It was about a month ago that Georgia Tech quarterbacks and B-backs coach Brian Bohannon told Josh Nesbitt that if he returned and continued to work hard, Nesbitt could put his name “in a spotlight that he never imagined.”
He could, but in order for that to happen, the current perception of what the Heisman Trophy means has to change in 2010. For Nesbitt not to be in the conversation simply because he’s the heart of a run-based offense means the definition of the Heisman Trophy is “out of whack,” Bohannon said.
“I think that’s crazy,” Bohannon said. “The Heisman is defined as being the best player -- it’s not the best thrower, it’s not the best runner, it’s the best player, and who does the most for their team. Truthfully, I think the Heisman has been taken a little bit out of context, because it’s whoever is going to win the national championship, whoever is the best player on their team. I don’t know if it’s truly what it’s supposed to be -- not to take anything away from Mark Ingram or any of those guys, they’re great players -- but I think sometimes it’s who’s on a national championship team or has a chance to play for the national championship. That’s who ends up with the Heisman. I’m not sure that’s what it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be the best player in the country, whether they throw it or run it.”
And Nesbitt, obviously, tends to run it. He broke the school single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 991.
Georgia Tech threw the ball 159 times this year. Only Navy and Air Force made fewer pass attempts. Could the Heisman Trophy winner play for an offense that ranks 115th in the nation in passing offense? Nesbitt is not ranked among the NCAA’s 100 leaders in passing efficiency because it requires a minimum of 15 attempts per game.
But he’s one of the main reasons Georgia Tech is in a BCS bowl, why the Jackets are No. 2 in the country in rushing offense, why they control the time of possession in almost every game, and why Georgia Tech is No. 11 in the country in both scoring offense and total offense.
Passing not required.
“He’s taken this offense on his shoulders,” Bohannon said. “When we needed that 86-yard drive, he was not going to be denied. ... He doesn’t say much, but those other kids, they’re jumping on his back right now.”
Nesbitt’s biggest area of improvement over the past year has been running the option. He has a better understanding of it, and is more mentally prepared for the play at each snap. Bohannon is still looking for a higher completion rate (Nesbitt is at 47.7 percent). Nesbitt has been inconsistent, but when he’s on, he’s on. Nesbitt has been responsible for 37 plays of at least 20 yards, including 29 passes and eight rushing attempts.
Nesbitt enters the FedEx Orange Bowl 9 yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards. He has thrown for 1,689. Entering 2009, 48 players in NCAA history have run and passed for 1,000 yards in the same season. Among quarterbacks, he ranks fifth nationally in rushing (76.2 ypg).
“Shoot, he ran for 1,000 and he threw for 1,000,” said B-back Jonathan Dwyer. “That happens every blue moon. He should’ve been in the race and next year he definitely should be a front-runner for the Heisman.”
Dwyer, though, could steal some of Nesbitt’s votes, should they both be in the mix.
Dwyer will admit this much: his chances at winning the Heisman Trophy in 2010 will play a part in his decision on whether to return next season or jump early to the NFL.
“That would be great to be a Heisman candidate, and most definitely that’s something I will think about,” Dwyer said. “I haven’t made a decision on what I’m going to do. I have no clue where I’m going to be.”
He's paid enough attention, though, to know what it takes to win the coveted award.
“It comes down to your team winning games and you making plays,” Dwyer said. “Individuals can go out there and have some spectacular moments, some Heisman moments, and your team has an opportunity to be a national championship contender, you have a chance to be the Heisman winner. That’s pretty much what it takes. It’s a very tough accomplishment to make.”
And one that will be even tougher for Nesbitt -- depending, of course, on your definition of the Heisman.