No repeat in early Heisman talk


LITTLE ROCK — Up against the “Surprise Success Syndrome,” Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has little chance to repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner in 2013.

Heisman voters will want more from Manziel, a demand he can’t meet.

As a voter who did not put Manziel No. 1, I have no argument with those who did. But, he will measured by 5,116 yards total offense and 47 touchdowns and he will have more competition for the trophy than he did in 2012.

That is not a knock on Kansas State quarterback Collin Kleine or Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, but Manziel benefited from disappointing seasons by USC quarterback Matt Barkley, a fire and fall-back year by West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, and various injures to Wisconsin running back Montee Ball.

At the end, the choices were a remarkable freshman, a linebacker, and a leader.

Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is a perfect illustration of the imagined syndrome mentioned earlier. As a sophomore in 2007, he threw 32 touchdown passes and ran for 23 TDS and won the Heisman for the 9-4 Gators.

In 2008, he was 30-4 on touchdown passes vs. interceptions with a quarterback rating identical to the previous year. In 2009, he completed almost 68 percent of his passes, accounted for 35 TDS, and ran for 910 yards despite being sacked a career-high 27 times. Florida was 13-1 both years and he was third and fifth in the voting.

Manziel had help from two of the best tackles in the country, Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, whose ability to maintain contact with pass rushers extended Manziel’s worry-free time in the pocket. Joeckel is gone; Matthews is likely to return.

In addition, defensive coordinators have months to come up with something unique for Manziel and will insist the contain players do their job, unlike the Oklahoma ends.

If not Manziel, who?

Other than the three invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony, only USC wide receiver Marqise Lee received more than six first-place votes.

Sixth in this year’s voting, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney plans to be a Heisman invitee. His hit that separated helmet and ball from Michigan’s Vincent Smith is the most celebrated moment from the 35 bowl games, but he’s got that defensive thing going against him.

How about A.J. McCarron, who has been at the center of unparalleled team success?

Notre Dame’s inferior pass coverage made it easy for McCarron, but he was very good against LSU in the title game a year earlier. This season, he was 30-3 on touchdowns vs. interceptions and, if not for one on the goal line against A&M in the final minute, he might have been in New York.

Naysayers will contend that any adequate quarterback would have two rings playing for Alabama, but many great quarterbacks on great teams have failed to do what he has done.

One negative is competition from teammate T.J. Yeldon, maybe the best Alabama running back on a recent list that includes Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, and Eddie Lacy. Other running backs, including Alton Tenpenny of North Little Rock, know that Nick Saban divides the carries.

For example, Lacy had 20 for 140 vs. Notre Dame and Yeldon had 21 for 108.

Quarterbacks Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Aaron Murray of Georgia are other Heisman candidates who might split votes with teammates De’Anthony Thomas and Todd Gurley.

By process of elimination, my early Heisman favorite is Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. In his first year in Urban Meyer’s offense, Miller threw for 2,039 yards, ran for 1,271, and had a hand in 28 touchdowns.

A member of the so-so Big Ten with a soft non-conference schedule, Ohio State can repeat its 12-0 record easier than A&M can improve on 10-2.

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Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is hking@arkansasnews.com.