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Heisman Hype

Scott Haynes, College Editor

On Campus Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Everyone does it, so why not me? The 2002 season is officially upon us and the presentation of the most coveted piece of hardware (excluding the Sears Trophy) in college football is just months away. Over the course of this season, there will be several players that distinguish themselves worthy of a trip to the Yale Club in New York City in hopes of taking home the Heisman. Handicapping the field before the season starts is hardly an exact science, but here goes:

LEGITIMATE CONTENDERS:

It will be extremely difficult to wrestle the Heisman Trophy away from one of a number of quality quarterbacks this season. That being said, here are the favorites to win the award:

Rex Grossman
Florida's Rex Grossman completed over 65 percent of his passes, for 3,896 yards and 34 TDs.
REX GROSSMAN (2:1) - The runner up a year ago, this Gator completed over 65 percent of his passes, for 3,896 yards and 34 TDs, compared to just 12 interceptions. I know that Spurrier and his fun-and-gun offense is gone, but there is still plenty of talent to throw to in Gainesville, and new head coach Ron Zook will let Grossman do his thing.

BYRON LEFTWICH (3:1) - Can a player from a mid-major take home the Heisman in today's game? It remains to be seen, however, if anyone is going to do it, Leftwich is the man. The prototype NFL quarterback at 6-6, 240-pounds, Leftwich has a cannon for an arm. In 2001, he completed 67 percent of his passes, for 4,132 yards and 38 TDs, with just seven picks. Those numbers were all better than Grossman's, but Leftwich was left out in the cold for the Heisman. A similar year in 2002, may force the voters to let him into the party.

KEN DORSEY (4:1) - He doesn't have the gaudy stats that Grossman and Leftwich have, but what he does have is a national championship under his belt. All Dorsey does is win, as he is 26-1 as a starter for the Hurricanes. Last season, he completed almost 58 percent of his passes, for 2,652 yards and 23 TDs. However, unlike Florida and Marshall, Miami didn't throw the ball all the time, as Clinton Portis and the rest of the backfield got it done on the ground for Miami. Still, even without eye-popping numbers, if the 'Canes can post another perfect season, it will be almost impossible to overlook Dorsey's leadership ability.

CHRIS SIMMS (8:1) - When exactly is the Golden Boy going to win a big game? That could be the deciding factor whether Simms is a legitimate contender this season for the Heisman. He has all the tools to contend for the trophy, but something happens in crucial situations, that has held him back from really busting out. Still, in 2001, he did complete almost 60 percent of his passes, for 2,603 yards and 22 TDs. With the best team he has had in his tenure in Austin, this could be the season Simms puts it all together.

CHRIS RIX (10:1) - A freshman a year ago, Rix was forced into action as the starting quarterback in Tallahassee. Despite the team losing four games on the year, the youngster did put up some impressive numbers. He completed 57.7 percent of his passes, for 2,734 yards and 24 TDs, with just 13 interceptions. He also added 555 yards on the ground, showing good speed in the open field. With one of the nation's most balanced teams in 2002, the sky is the limit for this now savvy sophomore.

ELI MANNING (10:1) - He's got the pedigree, but is downplaying his chances for the Heisman. Eli, son of Archie Manning and brother of Peyton, is just scratching the surface of his enormous talent. Couple that with his humility and it's not hard to root for this guy. As a sophomore in 2001, Manning completed 63.5 percent of his passes, for 2,948 yards and 31 TDs, with just nine interceptions. That was for a team that finished 4-4 in the SEC. Another middle-of-the-pack finish is in the cards for the Rebels this season, but it won't be because of anything Manning does.

CHARLES ROGERS (15:1) - This Spartan is everything that the NFL is looking for in a wide receiver. He is big (6-4), solidly built (205), with enough speed to get open downfield. Last season as a sophomore, Rogers caught 57 balls, for 1,200 yards and 12 TDs, while averaging a whopping 21.1 yards per catch. He is one of the best the non-quarterback crop has to offer this year in the Heisman race and has an outside shot, if his progression continues.

ANTHONY DAVIS (15:1) - Well, Wisconsin has another terror at tailback, this time in Anthony Davis. He got his opportunity in 2001 to carry the Badgers on his shoulders and he didn't disappoint, leading the Big Ten in rushing and ranking third nationally with 1,532 yards. He averaged over five yards per carry (5.3) and scored 11 TDs, for a team that finished with a losing record (5-7).If he continues to chew up yardage at his current pace, not only will the Badgers win some more games, but he could be the surprise contender in November and December.

LONGSHOTS:

Anything can happen in a season. Remember David Carr's run for the Heisman last year? These are the players with the talent to win the Heisman, but would need divine influence to actually take it home.

JASON GESSER (20:1) - Like Carr a year ago, Gesser is on the radar screen in Heisman circles to start the season. The Cougars may be the chic pick this season to vie for a BCS spot. If so, it will come on the passing on Gesser. Last season, he took Washington State from the basement in the Pac-10 to almost winning the whole thing outright. A savvy signal-caller, Gesser completed 55 percent of his passes in 2001, for 2,729 yards and 25 TDs. With a full compliment of receivers in Pullman, Gesser numbers won't go unnoticed in 2002.

CASEY CLAUSEN (20:1) - Playing for a team that could vie for the national title is never a bad thing, especially when you are the undeniable leader. Clausen has grown into his role as quarterback in Knoxville, and could be on the verge of a huge season. In 2001, the 6-4, 215-pounder completed over 64 percent of his passes, for 2,969 yards and 22 TDs. He also kept his miscues to a minimum (nine INTs in 354 pass attempts). A similar effort in 2002 not only could land the Vols in the Fiesta Bowl, but get Clausen an invite to NYC.

ONTERRIO SMITH (25:1) - If Smith would dedicate as much time to his off-the- field demeanor as he does to his on-the-field persona, the former Tennessee Volunteer could have already had a Heisman in his trophy case. The oft- troubled Duck still has a viable shot at the Heisman, and with Joey Harrington and Maurice Morris gone in Eugene, Smith is now the man. Last season, despite splitting time with Morris in the backfield, Smith rushed for 1,031 yards (6.4 ypc) and seven TDs. Keeping him from really blossoming though is his penchant for trouble (kicked out of Tennessee for marijuana use and suspended last year for DUI).

ROY WILLIAMS (25:1) - Another prototype in the form of Charles Rogers, Williams is certainly the go-to-guy in the passing attack for Texas. Last season, the 6-4, 210-pounder caught 67 balls, for 836 yards and seven TDs. If Simms can elevate his game, Williams will certainly benefit.

CEDRIC BENSON (30:1) - It may be a simple case of too much talent on the offensive side of the ball. Benson is a bona fide talent at the tailback position, but Texas is chock-full of offensive weapons and really utilizing Benson to his fullest may not occur on a regular basis. In 2001, despite Simms throwing the ball a lot, Benson still racked up 1,090 yards and 12 TDs, on 223 carries. There's no telling what he could do with 300 carries in a season.

KELLEY WASHINGTON (40:1) - Just a youngster, Washington has emerged as one of the top wideouts in the country. Again, a huge receiver, at 6-4, 225, Washington abused the opposition as a freshman in 2001. He caught 64 balls, for 1,010 yards and five TDs. With the maturation of Casey Clausen under center, it's scary to think that Washington's numbers could improve dramatically.

DARIUS WATTS (50:1) - The connection of Chad Pennington to Randy Moss put fear in opposing defenses not too long ago at Marshall. That trend has certainly continued with the combo of Byron Leftwich to Darius Watts. The 6-2, 185- pounder is one of the best wideouts in the country that no one has heard of. All he did in 2001 was catch 91 balls, for 1,417 yards and 18 TDs. Heisman- worthy numbers, but the mid-major stigma continues to keep him down.

BALLOT FILLER:

These next few have name recognition for the most part, but that's it. They'll put up magnificent numbers, but are on the outside (in some cases way outside) looking in. There is as good a chance of me winning the Heisman as these next names, so there is no line on them.

CHANCE KRETSCHMER - Great name, great numbers, but that's it. He led the nation in rushing as a freshman, but because he plays in the WAC for Nevada, few took him seriously. He was a workhorse for the Wolf Pack, carrying the ball 302 times, for 1,765 yards (5.8 ypc) and 15 TDs. He could eclipse 2,000 yards in 2002, but it won't matter.

DWONE HICKS - Another relatively unknown rusher is this Middle Tennessee State star. A solid runner at 5-11, 225 pounds, Hicks rumbled for 1,143 yards in 2001 (6.0 ypc) and an impressive 20 TDs. However, playing in the Sun Belt doesn't endear you to Heisman voters. A talent for sure, but his Heisman consideration is borderline at best.

REGGIE WILLIAMS - In a year or two, this youngster could be the odds on favorite for the Heisman. As a freshman, Williams burst on the scene for the Huskies, catching 55 balls, for 973 yards (both team-highs) and three TDs, while averaging 88.5 yards per game. Another in the long line of big targets, Williams tips the scales at 6-4, 220 pounds. Just a sophomore, expect him to take it to another level in 2002.

DAHRRAN DIEDRICK - Nebraska is known for its rushing attack and their latest I-back continues the trend. Diedrick led the Big 12 in rushing last season (1,319 yards), averaging almost six yards per carry, while scoring 15 TDs. With Heisman-winner Eric Crouch gone, Frank Solich will need Diedrick to carry the load more than ever. Still, the Huskers are probably just the fourth-best team in the Big 12. With that in mind, there is good chance that the competition may find a way to keep Diedrick in check in some games.

E.J. HENDERSON - I always put a defensive player in my Heisman column, simply because more often than not, the best player in the country is on that side of the ball. Maryland lays claim to that honor this season, as E.J. Henderson is without a doubt, the top defender in the country. Regarded as the top linebacker in the country, he is a favorite for the Butkus Award in 2002. Last season, the 6-2, 250-pound monster was named the ACC Player of the Year, while earning First-Team All-American status. He led the ACC and ranked seventh nationally in tackles per game (13.9), while tallying a whopping 28 TFLs (led the ACC and was second nationally).

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.


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