Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Kuechly would get Spaziani's vote
By Jack McCluskey ESPNBoston.com
NEWTON, Mass. -- Clearly, he's biased. Frank Spaziani has no problem admitting that, when it comes to Luke Kuechly and awards, he's nowhere near impartial.
"He should win 'em all, in my estimation," the Boston College coach said.
So when he's asked if his star linebacker should be a contender for the Heisman Trophy, Spaziani doesn't hesitate.
"I forget what the Heisman is [for] " Spaziani said. "I think it's the best football player in the country. I don't think it's offense or defense. I don't think it's who's the best NFL prospect. I don't think it's the most valuable player in the country. I think that's what it says: the best college football player.
"And I can't imagine anybody being better at their position than Luke is. There's a lot of great players out there, it's not to disparage any of them. But he's a great football player."
Luke Kuechly finished this season with 191 tackles.
Kuechly, who won the 2011 Butkus Award on Sunday after finishing runner-up in 2010, led the country in tackles for the second straight season. His 191 tackles set a new single-season BC record (breaking the mark of 183 he set in 2010) and pushed his career total into uncharted territory, both at BC and in the ACC (the record now stands at 532). He had a 33-game streak with 10 or more tackles snapped in the season finale at Miami, when he had nine. (Just for good measure, Kuechly added a pick-six in the 24-17 BC win.)
Spaziani's heard the criticisms, and has an answer ready for them all.
"People go, 'Well they couldn't stop anybody, so ' Well, we had a pretty good defense his freshman year and he was tackling the hell out of people then, too," the coach said. "It has nothing to do with what's in front of him. He's just a great football player."
(In Kuechly's freshman year, when he was a skinny 6-foot-3, 225-pounder straight out of St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, he made 158 tackles and finished second in the country. That total also would've led the country during his junior year, by 11 over Akron's Brian Wagner.)
When the Heisman finalists were announced on Monday night, Kuechly's name wasn't among them. The finalists are Wisconsin's Montee Ball, Baylor's Robert Griffin III, Stanford's Andrew Luck, LSU's Tyrann Mathieu and Alabama's Trent Richardson.
"I'm old enough to remember guys that won it that no one ever heard of again," Spaziani said of the Heisman. "It wasn't some hype that everybody was promoting and politicking for and campaigning for, but times have changed. I understand that."
These days, it seems like a candidate not only has to produce the gaudy stats that voters love but also has to be on a national title contender. Kuechly has one part of that equation, but with the Eagles struggling to a 4-8 mark in 2011, he falls far short in the other.
Yet Spaziani still thinks he has an argument for his guy, one that's about more than just the numbers.
"He could go to any team and any system and be the star," he said. "I don't know if some of those others guys could do that. Take one of the running backs, put him on our team. Is he gonna win the Heisman? Why not? He's the best football player in the country. Oh, he didn't produce because you couldn't block for him."
In the end, Kuechly will have to take solace in the fact he has his coach's (very unofficial) Heisman vote.
"Absolutely," Spaziani said. "I can't imagine anybody being more productive at his position than him."
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.