.
7. Anthony Thomas, Mich. RB
Last week: 35-228, 2 TD
Season: 96-649, 6 TD
This week: Wisconsin
Comment: While Thomas is challenging Tomlinson as the top running back in the nation, he could lose votes to the nation's top receiver/teammate David Terrell.
8. M. Tuiasosopo, Wash. QB
Last week: Off
Season: 49-90-646, 3 TD, 5 int.; rush: 43-168, 2 TD
This week: at Oregon
Comment: Will Oregon remember his 17-21 day last year in Seattle?
9. Rudi Johnson, Auburn RB
Last week: 23-110, 1 TD
Season: 115-588, 7 TD
This week: Vanderbilt
Comment: Four straight 100-yard games for the first-year Tiger.
10. Freddie Mitchell, UCLA WR
Last week: 6-158, 1 TD
Season: 26-444, 3 TD
This week: Arizona State
Comment: The Bruins went belly-up in Eugene, but Mitchell is still one of the nation's top threats.
DeShaun Foster, UCLA RB
Comment: While Mitchell performed, Foster (19-49) failed to make the trip to Eugene and the Bruins dropped out of the Top 10.
Deuce McAllister, Mississippi RB
Comment: The Deuce may be the NFL's top prospect, but he's got a long way's to go if he wants to be in New York in December.
Seven players have rushed for more than 2,000 yards in a season (former Iowa State tailback Troy Davis is the only one to have done it twice). Of those seven, just two players did not take home the bronzed trophy: Davis and Texas Tech's Byron Hanspard.
Marcus Allen (1981), Mike Rozier ('83), Barry Sanders ('88), Rashaan Salaam ('94) and Ricky Williams ('98) are all decorated on the walls of the Downtown Athletic Club because of their 2,000-yard seasons.
In 1995, Davis finished fifth in the Heisman voting after rushing for 2,010 yards. He was held back by a 3-8 Cyclones team. The following season, few remember how close Davis was to winning the Heisman for the 2-9 Cyclones. He finished second after rushing for the third-highest total in NCAA history with 2,185 yards. That same fall, Hanspard broke the 2,000-yard barrier for 7-5 Tech.
This is the No. 1 reason Tomlinson will be ignored. Not one ranked opponent is on the Horned Frogs' schedule. TCU's toughest games this year are against Northwestern -- the 'Cats did beat Wisconsin -- and Fresno State. Even if the Horned Frogs go undefeated this year, it will be difficult for TCU to crack the Top 10, severely hampering his cause.
Then again, this is why Tomlison could win it. There are a number of games when he can run up the yardage like last year's 406-yard effort against UTEP. Three of his next five games are against teams that rank worse than 100th in the nation in rushing defense (out of 115 teams).
By facing such feeble defenses and averaging nearly 30 carries a game, we should be talking about Tomlinson breaking Barry Sanders' NCAA record of 2,628 yards in 1988, shouldn't we?
With the exception of Andre Ware's 1989 season, you could put every Heisman school on the map for college football. The winners in the last decade, for instance, are Wisconsin, Texas, Michigan, Florida, Ohio State, Colorado, Florida State, Miami and Brigham Young.
The only stretch on that list is BYU, but LaVell Edwards has trotted out too many of the nation's top quarterbacks for the Cougars to be ignored.
Every decade before that is just the same.
The fact is that non-established schools do not get enough recognition despite miraculous feats. San Diego State's Marshall Faulk finished fourth in '93, but he wasn't going to win. Neither was Holy Cross' Gordie Lockbaum in '87.
4. The competition
|LaDainian Tomlinson is expected to be one of the first running backs chosen in the NFL draft.|
All of Tomlinson's competition comes from the necessary big schools, with the exception of Vick, although that is debatable since Va. Tech played for the championship last year.
Vick will win votes simply because he is the nation's most exciting player, but he also faces the schedule factor.
Brees was the other top candidate in the preseason, but the loss to Notre Dame severely hampered his cause.
Chris Weinke has earned serious consideration, but he faces age discrimination.
A factor aiding Tomlinson's cause is that there are no serious candidates in Texas this year. He will have to sway Big XII voters, who have to be impressed with Eric Crouch's legs (6.4 yards per carry), arm (5 TDs vs. Iowa), and heart and desire (to win at Notre Dame).
At running back, Anthony Thomas may have started the season more impressively than LT. The A-Train is quickly moving up the ladder, but his challenge is to not lose votes to Michigan teammate David Terrell.
The fact is that the only opening for Tomlinson is for the TCU back to challenge Sanders' record. He would need to average 259 yards a game to reach that.
Unlikely. Just as his chances are.
Folks in Fort Worth must simply enjoy watching LT for the rest of the year and watch Vick, Brees, Crouch and Weinke battle it out for college football's greatest prize.
Mike Diegnan is the editor of BCSfootball.com.
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