Thursday, July 28, 2011

Matt Chandik's Heisman Predictions...No.1

It would be easy to make the case for Alabama as the top college football program of all-time. The Crimson Tide has a ridiculous amount of tradition, national titles (9,182,021 if you believe 'Bama fans, though they've been known to be, uh, rather liberal when it comes to doling those out. Then again, it's the Southern education at work, so...) and All-Americans.

What's surprising, though, is that Alabama has only produced one Heisman Trophy winner. Former Tide running back and eventual New Orleans Saints first-round pick Mark Ingram went from a nondescript run-of-the-mill three-star recruit to a battering ram that sparked Alabama's pro-style offense to a national championship (helped in large part by the fact that current Texas starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert's football IQ is roughly the same as the amount of teeth that the average SEC fan has- eight). Ingram averaged more than six yards per carry as part of a 1,658-yard, 17-touchdown year that also saw him add 344 yards and three touchdowns in the air.
If all goes well for Nick Saban's crew, though, the Tide won't have to wait too long before getting its second Heisman. Same position, same team, even better back. My pick for the 2011 Heisman Trophy is Alabama running back Trent Richardson, who might be the best all-around back in the nation.
Richardson burst onto the scene as Ingram's understudy as a freshman in 2008. The 5-11, 225-pound back ran for 749 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 16 passes for 126 yards. Not bad for a true freshman backing up the eventual Heisman winner. A year ago, though, he notched 700 yards on the ground, a slight decrease from his freshman year, but did it on 32 less carries and improved his yards per carry average from 5.20 to 6.25. He also snared 23 passes for 266 yards and four scores while serving as Alabama's primary kick returner. Richardson added a touchdown and averaged 26.42 yards per kick return despite missing games against Mississippi State and Georgia State.
I fully expect Richardson to improve on his numbers exponentially. He's got great size at 5-11, 225 pounds and is one of the biggest workout warriors in college football. He is, quite simply put, enormous. Richardson is a ball of muscle who possess great balance, very good speed amd impressive power. He's one of the toughest running backs in the country to bring down. That, coupled with the fact that Nick Saban will be breaking in a new quarterback (more than likely A.J. McCarron, though Philip Sims will see some snaps, too), should mean that Richardson will get the ball early and often. While unfortunate for Alabama, true freshman Demetrius Hart's torn ACL should actually help Richardson even more. Hart, a 5-9, 185-pound back who was one of the finest pass-catching high school seniors a year ago, was expected to do some good things as the team's third-down back. With him out, Richardson will likely see his workload increase, though backup Eddie Lacey should see plenty of action, too.
One of Richardson's toughest opponents, though, will be himself. Numerous sources are saying that the big back could be in some hot water with the NCAA. Those sources indicate that he may have accepted illegal benefits from T-Town Menswear, a store in Tuscaloosa run by an Alabama booster and owner of sideline passes, and obviously, any ineligibility would lead to me dropping Richardson on this list. I don't want to bring up the current investigation, because that's not my strong suit, but for the sake of my list, I'll assume that everything works out for Richardson and he can play the whole year.
Richardson's Heisman candidacy will be significantly helped by Alabama's high profile. As its fans will remind you quite literally every fucking chance they have, the SEC has pumped out the last nine thousand national champions (Don't bother trying to tell an SEC fan that their rivals' championships aren't the same as their team winning one. They don't give a shit. Georgia will claim Florida's national titles, Ole Miss wants dibs on LSU's titles, Auburn wants a part of 'Bama's title and vice-versa, Kentucky and Vandy insist that Tennessee's title is theirs, etc...) and Alabama is the league's best bet to continue the streak. They'll have a disgustingly good defense led by 6-3, 305-pound defensive linemen who can run a 2.4 40-yard dash, ridiculously big, fast and awesome linebackers like Courtney Upshaw and Nico Johnson, and defensive backs who run like wide receivers and look like linebackers like Dre Kirkpatrick, Robert Lester, Mark Barron and DeQuan Menzie. That defense will make sure that the offense never has to wait too long to get back on the field and will keep McCarron or Sims in manageable situations. By manageable situations, I mean more situations where they can hand off to Richardson. Richardson will benefit from the fact that his team is so good (the Tide and Oklahoma are No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation. Pick whatever team you like better. I won't argue.), it's always been so good (remember, eleventy billion national titles, Bear Bryant, all that fun shit) and that voters already know his name from being Ingram's bull in a china shop backup. If not, Richardson can always just start beating the shit out of voters because, well, Google him. He's a scary dude.
That sums up my top five countdown for the 2011 Heisman Trophy. I really hope Richardson doesn't become ineligible because, well, that would kind of mess this list up a bit. Like I alluded to in an earlier post, though, it's a loaded field for the Heisman, and it wouldn't be surprising to see other established stars jump up into the spotlight for the prestigious trophy. Pissed off about something I wrote? Disagree? Agree? I'm awesome? I'm not awesome? Email me at and/or mercilessly harass me on Twitter @MattChandik.

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