Stanford mailbag

Lot’s of Heisman talk this week. Did we fast-forward to Week 11?

James in Tulsa writes: Why are the ESPN commentators hyping Andrew Luck so hard for the Heisman? Who and what makes him the "front-runner" for the Heisman. That's what they keep referring to him as. Is it because he attends Stanford which is a member of the Pac-12? What has Andrew Luck done that Landry Jones hasn’t done? (That's rhetorical). The answer might be “nothing.” Landry has done things that Andrew Luck has not done; like lead his team to a conference championship (against stiffer competition I might add). Landry also won against the Andrew Luck led Stanford Cardinals in the 2009 Sun Bowl. So again I ask, what makes Andrew Luck the Heisman frontrunner?

Kevin Gemmell: James, you can’t ask a rhetorical question and then fire off your own answers and not expect me to respond in kind. For starters, Luck was the runner-up last year. So I’d say that pretty much makes him the favorite by default. He would have been the No. 1 pick in the draft last year, so I think that means he’s kinda good. He’s the shoo-in to be the top pick this year -- so someone out there thinks he’s a pretty talented quarterback. If memory serves, Luck didn’t even play in the Sun Bowl because he broke a finger against Notre Dame in the regular-season finale. But even if he had played, I don’t put much stock into what happened two seasons ago. What was Cam Newton doing two years ago? Let’s stick to this year. He’s 10th in passing efficiency while Jones is 52nd. (By the way, I’m sure Luck would love to be throwing to Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills). Let’s not even bring up the road record. Jones is a fine quarterback. But so far he doesn’t have Heisman-worthy numbers. Luck’s touchdown-to-interception ratio is 8-to-1 while Jones has a ratio of 2-2. So …

TJ in San Francisco writes: Luck's numbers are good, but not jaw-dropping. Do you think he can still win the Heisman at his current pace? I never quite understood the balance between statistics and team record. Toby Gerhart's numbers were vastly superior to Mark Ingram's a couple years back, but Ingram won. People justified it by saying that Stanford was only 8-4 ... but Tim Tebow won it with an 8-4 record.

Kevin Gemmell: And if you figure out how to successfully play the stock market, let me know. I don’t have a Heisman vote, but I’ve worked with several people who do. And their voting principles seem to change with the seasons. As for Luck, well, that depends on the voters and whether they take into account that he plays in a run-first, pro-style system. It’s those qualities that make him an outstanding NFL prospect, but they don’t produce the video game numbers. However, you can play in that kind of system and continue to amaze (see Moore, Kellen). I don’t think Luck has done anything to take him out of the running. Team success, I’m sure, plays an important role in the mind of some voters. But at its core, it’s an individual award. Some players, such as Tebow, are larger than the game and people get so swept up in their accomplishments that it’s almost impossible not to vote for them. I’ve long held the Heisman should be awarded after the bowl season. But so far no one has answered my letters.

Kevin in San Jose writes: Kevin, we've all heard about the three tight ends and how talented they are. However, what about the running backs? We have three guys there who could be starters on most of the teams in the Pac-12. Why don't we use them in more ways? It seems a waste of talent when we only use Stepfan Taylor, who seems like the best overall at reading and shedding blocks, while we still have Anthony Wilkerson who seems the most physically gifted and Tyler Gaffney who has a high motor and really utilizes scrappy gains. Why hasn't Stanford ever had any formations where these three could be on the field at once to pose a triple threat? Do you see any such formations ever happening this year?

Kevin Gemmell: If we’ve seen one thing from the play calling this season it’s that offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and head coach David Shaw like to get creative with the formations. Ask yourself though: Who are you going to take out to create this three-running back formation? Chris Owusu? Zach Ertz? Coby Fleener? All three? Ryan Hewitt? Starting to see the problem? You start sacrificing size and speed and only get speed in return. Yes, they are all very talented, but unless you are splitting them out in slot and wide receiver sets, all of them in the backfield at once is a bit obvious. Can you say 11 men in the box? So, if you’re going to split them out anyway, why not use the tight ends who are taller and create better mismatches or the receivers who run cleaner routes? Taylor is built to run behind a fullback and between tackles, Wilkerson has speed to the outside and Gaffney has great hands out of the backfield. The coaches find ways to use them all. But you’re dead-on in your assessment that Taylor is far more complete than the rest.