College Football Nation: Troy Davis
2010 conference record: 7-1, conference champs
Offense: 7, defense 4, punter/kicker 2
QB Jeff Godfrey, CB Kemal Ishmael, RB Ronnie Weaver
DE Bruce Miller, LB Derrick Hallman, OL Jah Reid
2010 statistical leaders (* denotes returners)
Rushing: Weaver (186 carries, 890 yards, 11 TDs)*
Passing: Godfrey (159-of-238 for 2,159 yards, 13 TDs, 8 INTs)*
Receiving: Watters (47 catches, 651 yards, 2 TDs)
Tackles: Ishmael* (93)
Sacks: Miller, Darius Nall (8.5 each)
Interceptions: Reggie Weams (five)
1. Brynn Harvey is back. Harvey looked like his old self in the spring, returning after a knee injury cost him all of 2010. His addition gives UCF a loaded backfield with Weaver and Latavius Murray also returning, giving the Knights plenty of options.
2. Troy Davis is a player. Davis was impressive in the spring, with five sacks in the spring game, and should help fill the big shoes of the departed Bruce Miller, who left as the school-record holder in sacks. Davis, a rising junior, had 5.5 sacks last season and a big one at the end of the Georgia game, so he has experience. He showed he is more than capable of starting.
3. Godfrey showed improvement. After an outstanding freshman season, Godfrey showed again in the spring why he is the future of the program. He looked poised, and more polished in leading the offense and will only get better as time goes on.
1. Who will emerge as a playmaker at receiver? O’Leary has often said he wants Quincy McDuffie to take it to the next level so the Knights can utilize his vaunted speed. Well now is his chance with Brian Watters, Kamar Aiken and Jamar Newsome gone. Aside from McDuffie, A.J. Guyton will also be counted on as a key contributor.
2. Which linebacker will step up? Three starters are gone, making this a position that could feature a true freshman in Leilon Willingham making some plays. Two players who did well in the spring were not even at their positions at this time last year. Jonathan Davis is a converted running back and Ray Shipman played basketball at Florida before deciding to give football a try.
3. Leadership. UCF lost a great deal of senior leadership with the graduation of players like Miller, Hallman and Reid, who helped lay the foundation for a Top-25 season and first-ever bowl win. Which players will step up and take on that role in 2011?
Behind an aggressive, attacking unit, the Knights returned a fumble and an interception for touchdowns, and harassed quarterbacks Bryan Ellis and David Isabelle in an impressive 42-7 victory. UAB (1-4, 0-2) had been close in its four other games this season -- three of them came down to the final play. But this game was essentially over at halftime for the Blazers.
"Anytime you can score on defense it's a major plus, a lot of hard work paid off," UCF coach George O'Leary said in quite the understatement.
The Knights (3-2, 1-0) came into the game with the No. 1-ranked defense and No. 1 scoring defense in Conference USA. They needed a big win after coming just short on the road at Kansas State. They led the entire way until the Wildcats scored in the final minute to win. The team held a players-only meeting to remind everyone there was still the entire conference slate yet to play, and one heartbreaking loss should not ruin a season.
The defense clearly took that to heart, and if you had to give out one helmet sticker, it would go to safety Kemal Ishmael. He intercepted Ellis on the first drive of the game, returning the ball down to the UAB 23-yard line. That led to Ronnie Weaver scoring on a 4-yard run for the first score of the night.
Then in the third quarter, Ishmael stripped Isabelle after a run, and Josh Robinson returned the fumble 56 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-0. Ishmael finished second on the team with seven total tackles.
"He doesn't get the headlines other guys get but if I was drafting a team he would be one of the first guys I'd take," O'Leary said. "He can do a lot of things, run and pass, and makes a lot of key tackles in situations. He's a very good football player and is just being recognized on how well he's playing."
The final defensive score came when Ellis made a terrible mistake. In danger of being sacked, he lofted the ball high in the air while he was falling backward. Troy Davis was there to pick the ball off and score to make it 42-7. Ellis went 14-of-30 for 149 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, after two straight 300-yard performances.
"They outplayed us," UAB coach Neil Callaway said. "They out-coached us. They did everything better than we did. We weren't ready to play and that is my fault."
After the impressive win for UCF, it is safe to say the race for the Eastern Division in Conference USA should come down to the Knights and Southern Miss. Sorry, East Carolina. That defense is just not good enough yet, and injuries on the defensive front hurt. East Carolina travels to Southern Miss this weekend in an important division game. Southern Miss plays at UCF on Nov. 13.
Iowa State fans might think so, but you'll have a hard time convincing anyone outside Ames that Eddie George and Danny Wuerrfel didn't deserve the 1995 and 1996 Heisman trophies, respectively.
The Cyclones' Troy Davis ran for 2,010 yards in 1995, 83 more yards than George. A year later, he ran for 2,185 yards, but Wuerffel topped him in the Heisman voting, too.
And that was before the era of media saturation which no doubt affects more recent Heisman races.
I get plenty of weekly e-mails asking why X player is or isn't on my list of Heisman hopefuls for the Big 12 or my weekly ballot for ESPN's Heisman Watch. The facts are this: Winning is a huge part of the Heisman, and though it seems like only elite programs can field Heisman winners, it's mostly a side effect of elite programs doing what elite programs do: win and win consistently, elevating their top players in the Heisman race more often than everyone else. Complain about the exposure that teams like Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Ohio State and USC get all you'd like, but the success those programs have enjoyed over the past decade isn't duplicated by many, and their combined seven Heismans in eight seasons are more than products of media hype.
Davis' Iowa State teams won five games in his two 2,000-yard seasons. Ohio State and Florida were both 11-1 when the Heisman votes took place in 1995 and 1996.
The Heisman may be for college football's "most outstanding" player, but it's mostly become an award given to the best skill player on a team near the top 5. That's why guys like Daniel Thomas and Kendall Hunter will have a tough time winning the Heisman: The other players on their teams will have to play beyond what we believe their potential to be for either Thomas or Hunter to even get serious mention.
I expressed that sentiment in my mailbag last week and got plenty of angry mail in response, but let me also repeat what I wrote in my very first post on this blog: Often, the best skill player on a team near the top 5 is the nation's most outstanding player. Other times, he's not.
I don't have a Heisman vote, but I'm not afraid to express who I thought deserved it. Had I voted last year, it would have looked like this:
1) Ndamukong Suh
2) Toby Gerhart
3) Mark Ingram
Did I think Suh had a chance to win it? No way. Did I think he deserved it? Absolutely. He was the best player in college football, but I also understand that if you don't watch Big 12 football from week to week, voting a defensive tackle as a Heisman winner is a tough sell.
When I compose my Heisman Watch ballot each week, I vote for the five best players in college football. When I put together my Big 12-specific Heisman Watch, I highlight the five players in the Big 12 with the best chance to win. Obviously, the margin of error for that type of exercise is going to be pretty large this early in the seaosn, but that's why it looks very, very different from my list of the Big 12's top 25 players from over the summer.
The Heisman is flawed. Few would argue that. Popularity and media exposure have a lot to do with it.
But so does winning, and I don't have a problem with factoring that into a player's Heisman résumé.
Troy Davis didn't deserve the Heisman Trophy, and his team's lack of success is the biggest reason why. Thomas and Hunter don't play for traditional powers. If they deserve the Heisman, I won't be afraid to say it. But if their teams don't win at least nine games and prove they're the best at their position, they won't deserve it.
Players like Landry Jones, DeMarco Murray and Garrett Gilbert haven't satisfied the second component to make themselves legitimate candidates. Hunter, Thomas and Texas A&M's Jerrod Johnson haven't satisfied the first.
Before a Big 12 player seriously enters into the discussion, he'll need both.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Alexander Robinson's college career has been a testament to adaptability.
|Alexander Robinson led the Cyclones last season with 703 yards rushing.|
The Iowa State running back is playing under his third offensive coordinator in less than three seasons with the arrival of Tom Herman on Paul Rhoads' new coaching staff. But despite never really feeling settled earlier in his college career, Robinson appears to be better suited for Herman's new no-huddle spread offensive attack than any of his previous offenses.
"I'm definitely excited about this," Robinson said. "We're going to spread the ball around. It gives us a chance to get outside and everybody is a threat on every play. It highlights everyone in the offense."
The spread offense might be a great equalizer for the Cyclones, who have struggled matching up with some of the more talented teams in the Big 12 in recent seasons. ISU has lost 21 of its last 24 conference games and has finished in the North Division cellar or tied for last place during each of the past three seasons.
But Herman's spread attack, keyed by quarterback Austen Arnaud, could give ISU a chance to at least make things interesting offensively.
One of the biggest reasons for that optimism is the production of the 5-foot-10, 184-pound Robinson, who rushed for a team-leading 703 yards last season. He also added 17 receptions, including seven catches in his final two games.
That strong showing, along with his quick assimilation into Herman's new offense this spring, has the new coaching staff buzzing about what Robinson can do.
"A-Rob has been a shining light," Rhoads said. "He's intelligent, he's quick, and he's strong."
Herman's offense at Rice was one of the most innovative in the nation last season. The Owls ranked in the top 10 in passing, total yards and scoring.
Robinson's early production in Herman's offense has the new coordinator excited about using him in a variety of roles as a rusher and a receiver. He even got some snaps in the spring game lining up as a quarterback in a "Wildcat" formation.
"After being around here for a very short time, he might be my favorite player," Herman said. "And the reason why is the number of different things he does for us. He's just a very versatile, productive player."