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The Denardening: Is a Heisman Actually in Reach?

Denard Robinson eludes a tackle in the 2010 win at Notre Dame stadium (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Denard Robinson eludes a tackle in the 2010 win at Notre Dame stadium (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Yes, I know, this is apparently the new emo week for Michigan fans (boo-hoo we didn't win by as much as should have?  That argument hasn't worked since 2007), but perhaps lost amidst the angst of the defensive melt down was another stellar performance turned in by Denard Robinson.  While the Umass game represents a little bit of a "come back to Earth" game for Shoelace, he still accounted for 347 total yards of offense, while showcasing some accuracy on deep balls that simply hasn't been there to date. 

So while the rational Michigan fans are trying to figure out how to get to 7 wins with this defense, I'm trying to figure out how to get Denard a Heisman.  I know, the team, the team, the team, etc. but I know that you're secretly harboring Heisman hopes, so perhaps we should just get them out there, shall we?  Caveats abound with this season being 3 games in, etc.  I don't swim in your toilet, so don't pee in my pool.

The Contenders

In contrast to last season which saw Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, and Tim Tebow enter the season as the clear triumvirate of Heisman contenders, we entered this season with virtually nobody taking the reins in a race that remains wide open.

Mark Ingram: Mark Ingram, last year's winner, enters this year as the favorite by virtue of last season's heroics, but might not be able to overcome the surging Trent Richardson taking carries (although if Duke is an indicator, he might not have to worry too much, having exceeded 120 yards in the first quarter).

Terrelle Pryor: Terrelle Pryor is no doubt the second "reluctant favorite."  He's been strong so far this year, showing off some accuracy in the blowout win against Ohio.  He also maintains that gazelle speed that looks like he's barely moving except oops he's in the endzone now.

Denard Robinson: On absolutely nobody's radar to start the season, and I don't think I need to recap his heroics in this space.

Kellen MooreThe Boise State quarterback is simply going to put up gaudy numbers.  Will the voters hold his schedule and conference against him?  Purely by the numbers, he's probably the best "traditional" quarterback on the ballet, except for...

Ryan MallettI have no recollection of this young man.  After Jake Locker's destruction at the hands of Nebraska, he is likely the most "NFL ready" Quarterback in the NCAA this year (I would hear arguments otherwise - I'm certainly no expert on draft-ready QB's.  I'm just parroting what I've heard here).

The breakdown and numbers galore after the jump!


The Stats:

QB Rating
Pass Yards
Pass TD
Comp %
Rush Yards
Rush TD
Mark Ingram
Terrelle Pryor
Denard Robinson
Kellen Moore
Ryan Mallett
no, srsly?


Ingram hasn't caught any passes yet, but as soon as he does I will update accordingly.

Denard's Current Position

Nearly all Heisman watch-type-substances have Denard Robinson in the pole position this early in the season.  The two stats that jump out from the above are Robinson's rush yards, and Mallett's pass yards.  It will be interesting, as the season progresses, to see if Mallett's high-octane throwing arm will unseat Denard's dilithium legs. Currently, however, Denard Robinson owns shotgun as the leader of the race, killing nearly all comers both statistically and (probably just as important) in "wow-factor." I hate myself for typing that.

Denard's Historic Position

Paramount to the discussion here is comparing Denard's year to similar style winners of the past.  In what could be considered the "modern" Heisman, there is really only one player that matches Denard's ability as dual-threat: Eric Crouch.  Because it's not a perfect match, I'm throwing in Vince Young's 2005 campaign that saw him finish 2nd in voting, and 1st in college eligibility.  Here are the stats through the first 3 games for each player:

Pass Yrds/Att
Pass TD/INT Comp % Rush Yrds/Att
Rush TD

Eric Crouch 2001
348 / 42
1 / 2
148 / 53

Vince Young 2005
544 / 60
5 / 4
202 / 35

Denard Robinson 2010
671 / 76
4 / 1
559 / 74


Denard Robinson stacks up favorably against the two quarterbacks with similar skill sets who won the Heisman. He stacks up so favorably, in fact, that I'm struggling to come up with how to describe it.  "Historic" doesn't seem to be adequate.  There is, however, a major issue with the chart above.  Both Vince Young and Eric Crouch did their best work in conference against tougher opponents.  Denard Robinson will have to keep pace with his current production - or at least his production againts Umass - if he wants to hang with Vince and Eric's historic seasons. 

So far, however, he's both a better thrower and a better runner than either of these two players.  He has been so devastating in the run, in fact, that his stats eclipse even those set by running back Mark Ingram during his 2009 Heisman Winning campaign:  Mark only had 297 yards rushing and 3 rushing TD's at this point.  Of course, he also had 120 yards receiving and 2 TD's, but add those together and you're still not getting Robinson's production on the ground alone.

What does it mean?

It means that Denard Robinson, just 3 games into this season, is not only leading the Heisman race, he's actively destroying everyone else involved, including the ghosts of winners past.  In looking at similar-style players of the past, and the entire seasons that ended with them winning the award, Denard will have to at least maintain production during the conference schedule in order to actually win the award.  Crouch and Young had their best games against a conference opponent later in the season.  Making a snack out of Notre Dame is no small task, and I'm not implying that it should be taken lightly for Denard's campaign, but if he starts to fade over the course of conference play, it will not bode well for him winning the award.  He will not be able to hang his Heisman hat on the Notre Dame game.  He will likely need a "statement" or "signature" game against a Big Ten foe (Ohio State?  Pretty please?) in order to truly lock down on the award.

I'm going to try to keep the charts updated above as he goes through the season, and continue to compare him to Crouch and Young's winning seasons.  Any other QB's I should throw in there historically?  I know that there were several option-style QB's of the 70's, but I'm not sure the relevance to today's Heisman award.

[ed - per comments, Tim Tebow will be added into the mix next week]