History shows us that system quarterbacks put up big numbers, but often do not end up having the total package capable of winning the Heisman Trophy. Here are this year’s most likely “system quarterback" candidates.
Geno Smith, West Virginia
Smith joined the Mountaineers in 2009 as the eighth-ranked quarterback and 97th player overall in the ESPN 150. After sitting one season behind Jarrett Brown, Smith had an average 2010 season. He finished 43rd nationally in passing yards and tied for 23rd in touchdowns.
But there’s room for optimism in 2011 with new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen in the fold. Last season, Smith was often the victim of conservative play-calling from former offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen. That certainly won’t be the case with Holgorsen, who was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, Houston and Texas Tech the last six seasons, and tutored quarterbacks Brandon Weeden, Case Keenum and Graham Harrell. Each of the starting quarterbacks under Holgorsen’s tutelage threw for more than 4,200 yards, finished among the top three nationally in passing yards, and twice led the country in touchdowns while never finishing worse than sixth.
With the addition of Holgorsen, it’s likely that Smith could make a huge jump in terms of production. While he was at Houston, the Cougars led the country in total offense in 2008 and 2009. During his tenure at Texas Tech, the Red Raiders’ total yards per game increased by more than 200 yards.
West Virginia will need to replace running back Noel Devine and patch an often porous offensive line. But, with returning receivers Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Bradley Starks there is reason to believe that Smith could have a huge season statistically as the trigger-man of a pass-heavy offense.
Bryant Moniz, Hawaii
Moniz has the table set for a run at the Heisman Trophy after a monster 2010 campaign. Last season, Moniz passed for 5,040 yards and threw 39 touchdowns against only 15 interceptions. All three of those figures bettered the numbers Colt Brennan put up at Hawaii in 2007, when he finished third in Heisman voting.
Hawaii will start its season against Pac-12 foes Colorado and Washington, giving Moniz an opportunity to put himself on the radar early. He’ll have at least two other national TV games later in the year.
Hawaii Team Passing Totals
Last 5 Seasons (2006-10)
However, Moniz has obstacles to overcome to put himself into Heisman consideration. Last season he was sacked 38 times, sixth-most in the NCAA. Hawaii also lost three of its top four receivers, including Greg Salas, who was drafted by the St. Louis Rams.
The biggest obstacle for Moniz is whether this “system guy” will get any consideration at all. The last BCS non-AQ conference player to win a Heisman Trophy was BYU’s Ty Detmer in 1990, shortly after Moniz was born.