Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Case for Tashard Choice for Heisman

Georgia Tech had arguably the best wide receiver in the history of the game (Calvin Johnson) and he only managed to finish 10th in the Heisman voting after leading the ACC in receiving. So what are Tashard Choice's chances of winning the big individual prize this season. It's an interesting case study. I would argue that his chances are pretty slim and yet they are certainly greater than Calvin Johnson's chances.

Voting for the Heisman is somewhat of a black box. It's always been a bit mysterious about what is important to voters and what isn't. Let's take a look at some key elements to winning the Heisman. In essence you could categorize each as either "stats, flash and w's".

All winners are upperclassmen. Just a fact. While there have been underclassman as runner-ups, none have take the trophy home................TC is a senior................. check.

Having said that, with more and more players leaving early, the tide seems to be changing. I think the day is coming when an underclassman wins. It's coming.

Most Heisman winners had bigtime hype in prior seasons. If you're the QB at Notre Dame, you've got name recognition. If you finished as runner-up for the Heisman the prior season (Darren McFadden), you've got name recognition.

Does Tashard have it? Not really. He did lead the ACC in rushing last season, but the media generally views the ACC as having a down year last season. TC is known for being Adrian Peterson's backup at Ok, but that's not enough to hang your hat on. Without bigtime name recognition, TC must really excel in other areas - like putting up numbers.

Media types don't treat jerks too well. Just ask Barry Bonds. Good news here - Tashard is not only a likable guy - he's got some spirit to him. He's a talker, but not so much from the Reggie Ball school of smack talk. It's a more friendly, respectful smack............. if smack could be endearing, TC has grasped how to do it. TC also comes across well in an interview. He's understandable and comes across as a "nice young man".

It is VERY hard for a wide receiver to win the Heisman because they are not in control of getting the ball. On top of that, if they do, 5-10 touches a game is "a lot". Running backs and QB's don't have that problem. Tashard ran the ball 21.1 times per game last season. In fact, I think only 4 other rushers in the nation had more carries. He's going to have plenty of chances to prove himself in 2007...................... check

So first you have to get the ball a lot, but then you have to do something with it. Tashard led the ACC in rushing last season and he also averaged a stout 5.0 yards per carry. He had over 100 yards in each of his last 9 games. He led the conference with 1473 total yards. However, that's not going to be good enough. Personally I think he's going to need AT LEAST 2000 yards to win the Heisman. In addition to the yards, TC is going to need about 15-20 TD's. Last season he had 12 and without Calvin to throw fades to, TC show get more opportunities to break the plane.

There's another factor that will be interesting to watch in terms of building up these kind of stats. The "blow-out" factor. There were at least 2 cases last season where Reggie, Calvin and Tashard were basically pulled at halftime because the Jackets put the game away early against inferior opponents. Getting pulled never helps a player's case for the Heisman, and the only way to prevent it from hurting your case is to have about 80-120 yards rushing by halftime. It's shallow, but you've got to pile up the stats. The Jackets have Samford in week 2, Army in week 8 and dare I say it - Duke in week 10. Chan Gailey is not the type guy to let someone pile up the stats and to embarrass an opponent, so this is worth watching.

There is a subset of piling up stats - doing it on national tv and against bigtime opponents. Nothing gets the media attention more than a big game against a big opponent on their HD TV. So with that in mind, Tech will probably end up with most games broadcast on a national or local level. Here are the TV games scheduled so far.

9/1....Notre Dame - NBC
9/8....Samford - ESPNU
9/15..Boston College - ABC
11/1...VaTech - ESPN

I think it's rather obvious which two games are the "big ones" so far. Notre Dame in week one is critical to jumping into the Heisman race and getting into the minds of voters. The Heisman race tends to come down to a group of about 5 players, and you don't play your way into the running late in the season. Breaking out against ND will be key. The VaTech game is the annual Thursday night bash. It's in the ATL and that game may very well decide who plays in the ACC championship from the Coastal Division. There will be other games that will get picked up by TV (UVA, Clemson, MD, UM, UGA) and others that might (Army, Duke, UNC). However Notre Dame and VaTech are key to Tashard having a chance if you ask me.

This is really code for "wins". Very few Heisman winners come from teams outside the top 20. Heck, most come from top 10 teams or better. Some of this is a bias towards typical national powers, but if your team is not a typical power, you better still be winning.

So for Tashard to remain a serious contender, the Jackets really need a strong start to the season and need to probably finish with no more than 2-3 losses.

Ok, this is a slant on being in the national picture. Reality is that most Heisman winners come from the football factories. The last 15 awards have been given to Ohio State (2), USC(3), Oklahoma, Nebraska, FSU(2), UW, Texas, Mich, UM and Colorado. Tell me why Ladainian Tomlinson, while at TCU was the nation's leading rusher, at 170.4 yards per game - and he rarely even got a mention as a Heisman candidate during that season? Tell me also why Brady Quinn was on the cover of every pre-season magazine and mentioned with every breath about the Heisman when he didn't have any level of overwhelming statistical or team success last year? Bottom-line is that it's hard to win from a non-football-factory school.

In fact, over at, they claim a specific heirarchy. There are 9 schools currently considered "traditional powers" -
Notre Dame, USC, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Michigan, Texas, Nebraska, Miami and Florida State. If you come from one of those schools, are a QB, RB, WR, and have a decent statistical season and your team wins about 9 or more games - you're probably going to win the award. Their shining example - Peyton Manning of TN loses the award to Charles Woodson of Mich. However, swap the two and Peyton walks home with the hardware - no question asked.

Georgia Tech is not a football factory, so again, to get into the minds of the national media, Tech must win at Notre Dame. Tashard has to work against the fact that Tech has special limitations as a program that make winning there more difficult than most places. Notre Dame will ALWAYS get attention no matter how terrible they might be. Tech just won't. It must be earned.

QB's and RB's basically dominate this award. They only really do that by getting the time to throw or having holes opened up for them by the faceless giants in front of them. In that respect, TC has a lot going for him. The 2007 O-Line returns 4/5 starters and will be among the best in the ACC. Last season TC averaged 5.0 yards/carry. He didn't do it by himself.

There's another secret weapon that TC has going for him - maybe the best fullback in the nation in Mike Cox. Not only that, a healthy Mike Cox. Last season Cox was never really 100% due to a shoulder injury and still had a major impact. Think of what a healthy Cox leading Choice could mean.

This is a category somewhat linked with "Pile up the stats", but I thought it was worthwhile talking about separately.

Hey, we all know that Joe Hamilton was robbed when Ron Dayne won the Heisman. Simple point of fact (well, for Jacket fans). The fact that Ron Dayne was chasing the all-time collegiate rushing mark that season is what ultimately put him over the top. It didn't really matter that Little Joe had a better individual season. Dayne had an excellent season and it was capped off by breaking a bigtime career record for rushing. Ricky Williams did the same thing the season before and took home the trophy. Break a major collegiate record and you typically take home the hardware.

Unfortunately, there are no big records TC is going to take down, unless you know something I don't.

Lastly, you pretty much have to remain injury free. This is such a fine line as football is nothing but organized chaos. Football is a brutal, violent sport and one wrong turn - one awkward hit - and it's all over. Tashard has proven to be a durable guy and we can only hope and pray that this season is no different.

So will TC win the Heisman in my opinion? He's got a shot, but I just don't see it. There are just too many things that have to go right for it to happen and too many media biases to overcome. Of course I seem to remember a certain season in 1990 where too many things had to go right.............. and they did............ So never say never. While I don't see him winning it, I do see him finishing in the top 10 with a great shot to be in the top 5. And if he wants any real shot at it, he better be in the magical "top 5" early in the season.

Check out this quote from Beano Cook:

"You must either play for Notre Dame or beat Notre Dame to win the Heisman."

Could the storybook be setup any better? Jackets - Irish in week one............Folks, week one is not make-or-break for the Jackets and their season. However, it is make-or-break for Tashard winning the Heisman. If we lose to Notre Dame, he won't win it. It we beat the Irish but he doesn't have a big game, he won't win it. If we win AND he has a big game.......... then he's got a shot...................... "so you're telling me there's a chance!"........

Either way, win or lose, there is just so much to look forward to as a Jacket fan. It's going to be an exciting season for TC, his mates and fans alike. I can't wait.