Crouch a Terrible Choice for Heisman
When the four finalists for the 2001 Heisman were announced, I was disappointed by who was left off the squad, as well as who was left on it.
With the athletic brilliance of Antwaan Randle El permanently ingrained into the memory of any player, coach, fan, or media member who had watched him for more than 15 seconds of ESPN highlights, I, and I'm sure, he, felt robbed of his absence from this, almost holy, list.
Eric Crouch is a pure option quarterback in a pure option system that heavily relies on the speed of their backs and the power and explosiveness of their offensive line. The offense doesn't ask the quarterback to throw the ball very often, and when it did, Crouch failed at least as often as he succeeded.
He was a wonderful spectacle as a runner. With 1,115 yards rushing, Nebraska had a potentially NFL able running back operating at signal caller. Defensive coordinators were quoted in the past telling their defenses to force the ball out of Crouch's hands and into the running back's - not because of the obvious turnover possibility whenever the ball is "optioned," but because Crouch was simply a more dangerous runner.
But the ability to run on defenses who, in most cases, were blown off the line 5 yards by the blocking of Nebraska's mammoth offensive linemen, shouldn't win you the Heisman Award. Not when you lose on national television by nearly 4 touchdowns. Granted, Crouch wasn't on the defense that surrendered nearly 400 yards rushing and 7 rushing touchdowns.
Instead, he was the amazing runner who led the Huskers with 162 yards rushing on 18 carries, including 2 touchdowns.
Of course, he was also the passer that threw 2 interceptions and zero touchdowns in that pivotal contest - the contest that kept Nebraska out of the Rose Bowl.
But throwing more interceptions than touchdowns wasn't uncommon for Crouch. In fact, he threw more interceptions than touchdowns in a full half of Nebraska's games this season. For the year, he threw 10 interceptions, and only 7 touchdowns.
At this point, you're probably thinking that I am completely infatuated with passing statistics.
You are wrong.
It is not my opinion that Rex Grossman should have won the Heisman, despite his gaudy statistics, and the fact that his statistics would have been even more glorious had he played in more than a handful of blowout 4th quarters. He was the quarterback on a team that lost 2 games - 2 games against the only real competition they faced all season long.
Furthermore, it is not my opinion that Ken Dorsey should have won the Heisman. He is surrounded by more NFL talent than he will be on when he reaches the NFL. He should have gone undefeated. And if winning the Heisman was more important to Coach Larry Coker than winning the National Championship, I'm sure the team would have neglected their awesome running game to focus more on padding Dorsey's statistics.
If I was infatuated with nothing but passing numbers and wins, I would be touting Oregon's Joey Harrington. But, living on the West Coast, I realize the uselessness of praising his great numbers, BCS berth, and the fact that no team drops lower in the polls than the Ducks if they don't have their Heisman finalist. How else to excuse the lack of top three votes for a player whose combination of stats, wins, and value to his team is better than any of the other finalists?
Thus, I guess what I am essentially asking for is what was the basis for Crouch's victory? If you tell me is the best overall player, you're flat wrong. Randle El would have run for at least 1,500 yards in that offense, passed for over 2,000 yards, and thrown twice as many touchdowns as interceptions. Then, if for no other reason than to amuse us during Bid Red blowouts, he could return kicks and take a few snaps at wide receiver.
Hell, maybe he could have played some safety and stopped the Colorado running attack, too.
Crouch winning the Heisman is roughly the equivalent of handing Brigham Young University a spot in the Rose Bowl before their embarrassing national television loss to Hawaii.
Maybe we should forget the team was blown out in their last game of the season. A game where they were supposed to show to the national audience their collective "all-around" skill.
The Heisman voters apparently forgot how "all-around" successful Eric Crouch was in his last game.
Injuries, Lack of Consistency Hurting Blue Chippers
This season, more so than in the past, has seen a dramatic number of its more highly touted prospect fall down the board due to injury or consistency concerns. For example, John Henderson was nearly universally seen as the draft's best prospect 3 months ago, but he has battled nagging pain all season long, and though still a super blue chip prospect, he has almost surely lost his once vice-like grip on the #1 spot. Henderson isn't the only, however. Jashon Sykes' terrible neck injury has dropped him from being the most highly touted outside linebacker and a sure 1st rounder, to perhaps ending his football career. Similarly, Lee Suggs, the most NFL ready of this year's running backs, was lost early on to a devastating knee injury. If Lee Suggs wasn't at the top of your running back list, Cedric Cobbs probably was. However, Cobbs has been slow to regain his freshman form, and though his play has improved lately, he still is only third on the team in rushing yards. The list goes on and on.
Injuries aren't the only thing dropping the mighty, however. A lack of consistency, or a failure to improve upon careers of huge potential has also seen a dramatic rise. Take, UNLV's Jason Thomas, for example. He entered this season as one of the more highly touted NFL prospects in the land, and a favorite by some notable "experts" for the Heisman. He struggled mightily with changes to the UNLV offense, and has only recently been able to show the form that had many clamoring for him as a future 1st round pick. Purdue's Tim Stratton was considered an easy 2nd round choice last year by many, but without Drew Brees virtually handing him the ball, he has struggled to the point, where some teams have taken him off their boards. Likewise, Damien Anderson of Northwestern was once seen as a Heisman favorite and a top 5 running back, but his senior season has been a huge disappointment, even before he recently was lost for the season with a bum shoulder. Even Kalimba Edwards, thought by many (including myself) to be the top outside linebacker prospect in the country, has had a troubling senior season. Never a player blessed with great instincts, Edwards made his name on pure athletic ability. The hope, however, was that with more experience, Edwards' play on the outside would improve. That hasn't been the case, however, as he has looked even more confused and hasn't been able to register the big plays he did last season. Many are reversing their original projections and are switching Edwards to defensive end, where he is asked to read the play as often and can just let his athletic ability take over. Even as a pass rusher, however, he hasn't been nearly as effective in 2001. The key, of course, for NFL teams is to gauge which of these players simply were nicked up all season, or were the focus of every opponents' game plan, and which simply aren't the NFL prospects they once appeared....