What changed in college football between 1999 and 2009? Somehow the Heisman trophy has transitioned to a Quarterback Club award, but is a quarterback the best Heisman Trophy winner of the decade?
To figure it out I crunched the numbers, the stats, the voting, the wins, and compared all ten Heisman winners. What I didn't do is take into account each players pro (or lack there of) career.
Here is how it turns out:
10. Eric Crouch, Nebraska QB - In one of the worst Heisman races of all time, Nebraska QB Eric Crouch defeated Florida QB Rex Grossman in 2001 to win the award. That season Crouch rushed for over 1,200 yards and passe for over 1,500. He added 18 rushing touchdowns, and 7 passing touchdowns to that mark. Crouch also lead Nebraska to the Rose Bowl where the Cornhuskers would fall to the Miami Hurricanes for the National Championship.
09. Jason White, Oklahoma QB - In a race that included the names Larry Fitzgerald, Eli Manning, Matt Leinart, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger it's pure honor for Jason White to say he won the Heisman Trophy in 2003. There's no denying the White put up the best numbers in the country in at QB in 2003, with over 3,700 yards passing, and a 40 to 8 TD to INT ratio. White's Senior status gave him the edge over Fitzgerald who had an NCAA record of 18 straight games with at least 1 touchdown catch, as well as close to 1,600 yards and 22 TD's on the season.
08. Carson Palmer, USC QB - Palmer play in 2002 lead USC back to prominence as a college football program. It's hard to argue that Palmer deserved the award in 2002, but his chief competition, Penn State running back Larry Johnson, ran for over 2,000 yards that season. Still, Palmers ability to bring a fledgling program back to the limelight helped him with the award.
07. Chris Weinke, Florida State QB - The 28 year old former minor league baseball player picked up the Heisman in 2000 after a close race with Oklahoma QB Josh Heupel, Purdue QB Drew Brees, and TCU RB LaDanian Tomlinson. Despite the still competition, it's hard to argue that Weinke didn't deserve the award, having lead the nation with 4,167 yards, as well as having a 33 to 11 TD to INT ratio. Heupel would go on to defeat Weinke in the National Championship Game that January, while Brees and Tomlinson would go on to have Pro Bowl careers in the NFL, spending their first five seasons as teammates in San Diego.
06. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma QB - In what was considered the best Heisman race of the decade, Sam Bradford edged out 2007's Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow, and Texas QB Colt McCoy. The race was so close, with Bradford coming in second for first place votes (behind Tebow), but racking up enough second place votes to give him the edge over 2nd place McCoy, and 3rd place Tebow. Though he would eventually lose in the national championship to Tebow's Florida Gator team, Bradford deserved the 2008 Heisman trophy. His 4,464 yards with 48 TD's and only 6 INT is incredible. On top of that he added 5 touchdowns on the ground. Bradford would never get the chance to defend his Heisman as his junior year was cut short by injury. He declared himself eligible for the NFL draft later that season.
05. Mark Ingram, Alabama RB - Ingram won the 2009 Heisman in the closest vote of all time, but his receiving the award was well deserved. Despite a list of finalists that included Nebraska NT Ndamukong Suh, 2007 Heisman winner and two time runner up Tim Tebow, 2008 runner up Colt McCoy, and Stanford RB Toby Gerhart, Ingram's performance as the best player on the best team in the country make him worthy of receiving the award. Though Gerhart had better rushing numbers, Ingram's performance in the SEC Championship game solidified him as the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner.
04. Matt Leinart, USC QB - Though it wasn't the best Heisman performance of the decade,
when I think of Heisman QB in the 00's my brain automatically shifts to Matt Leinart. Leinart beat out Adrian Peterson, defending Heisman winner Jason White, Alex Smith, and teammate Reggie Bush, for the award in 2004, and absolutely deserved it. Though he didn't light up the sky, Leinart threw for close to 3,000 yards with 28 TD's and only 6 INT's on the season. More importantly, Leinart became the first (and so far only) player to win the Heisman and the National Championship in the same season in the 00's.
03. Tim Tebow, Florida QB - A year after being an impact player on a national champion as a freshman, Tebow took over the NCAA and won the Heisman as a Sophomore, becoming the first underclassmen to ever win the award. In 2007 Tebow passed for 3,393 yards, 31 TD's, 7 INTs, with 838 yards on the ground, and 22 rushing TD's. Tebow's production in 2007 was astounding, and he'd carry his performance over to a national championship in 2008. Tebow's 2007 was so impressive that he beat out (by a large margin) Hawaii QB Colt Brennan who broke all sorts of NCAA records that season.
02. Troy Smith, Ohio State QB - In the most dominating Heisman poll of the decade, Troy Smith easily won the award in 2006. Smith passed for 30 TD's and just 5 INT's in 2006, while leading the Buckeyes to the national championship where the team would lose to the Florida Gators. Smith beat out Arkansas RB Darren McFadden, Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn, and Hawaii QB Colt Brennan to easily win the award. His Heisman win still stands as the second-most lopsided in the 75 year history of the trophy.
01. Reggie Bush, USC RB - The third Trojan to win the Heisman in the 00's, Bush was also (easily) the most deserving. His 1,658 rushing yards, 15 rushing TDs, 383 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns, 570 return yards, and 1 return TD were enough to top stiff competition from Texas QB Vince Young, Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn, and teammate and defending Heisman winner Matt Leinart. Bush's 784 first place votes were second only to Troy Smith's 801 in 2006 (a less competitive year for the trophy). Bush's performance was enough to make USC look unbeatable heading into that seasons National Championship, but the Trojans dynastic run would end that night at the hands (or legs I suppose) of Heisman runner up Vince Young's Texas Longhorn team.