Big Ten: Charles Woodson
Bryant is still formulating the specifics, but he'll undoubtedly list items about interceptions, leadership and limiting big plays. He might write down something about big hits, although it's one area where he needs no reminders.
"If you love football," Bryant told ESPN.com, "you love the collisions."
The 5-foot-10, 192-pound Cleveland native earned second-team All-Big Ten honors (coaches) in 2012, when he finished second on the squad in tackles (70) and added 12 pass breakups, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception. It's hard not to notice Bryant on the field, especially because of the hits he delivers. But he's still looking for the right blend of big plays and consistency.
"I'm trying to be known for more than just being a physical player," Bryant said. "A playmaker at all times, that's what I’m trying to be known as."
Bryant wants to make a variety of impact plays, not just big hits, and interceptions is at the top of his list. He boasts 21 career passes defended, including 13 last season, which tied him with Northwestern's Ibraheim Campbell for the most among Big Ten safeties (1.08 per game). But Bryant has only one career interception, a fourth-quarter pick against Cal last season that sealed a 35-28 Buckeyes win.
"I dropped probably three or four picks last year," Bryant said. "When I looked back on them, I should have made the plays. Those are things I'm looking forward to this season."
On the advice of former Buckeyes quarterback Troy Smith, Bryant makes sure to catch 50-100 footballs each day in spring practice. If a quarterback is available to throw, Bryant summons him. If not, it's the JUGS machine.
Other items on Bryant's offseason checklist include improved footwork and tackling technique, and doing a better job of reading the run-pass keys offensive linemen give away. He also studies NFL safeties like Charles Woodson, Ed Reed, Dashon Goldson and former Buckeye Donte Whitner.
The season is more than five months away, but Bryant gets a feel of what's to come by practicing against a dynamic Buckeyes offense led by Heisman Trophy contender Braxton Miller.
"It keeps you in shape," Bryant said. "Just the fast-paced offense, us just flying around to the ball, keeping leverage, forcing the ball back to our help. All that helps in the season, leveraging the football, running to the ball as a defense and eliminating big plays."
Bryant describes himself as "instinctive football player" and loves the defensive calls where he can roam the deep middle, read the quarterback's eyes and attack. But he also wants to be a more complete player and leader.
One of only four seniors on Ohio State's defense -- fellow starting safety C.J. Barnett is another -- Bryant hopes to be named a captain. This spring, he's trying to blend vocal leadership with on-field performance so younger players can follow him.
Although Bryant's goals list is still a work in progress, he's willing to share one item.
"To be one of the best secondary players in the country," he said. "That's what I'm shooting for."
Peter from State College, Pa., writes: I was wondering if you could explain why Manti Te'o gets so much love from the media while Michael Mauti is left out to dry. Mauti is better in most statistical categories (except INT's) yet everyone feels Te'o is worthy of the Heisman. I just don't understand it.
Adam Rittenberg: There are several forces in play here that unfortunately work against Mauti. To seriously be considered for the Heisman as a defensive player, you need to be on a team either in the national title hunt or the league title hunt. Otherwise, a player simply won't generate enough attention and hype to resonate with the voters. Charles Woodson was on a Michigan team that won a national title. Ndamukong Suh was on a Nebraska team that was a second away from winning the Big 12. You then might ask, isn't this award supposed to be about the most outstanding player? Well, yes, but the Heisman is totally driven by hype. Te'o is on a team that everyone watches that has an undefeated record and has played several national showcase games and is led by its defense. Mauti is on a team that people haven't paid a ton of attention to after the first two weeks. People know Penn State is doing well, but the attention on the Lions doesn't come close to what Te'o is receiving. Also, Te'o has had signature performances in some of those national showcase games like Michigan and Oklahoma. Mauti was good against Ohio State, but his team lost the game and he didn't have a signature moment that grabs voters' attention. From a national perspective, no one cares what Mauti did against Illinois. I know that sounds harsh, but that's how the Heisman works. I'm a Heisman voter and I obviously pay much more attention to Mauti and think he's having an All-America-type season. But most people need more obviously evidence to seriously consider a defensive player from a 3-loss team that lacks many signature wins. That's just the way it goes.
Art from Boston writes: Thanks for your great work on the blog!Question about B1G bowl lineup and picking order: In your Indiana piece you said that BWW picks ahead of Gator (change from what you had thought). BWW site says they pick 3rd or 4th, but not which one for 2013. Gator has this on their site:Selection Process BIG TEN CONFERENCE: Gator Bowl will have the third selection after the BCS in the January 1, 2013 game. SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE: Gator Bowl will have the fifth selection in the SEC after the BCS selection.Trying to figure out which is correct, although as NU fan (Wildcats) hoping they can win out and get to either Cap 1 or Outback. Please let me know what you find out.
Adam Rittenberg: The Gator Bowl picks ahead of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl this season. The Big Ten confirmed this to me. The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is the fourth selection after the BCS pick (Rose), meaning it goes Capital One, Outback, Gator and then BW3. So if the Big Ten title game loser has a winning record, it cannot fall lower than the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, according to league rules. My point with Indiana is that the Hoosiers would fall under NCAA bowl selection policies if they were to lose the Big Ten title game and fall below .500. If that's the case, the Hoosiers would be sweating out the bowl selections.
Rich from Powell, Ohio, writes: Hey Adam. After reviewing Ohio States future schedule, I'm still surprised that Nebraska is off it the next few years. I would think that these two powerhouses would be a marquee game everytime they played. Not to mention, given both programs loyal fanbases, a ratings bonanza. What exactly is the Big Tens reasoning (if there is such a thing) here?
Adam Rittenberg: It's just a simple schedule rotation, Rich. Other than the protected rival, crossover opponents will rotate off of the schedule for two years -- across the board. We didn't have Michigan-Penn State or Michigan-Wisconsin the last two years. We won't have Ohio State-Nebraska the next two years. We didn't have a great rivalry like Wisconsin-Iowa in 2011 or 2012, but it returns in 2013. I get what you're saying about the appeal of the Nebraska-Ohio State game, and the Big Ten certainly will miss it the next two years. But that's the nature of an eight-game league schedule with only one protected crossover per team. Nebraska fans can look forward to facing Penn State every year, but other Leaders Division teams will come and go.
Seth from The United State of Iowa writes: If I understand the tiebreak rules right, Iowa just has to win two games and they play in Indy. I know it seems impossible, but two games? If I have learned anything, especially in collegiate sports, any team can win two games (assuming Northwestern loses another Legends game), so why you guys automatically counting them out? Don't count out the Hawkeyes.
Adam Rittenberg: Seth, not sure where you got your information, but it's lousy. Iowa needs to win out (that's three more wins), hope that both Nebraska and Michigan lose another game, and hope that Northwestern also loses another game. The head-to-head wins against Nebraska and Michigan only will mean something if those teams have three Big Ten losses, not two, as Iowa already has three conference defeats. Iowa would lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with Northwestern. Moreover, what has Iowa shown to lead you to believe it can beat teams like Michigan and Nebraska, much less Purdue? I'm still trying to figure out how Iowa beat Michigan State in East Lansing? This isn't a good Iowa team that failed to capitalize on a cake schedule. Maybe the Hawkeyes go 2-1 and squeak into a bowl, but I'd be stunned if they go 3-0. Most likely, Iowa stays home for the bowl season.
David from Perryville, Md., writes: Taylor Martinez just won his 4th B1G Offensive Player of the week award. Does this help him with becoming first team all B1G or does it go to Braxton Miller by default by now?
Adam Rittenberg: David, Miller would really have to struggle in the final two games not to be the first-team All-Big Ten quarterback. He hasn't had a truly bad game all season and has carried Ohio State to victory several times. Plus, he outplayed Martinez when Nebraska and Ohio State met on Oct. 6. The more intriguing debate could be Martinez versus Penn State's Matt McGloin for second-team All-Big Ten quarterback. They are the Big Ten's top two passers, and both have 18 touchdown strikes. Martinez has been a much bigger rushing threat, while McGloin has committed fewer turnovers. You can make a strong case for both, and the two signal-callers could be the two most improved players in the entire conference. The neat thing is that they'll both be on the field Saturday at Memorial Stadium. If Martinez outplays McGloin, I think he'll have the inside track for second-team All-Big Ten QB.
Wayne from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., writes: Adam:As a Northwestern fan, I'm conflicted!!! On the one hand, I'm rooting for a strong finish to the season and a push for a top-tier bowl game. The program visibility would be great, but I shudder at the idea of running into a good SEC team in, for instance, the Gator Bowl. I think we'd be hard pushed to win a tough matchup like that! On the other hand, I want us to break the bowl losing streak, and a little part of me wouldn't be unhappy with a tough loss (or two??? What's wrong with me????) and an easier bowl matchup so that we have a better chance to shed that last, lingering program negative.I know. It's crazy talk. What should I do? What's my better rooting interest?
Adam Rittenberg: Wayne, one thing about Northwestern's bowl losing streak is that the Wildcats haven't truly had a favorable bowl matchup. In fact, they've been fairly sizable underdogs most years, in part because of the Big Ten's challenging bowl lineup and the league's streak of multiple BCS entries. I don't think that will change this year. It's unlikely Northwestern will fall below the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and seems likeliest to go to BW3, Gator or (maybe) Outback. The projected opponents for those games almost certainly will be favored against Northwestern. Colleagues Brad Edwards and Mark Schlabach project South Carolina or Mississippi State to Gator and Oklahoma State and Texas Tech to Buffalo Wild Wings. Colleague David Ubben has TCU in the Wings Bowl. If it's an SEC team, I think Mississippi State is probably the most favorable matchup. With the Big 12, it's a little tougher because all those teams can score but few can play decent defense. Oklahoma State and TCU look like slightly weaker opponents, but the reality is Northwestern will have to elevate its game to end the bowl losing streak this season. The good news: few teams will benefit more from bowl practices than Northwestern, which is pretty young on both sides of the ball.
Ghost of Kevin Cosgrove from Parts Unknown writes: I see the espn.com projections have an Oregon State vs. Nebraska Rose Bowl game. If there is an Alabama vs. Oregon National Championship, what do you think of the chances of a Notre Dame vs. Nebraska Rose Bowl? If the Sugar Bowl takes LSU as their replacement team for losing Alabama to the National Title game, wouldn't a Notre Dame/Nebraska match-up be more attractive to the Rose Bowl than Oregon State in the mix?
Adam Rittenberg: Ghost, I definitely agree a Nebraska-Notre Dame matchup would have appeal, but the Rose Bowl has too much invested with its two league partners (Big Ten and Pac-12) to bypass an eligible Pac-12 team like Oregon State. While there would have to be some discussion given to Notre Dame and what the Irish could do for the game's marketability, I really would be stunned if the Rose Bowl didn't select Oregon State. The Rose took Illinois in 2007 rather than a Missouri team that had beaten the Illini in the season opener that year. I realize Missouri isn't Notre Dame, but I really don't think the Rose Bowl would go away from its traditional matchup.
There have been so many great players and great performances in this league that it seemed almost unfair to limit this list to just five. It's impossible not to omit some very, very worthy individual efforts.
But that was our task, and we did the best we could while trying to pick out the most memorable seasons and weighing team success into the formula as well. Please remember a couple key notes about this list. This is limited to the past 50 years, so legends such as Red Grange and Nile Kinnick were not eligible. We are including Nebraska, even though the Cornhuskers have only spent one year as a Big Ten members. Blame conference realignment and feel free to complain, but the Huskers are part of the family now and are going to be included in these kinds of historic lists. Deal with it.
OK, here we go, and we'll do this chronological order:
Archie Griffin, RB, Ohio State, 1974: Griffin remains the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, and his first statue-worthy season was his best as a collegian. He ran for 1,620 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging an eye-popping 6.9 yards per carry in an era of less offense. As he broke tackles left and right that season, Griffin earned the high praise of legend Woody Hayes, who called him the best football player he'd ever coached.
Mike Rozier, RB, Nebraska, 1983: The Cornhuskers' ground game was an unstoppable machine in '83, and Rozier was its engine. He averaged an amazing 7.8 yards per carry, a NCAA record for players with at least 214 attempts, and finished with 2,148 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns. He ran for more than 200 yards in each of his last four regular-season games. Would Nebraska have beaten Miami in the Orange Bowl had Rozier not injured his ankle in the second half? We'll never know, but we do know this was one of the top seasons of all time.
Charles Woodson, CB/WR/PR, Michigan, 1997: Woodson became the first primarily defensive player ever to win the Heisman Trophy with his extraordinary performance for the Wolverines, who won a share of the national title that season. He had eight interceptions even though teams steadfastly avoided throwing the ball to his side of the field. He also compiled 500 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver and punt returner, including his memorable score against Ohio State. Woodson had to be special to beat out Peyton Manning for the Heisman that year, and he sure was.
Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin, 2011: This may be controversial, since it happened so recently. But we firmly believe that when historians and fans look back on Ball's 2011 season, they will be astounded that he didn't win the Heisman or get more attention for what he accomplished. Ball led the nation in rushing yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry, matching the best mark that Heisman winner Ron Dayne ever put up during his Badgers career. He also scored 39 touchdowns, tying Barry Sanders FBS record. While a lot of people like to point out that Sanders played in fewer games, they conveniently neglect to mention that Ball had 37 fewer carries in 2011 than Sanders did in 1988. It was truly a historic season for Ball, and one of the best in Big Ten history.
Who's on your list for the top five seasons of the past 50 years in the Big Ten?
- Ohio State has reported many secondary violations in the past year, including Urban Meyer telling Noah Spence "good luck" before a game. None of them are a big deal on their own, but all eyes are on the Buckeyes right now, Doug Lesmerises writes.
- Purdue coach Danny Hope is optimistic that Antavian Edison will be cleared of weapons charges and can play in 2012. He says Edison may have "been in the wrong place at the wrong time."
- New offensive coordinator Greg Davis's Texas ties helped Iowa land a commitment from a high school quarterback.
- No more surprise bee suits -- Michigan expects to announce all its special uniform plans for 2012. Charles Woodson says Brady Hoke's rebuilding job has been "unbelievable."
- The starting free safety spot remains one of the few jobs up for grabs on Michigan State's defense.
- Remember the plan to spotlight academic achievements on the Big Ten Network? Not so much.
- Nebraska has missed out on the star quarterback recruits it was pursuing but still has some potentially strong signalcallers on the radar.
- Strength coach Craig Fitzgerald put Penn State players through a taxing round of summer workouts that included one of the toughest days at the beach ever.
- Tom Dienhart analyzes Wisconsin's schedule.
- Nate Sandell dissects Minnesota's roster.
- Less Florida and more California could be in the Big Ten's bowl future.
- Illinois alums took a shot at Northwestern's "Chicago's Team" slogan.
If the Big Ten Champions Tournament accomplishes nothing else, at least it will let us try to settle a debate that has raged for 15 years. Bring on this long-overdue matchup of:
No. 2 seed Nebraska 1997 vs. No. 3 seed Michigan 1997
So which team was more deserving? Nebraska averaged 46.7 points per game and won by an average margin of more than 30 points per game. The Huskers also needed a miracle against Missouri and edged Colorado by a field goal.
Michigan averaged 26.8 points per game and won by an average of more than 17 points per game. The Wolverines had close calls against Notre Dame, Iowa and Ohio State and had to hold on to win the Rose Bowl.
Common opponents: Michigan beat Colorado 27-3 and Baylor 38-3, both at home. Nebraska beat Colorado 27-24 and Baylor 49-21, both on the road.
Michigan had the better defense, Nebraska the better offense.
The computers favored Nebraska, but Michigan had been No. 1 all season.
Michigan had the Heisman Trophy winner in Charles Woodson. Nebraska had the Lombardi Award winner in Grant Wistrom and the Outland Trophy winner in Aaron Taylor.
So it's a tough debate, and it's a shame this game was never played on the field. But vote in our poll and decide a winner. Big Red fans always turn out in force, so Michigan fans will need to mobilize in support of their side as well.
Voting will close at 9 a.m. on Friday. And don't forget to drop me a line to break down this matchup and explain your vote. I'm sure there will be very strong opinions.
Nebraska Cornhuskers opened up their tournament run on Tuesday as the No. 2 seed. At No. 3 is the team that shared the title with them that year. Let's take a look at the matchup:
No. 3 seed 1997 Michigan vs. No. 6 seed 2005 Penn State
All these Wolverines did was go undefeated, win the Rose Bowl and finish No. 1 in the Associated Press poll. Yet they can't claim to be undisputed champions since Nebraska finished atop the coaches' poll.
This was Lloyd Carr's finest team and featured Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, who became the first primarily defensive player to win the award. This wasn't an imposing offensive attack, though, as the team lacked a 1,000-yard rusher and did not have a receiver top 500 yards. But Brian Griese was solid at quarterback, and the Wolverines emerged unscathed against a regular-season schedule that included six ranked teams and three Top 10 opponents. The season concluded with a 21-16 win against Ryan Leaf and Washington State.
The 2005 Nittany Lions finished 11-1 and ranked No. 3. Their lone loss came at Michigan on the final play of the game. Stars included defensive end Tamba Hali, quarterback Michael Robinson, Bednarik and Butkus winner Paul Posluszny, and offensive lineman Levi Brown. They beat an average Florida State team in the Orange Bowl in a memorable triple-overtime thriller.
Now it's your turn to vote for the winner in this contest. If you want to break down this game and your reasons for voting the way you did, drop me a line, and the best responses will be posted with the result. Voting on this game will run through 9 a.m. ET Friday.
Five Big Ten players made the 2011 preseason watch list.
- Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
- Nebraska DT Jared Crick
- Northwestern QB Dan Persa
- Michigan QB Denard Robinson
- Wisconsin RB James White
Not too many surprises here, as the list includes my top rated Big Ten defensive lineman, top rated running back and top three quarterbacks. Any snubs? Maybe Nebraska LB Lavonte David and Michigan State RB Edwin Baker, but nothing major.
The list will be trimmed to 10 semifinalists in mid November, and the winner will be announced Dec. 8 on ESPN's "SportsCenter."
You can find all of the watch lists here.
It's a fascinating list that's sure to stir a lot of debate. But since this is a Big Ten blog, we're going to concern ourselves with where the Top 100 went to college.
There are 13 former Big Ten players on the list, including No. 1: Tom Brady. (Note: We're counting Nebraska players as Big 12 products since the Cornhuskers in the NFL participated in that league. Same thing for Colorado and Utah, Miami and Virginia Tech, etc.). Here are the 13 who made the cut and how they ranked overall:
1. Tom Brady, QB, New England (Michigan)
9. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans (Purdue)
16. Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay (Michigan)
28. Jake Long, OT, Miami (Michigan)
43. Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland (Wisconsin)
47. Nick Mangold, C, New York Jets (Ohio State)
58. Brandon Lloyd, WR, Miami (Illinois)
63. Cameron Wake, LB, Miami (Penn State)
64. Tamba Hali, DE, Kansas City (Penn State)
76. Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets (Ohio State)
78. Dallas Clark, TE, Indianapolis (Iowa)
82. LaMarr Woodley, DE, Pittsburgh (Michigan)
97. Shaun Phillips, DE, San Diego (Purdue)
Ohio State: 2
Penn State: 2
(In case you're wondering, the two Nebraska players on the list are No. 51 Ndamukong Suh and No. 55 Carl Nicks)
Now let's see how the Top 100 stacks up by college conference:
Big East: 16
Big Ten: 13
Big 12: 7
Notre Dame: 1
Non-AQ/Small schools: 27
This just reinforces what I always said in my previous job: The best football is played in the Big East. Actually, that league greatly benefits from eight Miami Hurricanes who played their careers in the league before the program jumped ship to the ACC.
It's interesting that the Big Ten has the same amount of Top 100 players as the mighty SEC, no? I thought all the best talent was supposed to be in the SEC. Hmm. The ACC continues to underachieve despite all its talent, while the Big 12 has curiously low representation here (only five players outside of Nebraska).
I also find it fascinating that 27 percent of the supposed cream of the crop in pro football never played in an AQ conference -- Kent State, for example, has three players on the list, more than Alabama, Florida and LSU combined and more than every Big Ten school except Michigan. East Carolina and Central Florida have as many Top 100 players as Ohio State and Penn State. More evidence that recruiting stars don't always equal NFL success. (And indeed, the No. 1 player on the list had to fight tooth and nail to earn a starting job at Michigan).
If nothing else, it's fun fodder for debate.
- Urban Meyer says the Big Ten and SEC aren't too far part, Sam McKewon writes in the Omaha World-Herald. The Big Ten might be lacking in top 10 draft picks, but NFL teams still look to the league for smash-mouth players, annarbor.com's Pete Bigelow writes.
- Kristi Dosh has an interesting look at student fees and student ticket prices in the Big Ten.
- Ricky Stanzi is poised to end Iowa's long draft drought with quarterbacks, Andy Hamilton writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Which Hawkeye will follow Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard in this year's draft?
- Rivals.com's Tom Dienhart writes about Michigan State offensive lineman Arthur Ray's courageous comeback from cancer. Cornerback Johnny Adams and cornerback/receiver Tony Lippett highlight Michigan State's spring game draft, George Sipple writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Ohio State receiver Dane Sanzenbacher plays the draft waiting game, Matt Markey writes in The Toledo Blade. Ohio State shares a kinship with future league rival Nebraska, Rob Oller writes in The Columbus Dispatch. Jim Tressel needs to go, Dienhart writes.
- A post-spring snapshot of Northwestern from The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette's Marc Morehouse.
- Former Nebraska star Barrett Ruud says Bo knows, Steven M. Sipple writes in the Lincoln Journal Star. The Huskers' 2007 recruiting class might have a bigger draft impact than the heralded 2005 crop, Rich Kaipust writes in the Omaha World-Herald.
- Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson tells colleague Scott Powers he's "confident" about a first-round draft selection. The Zooker will show off his arm at Wrigley Field next month.
- The Brady Hoke love continues, this time from Charles Woodson, Angelique Chengelis writes in The Detroit News. Lloyd Carr nearly joined Michigan State's staff twice, Joe Rexrode writes in the Lansing State Journal.
- A look at all of Wisconsin's NFL draft prospects, Jim Polzin writes in The Capital Times. Former Badger Eric Vanden Heuvel takes the long road to the NFL, Mike Lucas writes.
- Indiana assistant Rod Smith says his quarterbacks want to win, Pete DiPrimio writes in The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.
- The wait should end tonight for Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, Mike Carmin writes in The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier.
- Penn State players gear up for the NFL draft, Jake Kaplan writes in The Daily Collegian.
Penn State senior quarterback Daryll Clark and Michigan senior defensive end Brandon Graham both win the Silver Football, awarded to the Big Ten's MVP every year since 1924. Big Ten coaches vote on the award -- coaches aren't allowed to vote for players on their teams -- and the voting ended with a historic tie at the top. Both Clark and Graham earned three first-place votes and one second-place vote, totaling seven points.
Wisconsin sophomore running back John Clay, the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Year, was the third nominee for the award.
Clark becomes the first Penn State player to win the award since his mentor Michael Robinson in 2005.
Graham is the seventh defensive player to claim the Silver Football and the first since Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997.
The winner will be announced Tuesday (Big Ten Network, 11 p.m. ET). Big Ten coaches vote on the award, which went to Iowa running back Shonn Greene last season.
Of these three candidates, I'd definitely vote for Graham. Though Clark and Clay both had good seasons, the Big Ten unquestionably was a defense-oriented league this fall. While I'm a bit surprised not to see Michigan State's Greg Jones or Penn State's Jared Odrick -- the Big Ten's co-Defensive Players of the Year -- named as finalists, Graham would be a very deserving recipient after leading the nation with 26 tackles for loss.
Here's a list of Silver Football winners this decade (note: a defensive player hasn't won since Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson, the Heisman Trophy recipient, in 1997).
2008: Iowa RB Shonn Greene
2007: Illinois RB Rashard Mendenhall
2006: Ohio State QB Troy Smith
2005: Penn State QB Michael Robinson
2004: Michigan WR Braylon Edwards
2003: Michigan RB Chris Perry
2002: Iowa QB Brad Banks
2001: Indiana QB Antwaan Randle El
2000: Purdue QB Drew Brees
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
In 1997, Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson made history as the first primarily defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy. No defender has come close to striking a pose since Woodson edged Tennessee's Peyton Manning for the award, and seeing how the Heisman now serves as a glorified quarterback contest, it's unlikely any defender will follow Woodson.
Two defenders who should gain consideration for college football's top honor this fall are the subjects of an interesting discussion between blog colleagues Chris Low (SEC) and Ted Miller (Pac-10). Low and Miller debate the merits of two standout safeties: Tennessee's Eric Berry and USC's Taylor Mays.
Any college football fan worth his or her salt knows about Berry and Mays, two of the nation's most accomplished defenders and the leading candidates for the Jim Thorpe Award. Both safeties are widely projected as top-10 picks in the 2010 NFL draft. I, for one, can't wait to watch Mays live when USC visits Ohio State on Sept. 12.
Could Mays or Berry follow Woodson's path to Manhattan in December?
It seems like a long shot with quarterbacks Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy all returning, but both of these safeties should be on the radar. Tennessee is touting Berry for the Heisman (turn on your mute button before visiting the Web site), while Mays knows his Heisman campaign needs a statistical boost.
Let's look back at how Woodson won the award in 1997 and where Berry's and Mays' best seasons stack up:
Mays clearly needs
a major boost this fall to match Woodson, but Berry isn't far off in terms of production on defense. The difference is Woodson's versatility as a punt returner and as an offensive threat. For all the great plays Woodson made on defense in 1997, arguably his most memorable play was the 78-yard punt return for a touchdown against Ohio State.
Berry's non-defense production is limited to seven rushes for 32 yards, one reception for three yards and two kickoff returns for 32 yards.
I wish defensive players had a better shot at the Heisman, but as Woodson showed 12 years ago, you need to do more.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
It's Michigan day on "College Football Live," which starts its 50 States Tour with the Great Lake State. Former University of Michigan standouts Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson will be guests on Monday's show (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET).
One topic that undoubtedly will come up is whether Howard or Woodson had the better Heisman Trophy season. So before the debate begins on the tube, let's look at the tale of the tape.
My take -- This isn't a clear-cut decision because both men dominated their respective positions. Both men also had terrific seasons the year before they won the Heisman, with Howard racking up 1,025 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in 1990 and Woodson recording five interceptions and 15 pass breakups in 1996. And both players were extremely versatile, making their mark in a variety of statistical categories.
While Howard had arguably the better numbers and won the Heisman by a landslide -- he received 86.7 percent of the first-place votes -- it's hard not to give the nod to Woodson. He was the first primarily defensive player to win the Heisman, and he'll most likely be the last. Given how the Heisman has turned into a quarterback competition, it would be hard to see another defender win any time soon.
Woodson helped make cornerback a glamour position. Though it probably took some highlight-reel punt returns to secure the Heisman, he always made a difference at his primary position. He recorded five or more interceptions in each of his three seasons at Michigan and was named MVP of Michigan's national championship team in 1997. Woodson entered the starting lineup during the second game of his freshman season and never left. Plus, he beat out Peyton Manning for the Heisman.
Howard was pretty special in his own right, shattering records for scoring by a wide receiver and making big plays in seemingly every game. But Woodson's ability to stand out as a defensive player is simply too impressive to ignore.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
College Football Live is starting a very cool feature on Monday, as the show begins its 50 States Tour, a series that will profile the best of amateur football (college and high school) in every U.S. state, plus the District of Columbia.
The tour begins Monday with Michigan, a state filled with football history and tradition on both the college and high school levels. Guests on Monday's show (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET) include University of Michigan Heisman Trophy winners Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson.
The blog will have some Michigan-related items Monday, but be sure to vote for the greatest college team in state history.
- 1953 Michigan State, 12-0
- 1965 Michigan State, 10-1-0
- 1973 Michigan, 10-0-1
- 1985 Michigan, 10-1-1
- 1997 Michigan, 12-0
All eight states in the Big Ten footprint will be part of the tour, which runs until Aug. 7. Each tour stop will feature live interviews related to the state, including those with prominent football figures, current coaches and local writers. The shows also will include debate between analysts and opportunities for fans to pick each state's best coach, player and team.