LITTLE ROCK — Lesson learned in 2011, Heisman Trophy campaign material from Kansas State was preserved.
More than a year ago, the first piece of Robert Earl Griffin III literature from Baylor was dismissed out of hand. As a joke, the original mailing and the follow-ups were handed off to a cohort. After Griffin was a landslide winner of the Heisman last December, the reporter reveled in wondering out loud what the package of promotions would fetch on E-Bay.
Holding together K-State’s 6-by-6 fold-out mailer is a band-aid over the scraped elbows of quarterback Collin Klein. By the time I got around to opening it, the info was outdated. Across the top, right up there with CK MVP, was the notation that K-State was 6-0 and No. 4 in the BCS. Make that 7-0 and No. 3 after exposing West Virginia to the point that fans in Morgantown were booing before halftime.
The game was supposed to be Geno Smith restating his Heisman credentials after a so-so outing at Texas Tech vs. the Wildcats’ Klein on the periphery of the Heisman talk. Long before 55-14 was final, Klein had joined USC’s Matt Barkley as a front-runner for the Heisman and Smith had vanished from the scene.
In fairness, Smith played against a defense and Klein did not, a point underscored on third-and-7 in the second quarter when Klein, without as much as a fake, had clear sailing around end for 15 yards to the 1.
The Mountaineers appeared clueless about how to stop the option and couldn’t cover anybody. As a result, Klein did not have to rush to decide whether to pitch or keep, much like Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel against Arkansas in the 2008 Cotton Bowl, and appeared much faster than in January vs. the Razorbacks. And, despite a slow-developing delivery, Klein was a sparkling 19-of-21 passing for 323 yards.
The comparison between Klein and Tim Tebow is inevitable since both are big and strong, more than willing to run, and lack the passing skills of the prototype NFL quarterback. Klein also carries K-State like Tebow did Florida and there was that completed jump pass, ala Tebow, vs. the Mountaineers.
Across the bottom of K-State’s mailer is a section labeled Elite Company with the notation that, in 2011, Klein became one of only four players from BCS automatic qualifying conferences to record 20 rushing touchdowns and 10 passing touchdowns in the same season. The others are Nebraska’s Eric Couch, Tebow, and Auburn’s Cam Newton, each pictured holding the Heisman.
Already this year, Klein has run for 14 touchdowns and thrown for 10. Klein will have a couple of more opportunities to build his case, including Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and TCU the next three weeks.
Meanwhile, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel mercurial rise in the Heisman talk has flamed out, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller is still on the fringes, and Barkley has bounced back from a mid-September loss to Stanford. Barkley has showcase games against Oregon and Notre Dame in November.
So far, this Heisman voter has not seen any material from USC. Maybe playing for the Trojans is enough.
Catchy Heisman campaigns crop up from time to time.
Fifteen years ago, Washington State promoted Ryan Leaf by playing off the quarterback’s name. Supposedly, members of the sports information office staff were dispatched to rake leaves around campus and a single leaf was mailed to voting members of the media in nondescript envelopes. Leaf finished third in the Heisman balloting.
In 1990, Brigham Young mailed cardboard ties to promote quarterback Ty Detmer. Aided immeasurably by Detmer’s 5,188 yards passing and 41 touchdowns, the campaign was successful.
More than any organized effort, both Klein and Barkley benefit because the Southeastern Conference’s best do not have a legitimate Heisman candidate.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.