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Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Ringer's Heisman push a team effort

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Heisman Trophy voters shouldn't expect to receive some goofy green ring with Javon Ringer's face carved into it any time soon.

Michigan State isn't conducting a formal Heisman Trophy campaign for Ringer, the senior running back who leads the nation in both scoring (14.4 ppg), carries (187) and all-purpose yards (1,178) and ranks second in rushing average (179.4 ypg). The Spartans are taking more of an old-school approach with their star. They make him accessible to the media, don't make him into something he's not and let him market himself when it matters -- on Saturdays.

"I don't read the papers much right now," coach Mark Dantonio said earlier today. "All I can tell you is he's being mentioned. The more success we have as a football team, the more exposure he'll get. The better he does on football field, the more wins we get. The two sort of feed off each other."

The plan suits the credit-deflecting Ringer, the all-business Dantonio and associate athletic director for communications John Lewandowski, who has seen the Heisman campaign landscape change during his career.

Lewandowski, who is one of the best in the business, remembers working on Bo Jackson's Heisman campaign and sending out VHS tapes to voters every week. The increase of television exposure no longer requires such methods. Great players will be seen, and this season, few FBS players have been better than Ringer.

"I'm more old school with these things," Lewandowski said. "We live in an era where gimmicks are not going to win awards. It's more important to make sure he's accessible, manage the media opportunities and be mindful of what else he has going on. But the bottom line is the team has to be successful."

Michigan State has been so far, starting the year 4-1. Ringer, who wasn't on the Heisman radar before the season, ranks third on ESPN.com's Heisman Watch and occupies a similar spot on other lists.

His candidacy could be hurt by the popularity of the SEC and the Big 12, where the other top contenders -- Chase Daniel, Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, Knowshon Moreno -- play. The Big Ten has a bit of a relevancy problem right now after its projected best team (Ohio State) imploded in a showcase game and its projected best player (Chris "Beanie" Wells) got hurt in the opener.

But Ringer should continue to get noticed if he maintains an incredible workload and Michigan State keeps winning. I'm not anti-gimmick -- I kept my Michael "The Burner" Turner hot sauce for years and currently enjoy my Chase Daniel viewfinder -- but it's nice to see a program letting the player state his case between the lines.

"He's probably in the four, five guys you talk about," Dantonio said. "But for him to get up to the top, we have to have a super year as football team."