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Wednesday, August 1
Updated: August 15, 4:23 PM ET
Offense usually steals the show -- and the Heisman

By Joe Wojciechowski

Want to win the Heisman Trophy? Play offense.

It's almost that simple. While there may be some great defensive players, very rarely do they even snag a vote for the beloved bronze statue. Instead, it's the glamour positions of quarterback, running back and wide receiver that have won 63 of the 66 Heismans.

A simple way to look at it? Think of a rock and roll band. The lineman and defense are the bass players and drummers. The QBs, running backs and receivers are the lead guitarists and singers. Quick, who do you watch at a concert?

While a defensive player may sneak in to the Heisman race, here are the likely candidates, by position, to be sitting at the Downtown Athletic Club in November.


Eric Crouch
Eric Crouch, Nebraska
Key stats: 80-169, 1,192 yds., 13 TDs, 8 Ints
Rushing: 185 att. 1,063 yds., 5.7 ave. 22 TDs

Crouch spent the summer recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and maybe that explains why he struggled passing the ball last season. A dangerous threat to go the distance every time he runs with the ball, passing has always been his weakest link. If he can throw the ball a little better, he'll keep the Huskers in title contention and likely land himself a trip to New York. If not? Good-bye.

Woodrow Dantzler
Woodrow Dantzler, Clemson
Key stats: Passing: 137-244, 1,871 yds., 11 TDs, 7 Ints
Rushing: 190 att., 1,028 yds, 5.4 ave., 13 TDs.

Dantzler was well on his way to becoming the first player to rush for 1,000 yards and throw for 2,000 in the same season before a knee injury limited his availability late in the season. This year, there should be no stopping him. Dantzler is about as close as there is to Michael Vick this season and should he shine in big games against FSU and at Georgia Tech, he could become the favorite to win the Heisman.

Ken Dorsey
Ken Dorsey, Miami
Key stats: 210-362, 3,007 yds. 28 TDs, 7 Ints
At 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, Dorsey is build more like a shooting guard than an elite QB, but what he lacks in bulk he makes up for in brains. He always seems to make the right decision and rarely gets flustered in the pocket. His 4-to-1 TD to interception ratio backs that up. He won't have Santana Moss or Reggie Wayne to fall back on this season, but Dorsey is more than good enough to keep the Canes potent offense storming along.

Joey Harrington
Joey Harrington, Oregon
Passing: 214-405, 2,967 yds., 22 TDs, 14 Ints
Rushing: 66 att., 124 yds., 7 TDs.

The billboard outside Madison Square Garden wasn't necessary to make Heisman voters aware of Harrington. Harrington led the Pac-10 in TDs and almost reached the 3,000 yard mark last year. He led the Ducks to a share of the Pac-10 title last year and could lead them to a BCS bowl this season.

Chris Simms
Chris Simms, Texas
Key stats: 84-150, 1,309 yards, 8 TDs, 11 Ints
Simms may scoff at the notion of being listed as a Heisman candidate. Heck, it is a little wild a guy who only threw 150 passes last year and had more interceptions than TDs is regarded as one of the best. But just watch him. There's a presence there. Combine this with one of the best groups of receivers in the country (pay no attention to last year's Holiday Bowl) and you have the recipe for a monster year. If Texas is to compete for the National Championship, it's Simms who will guide them there.

Keep an eye on
Name Key stats Why to watch
George Godsey, Ga. Tech 3,083 yds. 23 TDs If Godsey leads Tech to win at FSU Sept. 15, he'll be on everyone's short list.
Kurt Kittner, Illinois 1,982 yds, 18 TDs Those numbers will improve with the return of WR Brandon Lloyd.
Carson Palmer, USC 2,914 yds., 16 TDs Should be much better working with new coordinator and QB guru Norm Chow.
Philip Rivers, N.C. State 3,364 yds. 27 TDs ACC Rookie of the Year out to prove last year wasn't a fluke.
Jonathan Smith, Oregon St. 2,773 yds. 20 TDs Not big. Not flashy. Just very, very effective.
Jason Thomas, UNLV Pass: 1,925 yds., 17 TDs; Rush: 631 yds., 11 TDs Most exiting show in Vegas since Siegfried and Roy.

Running Backs

Damien Anderson
Damien Anderson, Northwestern
Key stats: 311 att., 2,063 yds. 6.6 ave., 23 TDs
Anderson finished fifth in the Heisman voting last season, but if he repeats last year's success, here's guessing he'll finish much higher this season. Anderson was second in the country in rushing and his 1,549 in conference games is a Big Ten record. The main attraction of the Wildcats' high-powered offense, he worked even harder in the offseason to improve. His decision to blow off the NFL for one more season at Northwestern could pay off with a trip to New York.

TJ Duckett
T.J. Duckett, Michigan State
Key stats: 240 att., 1,353 yds., 5.6 ave., 7 TDs
While Duckett did disappear at times for the Spartans last season, he showed enough to be mentioned as one of the best in the Big Ten and the country. At 6-foot-1, 252 pounds, he can run over defenders, yet is quick enough to run by them as well. Duckett finally seems to be comfortable as a running back and should challenge Anderson for the Big Ten rushing title.

Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson, Georgia Southern
Key stats: 338 att., 2,040 yds., 6.0 ave. 20 TDs.
OK, as anyone who has checked out Peterson's web site ( can tell you, his numbers are amazing. Peterson has rushed for at least 100 yards in 43 straight games, including 31 straight regular season games, which ties the NCAA record held by Archie Griffin. He's out of the spotlight playing at I-AA Georgia Southern, but if he keeps breaking the 100-yard mark and leads the Eagles to a third consecutive national championship, he could sneak on some Heisman voter cards.

Ken Simonton
Ken Simonton, Oregon State
Key stats: 284 att., 1,559 yds., 5.5 ave., 19 TDs
The only Pac-10 player to rush for over 1,000 yards as a freshman, sophomore and junior may be in for his best season as a senior. Simonton, who has gone from 1,028 to 1,486 to 1,559, has helped build the Beavers into a Pac-10 powerhouse. A Fiesta Bowl thumping of Notre Dame put Simonton and Oregon State on the national landscape and a repeat effort could put Simonton at the Downtown Athletic Club.

Lee Suggs
Lee Suggs, Virginia Tech
Key stats: 242 att., 1,280 yds., 5.3 ave., 30 TDs
Yes, that is right -- 30 TDs. The fact Suggs scored that many TDs and isn't a household names shows just how big of shadow Michael Vick cast last year in Blacksburg. This season, it will be up to Suggs to make the Hokies offense click. Suggs, who idolized Terrell Davis, is a mini-TD. He hits the hole quick and if he can't make the man miss, has no problem running him over. If Suggs has a big game against Miami, he may be able to do one thing Vick couldn't do last year - bring a Heisman back to Virginia Tech.

Keep an eye on
Name Key stats Why to watch
Cedric Cobbs, Arkansas 291 yds., 4 TDs Shoulder injury ended last season, but may be best back in SEC.
DeShaun Foster, UCLA 1,037 yds., 12 TDs Injuries slowed him down last year, but one of Pac-10's best.
Maurice Morris, Oregon 1,188 yds., 8 TDs Morris may be the key to the Ducks reaching a BCS bowl.
Deonce Whitaker, San Jose St. 1,577 yds., 15 TDs Averaged seven yards a carry. That's impressive no matter what league you're in.

Wide Receivers

Antonio Bryant
Antonio Bryant, Pittsburgh
Key stats: 73 rec., 1,453 yds., 20.0 ave., 13 TDs
Bryant, last year's Biletnikoff Award winner, has had his share of the off the field problems, but there is no denying his talent on the field. If he can stay out of trouble - and that is not a sure thing - he could be among the nation's best.

Kelly Campbell
Kelly Campbell, Georgia Tech
Key stats: 64 rec., 994 yds., 15.5 ave., 10 TDs
Back to back seasons of 10 TDs shows just how dangerous Campbell can be. With the development of Godsey - and Tech as an offensive team - those numbers could rise. If Campbell wants to be a legitimate contender, though, he'll need a huge game Sept. 15 at Florida State.

Jabar Gaffney
Jabar Gaffney, Florida
Key stats: 78 rec., 1,259 yds., 16.1 ave., 14 TDs
Gaffney burst on the scene in with his game-winning catch to knock off arch-rival Tennessee and didn't slow down. As the season progressed last year, he became the best receiver in the SEC. With a year under his belt, the sophomore should be even better this season.

Ron Johnson
Ron Johnson, Minnesota
Key stats: 61 rec., 1,125 yds., 18.4 ave., 11 TDs
Johnson burst on the national scene last year with three consecutive 100-yard games, including two in wins over Penn State and Ohio State. He finished with five 100-plus yard games and with his combination of size and speed, he may just be the most dangerous receiver in the Big Ten.

Roy Willimas
Roy Williams, Texas
Key stats: 42 rec., 809 yds., 20.2 ave., 8 TDs
Mel Kiper calls him the best player in college football and he may be right. His 20.2 yard per catch average is simply obscene. With Chris Simms at the helm, he should easily break the 1,000 yard mark. If he can make the plays he made last season -- with the exception of the Holiday Bowl -- he might just make Kiper's pick the right one.

Keep an eye on
Name Key stats Why to watch
Andre Davis, Virginia Tech 388 yds., 2 TDs Another Hokie who will emerge from the shadow of Michael Vick.
Kareem Kelly, USC 795 yds., 4 TDs Watch his numbers grow in USC's new high powered offense.
Aaron Lockett, Kansas State 606 yds., 2 TDs Gifted punt returner now the main receiving threat for Wildcats.
Josh Reed, LSU 1,223 yds., 11 TDs Able to turn short passes into big plays.

Joe Wojciechowski is college football editor at He can be reached at

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