Friday, March 25, 2011
The Big 12's dark horse Heisman candidates
By ESPN.com staff
Colleague Bruce Feldman took a look at a few of the dark horse Heisman candidates across the country, but just one Big 12 player made his list.
4. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M Aggies
A terrific athlete, Tannehill helped the program at receiver while serving as Jerrod Johnson's QB understudy in what had been an underwhelming first half of the season for the Aggies. Then Tannehill took over at quarterback, and A&M took off. He connected on 65 percent of his throws, with a respectable 13-6 TD-INT mark. The team went 6-1, which included wins over OU and Nebraska and archrival Texas, with Tannehill as the starting QB. Tannehill has a crew of gifted receivers and backs returning, and that extremely young O-line now has some seasoning. The early season schedule, if A&M can survive, will provide chances to get some attention, facing an improved SMU team and Oklahoma State and Arkansas all in the first month.
Though the Big 12 was largely irrelevant for the first time in awhile last season, that shouldn't be the case this year. Receivers like Justin Blackmon and Ryan Broyles, no matter how good, will have a difficult time winning the Heisman, but Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden should enter as legitimate contenders.
Tannehill is probably next on that list, but who else could have a shot? All of them have question marks, and they're dark horses for the Heisman for reasons, but how's this for a few names?
1. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
I really thought Griffin deserved a legitimate look back in November when the Bears were 7-2, sitting atop the Big 12 South and the Bears' offense was rolling. Baylor lost its final four games of the season, effectively squashing any legitimate Heisman buzz for Griffin just when it was starting to pick up, but he'll be back in 2011 with a solid offense once again. If the defense improves and the Bears build on a seven-win season, perhaps exceeding expectations with 10 wins or more, Griffin could be in the thick of the race.
2. Cyrus Gray/Christine Michael, RBs, Texas A&M
On a legitimate sense, I think these two will share too many carries for either to be a finalist, but they're both great and running back is a tough position. If one gets hurt or one earns the vast majority of carries for whatever reason and the Aggies start winning big, it could happen. Michael had just under 600 yards in Texas A&M's first six games and Gray ran for 938 in A&M's final seven games. It could definitely happen.
3. Roy Finch, RB, Oklahoma
Finch is definitely the most conditional candidate. Chief among those is his health. At 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, he's not built to take a ton of punishment or be a 25-carries-a-game workhorse. That's already clear. He missed the first five games of his freshman year and the Fiesta Bowl with a stress fracture in his left foot that resurfaced in bowl practices. But his home-run potential and status as the starting running back for a national title contender can't be ignored. Make big plays, stay healthy, run for around 1,500 yards and you'll see Finch's name among the Heisman contenders.