Trent Richardson

Trent Richardson’s strong play this season should continue into this week. He is among a group of rookies that are making big contributions to their teams this season, and could be gold mines for fantasy owners.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Fall is upon us, and so are the early rounds of bye weeks for players. Shuffling a roster to adjust for a key fantasy player’s off week is always difficult, so here are a few suggestions for players who are sure to be taking the field this weekend:

Start:

1) Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
RG3! RG3! In case you haven’t heard, this Griffin guy is pretty good. Despite being a rookie, he has put up the most fantasy points of any quarterback through four games this season. The key to his success is versatility in the running and passing game. Coincidentally, this week Griffin will face the Falcons, a team that had a ton of problems containing dual-threat quarterback Cam Newton. Expect RG3 to continue playing at a high level.

2) Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
The rookie trend continues with Richardson looking like a strong starting option this week against the Giants. Despite playing alongside rookie QB Brandon Weeden, who has struggled mightily, Richardson has managed to score in the Browns’ last three contests. Whether or not the Browns have a good day in the Meadowlands Sunday, Richardson should produce.

3) Darren Sproles, RB, New Orleans Saints
Holy cow, no one saw the Saints stumbling out of the gate to a 0-4 start. Despite his team’s struggles, Sproles remains a consistent fantasy threat. Thanks to his ability to run the ball and catch passes out of the backfield in the Saints’ creative screen game, Sproles is a versatile weapon for QB Drew Brees. With the Saints in desperation mode and his former team, the San Diego Chargers, coming into town for a Sunday Night Football showdown, Sproles should be in store for a big game.

Sit:

1) Michael Bush, RB, Chicago Bears
With starting running back Matt Forte out with an ankle injury for the past several weeks, Bush became a fantasy starter. However, with Forte healthy and back in the starting lineup, Bush’s workload is sure to decrease this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Although he remains a viable threat in deep fantasy leagues because of his potential for goal-line touches, avoid Bush if you can.

2) Brandon Bolden, RB, New England Patriots
Bolden exploded onto the scene in week four against the Buffalo Bills, racking up 137 rushing yards and a touchdown. However, New England players are always risky fantasy starts due to the Patriots’ propensity to spread the ball around. Considering he is behind RB Stevan Ridley on the depth chart and the Patriots are facing the Denver Broncos’ top 10 rushing defense, don’t expect Bolden to have a similar outing this week.

3) Matt Cassel, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
You know a quarterback is struggling when fans are already calling for him to be replaced by the fifth game. You really know he’s struggling when his backup and sudden fan-favorite is Brady Quinn, who has not started an NFL game since 2009. With the Ravens coming to town and the pressure mounting, Cassel could be in store for more boos from his home crowd.

Printed on Friday, October 5, 2012 as: Richardson among rookie fantasy locks

Alabama’s defense has carried the Tide to two national titles in the past three seasons, including a 37-21 victory over the Longhorns in 2009. The Longhorns are in a similar position as the Tide have been in recent years, with a stout defense and strong supporting cast.

Photo Credit: Caleb Bryant Miller | Daily Texan Staff

As much spotlight as prolific offenses get in college football now, it’s worth remembering that the teams with the country’s two best defenses last season squared off in the 2011 National Title game.

Despite facing each other during the regular season in an agonizingly sloppy, touchdown-free slugfest in Tuscaloosa last November, LSU and Alabama played each other two months later in the BCS National Championship. The Tigers couldn’t get the ball across midfield until the fourth quarter as the Crimson Tide rolled to another title.

With their strong three-headed rushing attack and a stout defense, it’s not hard to see why many think the Longhorns can easily plug in Alabama’s formula for success and end up in a BCS bowl this year. But it’s not that simple.

Tailback Trent Richardson, a Heisman finalist, and a defense that held opponents to nearly 80 fewer yards per game than anyone in the country didn’t make up for a below average quarterback. They complemented a quarterback that was an effective passer and kept the ball from landing in the defense’s hand long enough to score.

David Ash, who was named the Longhorns starting quarterback last week, was picked off eight times (while throwing four touchdowns) in 174 pass attempts last year, or about once every 22 throws. On the other hand, Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron threw just five interceptions out of 328 passes. After getting picked off twice in Alabama’s season-opening win against Kent State, McCarron threw just three interceptions in his next 305 attempts.

McCarron, who tossed 16 touchdowns last season, was intercepted three times less often than Ash and, at one point, went 152 passes without getting picked off. Ash, who was sacked three more times than McCarron last year, went 123 throws without throwing a touchdown in 2011.

“If there wasn’t something there, he’d try to force it and it’d be a turnover,” head coach Mack Brown said. “We had a great defense and we were running the ball better. If we took care of the ball like we did in the Holiday Bowl, we had a chance to win every game. When we won the turnover ratio, we won the game.”

With another year under his belt, Ash is sure to be less turnover-prone this season. But he’ll have to drastically improve for Texas’ offense to resemble Alabama’s at all.

As for the other components of a dominant Crimson Tide team, the Longhorns have everything covered. They might not have a Trent Richardson that’s going to top 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns but between Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron, and Johnathan Gray, they should have one of the nation’s top running games.

And not only is the Texas defense possibly better than the unit that led the Big 12 in passing, rushing and total defense last year, but the leadership is stronger than ever despite having only two senior starters. According to one of them, safety Kenny Vaccaro, a self-proclaimed Thorpe Award candidate, the Longhorns defense hasn’t had the kind of leadership it has now since linebacker Sergio Kindle and defensive tackle Lamarr Houston were on the Forty Acres three years ago.

“My freshman year, with Sergio and Lamarr, I was scared… I thought if I didn’t make every tackle on kickoff, that they were going to rip my head off. So that’s what I did,” Vaccaro said. “We all need to be on the same page. I told everyone that if you’re not going to go 100 percent, then just go home. Because if football isn’t important to you like it is to me, I don’t want to be associated with a group of guys that don’t care about the game as much as I do.”

While some are tempering their expectations for Texas quarterbacks, most still hope for a 10-win season and a possible BCS bowl berth. But, even with a deep group of tailbacks and one of the country’s best defenses, the Longhorns are going to need more out of their quarterback than they got last year.

NFL Draft— Trading all around

In yesterday’s Daily Texan, the Texan sports opinion staff informed readers that they could pass on the first 20 minutes of the draft. Hopefully you tuned in soon after because Radio City Music Hall got pretty interesting on Thursday night.
Three surprising top-10 trades shook up the draft. But at the end of the night, Trent Richardson landed in Cleveland, Justin Blackmon went to Jacksonville and Morris Clairborne ended up in Dallas.

Oh yeah, Andrew Luck was selected by the Colts first and Robert Griffin III was chosen by the Redskins with the second pick.

The Browns moved from the No. 4 sport to Minnesota’s No. 3 before the draft began and selected Richardson — the running back from Alabama. With this trade, the Vikings got fourth, fifth and seventh round picks.

With the fourth pick in the draft, the Vikings took USC left tackle Matt Kalil.

The Buccaneers traded their number No. 5 pick to the Jaguars for the seventh pick and a fourth round pick. The Jaguars chose Oklahoma State receiver Blackmon. The Buccaneers chose Alabama safety Mark Barron with the seventh pick.

The Rams, who originally had the sixth pick, traded their pick to Dallas for the No. 14 pick and the 45th pick. The Cowboys selected LSU cornerback Claiborne.

The Rams eventually selected defensive tackle Michael Brockers at No. 14. The Dolphins took Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill with the eighth pick and the Bills took South Caroline cornerback Stephon Gilmore with the tenth pick. Tannehill is the first A&M quarterback to be chosen in the first round. The Panthers chose Boston College’s Luke Kuechly.

The Cleveland Browns had one of the worst offenses in the NFL last year. Not only did the Browns add Richardson, but they chose Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick.

The Browns will have an interesting competition for quarterback with former Longhorn Colt McCoy currently at the helm.

The Kansas City Chiefs took Memphis’ Dontari Poe eleventh overall. The Eagles traded to get the 12th pick and they chose Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. With that trade, the Seahawks got the Nos. 15, 114 and 192 picks.

The Jets chose North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples at No. 16 while the Bengals chose Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was picked up by the Bengals.

The Lions chose Iowa’s Riley Reiff, the Steelers chose David DeCastro of Stanford and the Patriots chose Dont’a Hightower from Alabama.

The Texans picked DE Whitney Mercilus, the Bengals chose Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler and the Packers chose USC defensive end Nick Perry with the 28th pick.

Although the first two picks were decided before the draft even began on Thursday, there were plenty of change-ups and trades that kept things interesting.

Daily Texan Mock Draft

1. Indianapolis Colts — Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

When comparing Luck to Griffin Robert Griffin III, it’s easy to overlook Luck’s athleticism. But the Stanford product ran the fourth-best 40-yard-dash among quarterbacks, turned in the fifth-best vertical leap and had the furthest broad jump. He’s much, much more athletic than Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Drew Brees. Luck’s arm and touch could eventually put him in that upper-echelon of NFL quarterbacks, though: he ranked seventh in the NCAA with a 71.3 completion percentage, sixth with 8.7 yards per attempt and tied for fifth with a touchdown percentage of 9.2 — meaning for every 100 passes he attempted, roughly 10 of them were for touchdowns. But will he have anybody besides Reggie Wayne to throw to in Indy?

2. Washington Redskins (from the Rams) — Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Bear with me here, but I like the Heisman Winner from Baylor better than I do Luck. In those aforementioned passing metrics, RG3 ranks better than Luck — third in completion percentage, first in yards per attempt, a tie with Luck in touchdown percentage and also a interception percentage that ranked among the best in the country (1.5, good for 12th). Luck, on the other hand, threw an interception 2.5 percent of the time he put the ball in the air — 46th in the country.

It really is arguable that Griffin III is a better passing prospect than Luck. It’s unarguable that he’s a better athlete (best 40 time of any QB, best vertical leap), one who put up whopping rushing numbers in college with 2,943 total yards and 10 games of triple-digit yardage in essentially three seasons.

One last stat: his passer-efficiency rating in 2011 was the second best ever.

3. Minnesota Vikings — Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State

USC tackle Matt Kalil has been penciled in at this spot since the combine, but it won’t be too surprising if the Vikings elect to go with this year’s best cornerback. In a division where you’re facing Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler (not to mention, Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and Brandon Marshall) twice a year, you need to be able to stop the pass.

Offensive tackles aren't full-proof options, either. Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe and Trent Williams are recent examples of top-10 tackles whose teams (St. Louis, Jacksonville and Washington, respectively) rank among the worst in the league (32nd, 28th, 26th, also respectively). Take Claiborne and give yourself a secondary to build on.

4. Cleveland Browns — Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

Montario Hardesty, Greg Little, Ben Watson, Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs, Chris Ogbonnaya…I don’t care who your quarterback is, or who you’ve got on the offensive line; you’re not winning many games with that core of skill players. That’s why the Browns have to get the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. Cleveland traded down last year (and drafted a defensive tackle, Phil Taylor, at 21) in order to stockpile picks. Those picks need to be used to help give a quarterback — for now it’s Colt McCoy — a prayer at winning games in the AFC North. Richardson steps in and starts from day one.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

With Claiborne and Richardson off the board, the Bucs have to reach a bit here to get a cornerback, but it’s a major position of need. Ronde Barber has very little left in the tank and the troubled Aqib Talib is being shopped.

6. St. Louis Rams — Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

From 2010 to 2011, Blackmon scored 38 touchdowns and hauled in 232 passes. His 3,304 receiving yards might be a byproduct of a system, but that’s insane no matter how you slice it (as is his ypc average of 14.6). He’s neither the fastest nor the tallest receiver in this draft, yet he is far and away the most productive and should immediately become Sam Bradford’s top target.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars — Matt Kalil, OT, Southern California

Since 2008, the Jags have chosen in the top 10 every year. And with little results to show for it: Derrick Harvey busted, Monroe has provided little semblance of a building block, Blaine Gabbert could be a disaster. The pick of defensive tackle Tyson Alualu is actually the best so far — and even that is saying something. So this pick needs to be right, and when you’re facing that kind of pressure, you take the best player available, regardless of need. Kalil, a potential franchise left tackle, is just that.

8. Miami Dolphins — Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

Here’s what I don’t like about Tannehill: He has only 20 games at quarterback under his belt and he was perhaps the main culprit in A&M’s choke job of 2011.

Here’s what I do like: He’s a confident, stand-up type of guy with an above-average arm.

Here’s what I hate: His 61.6 completion percentage last season, his seven yards per attempt, his 2.8 interception percentage.

And here’s what I love: He was sacked only nine times last year, so I know the former wide receiver can avoid the pressures of the Jets, Patriots and the newly-revamped pass rush of the Bills in the AFC East, and he can throw on the run. When a play breaks down, or when a receiver just can’t get open — with Brian Hartline and Davone Bess, this could happen quite often — Tannehill can make things happen with his feet.

Look, Tannehill is the ultimate project quarterback. But the Dolphins can afford to be patient. Matt Moore is a serviceable option and it’s not like the team is about to challenge New England or New York for the division. He’s worth the risk here at 8.

9. Carolina Panthers — Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

With Cam Newton and Steve Smith doing their thing on offense, it’s time for Carolina to shore up things on the other side of the ball. The NFL’s seventh-worst rushing defense would be buoyed by the addition of Cox, who had five sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss last season.

10. Buffalo Bills — Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

Despite the offseason signing of Mario Williams, there’s still work to be done to improve Buffalo’s D, which ranked 28th in total defense and 30th in run defense. Kuechly, who led the NCAA in tackles last season, gives the Bills one of the best front sevens in the league. Offensive help — mainly, receiver — can come in the later rounds.

11. Kansas City Chiefs — Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

Another pass-rush option to pair opposite Tamba Hali. Got to be able to get to the quarterback in a division where you face Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers twice a season.

12. Seattle Seahawks — Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

Probably a reach here. Then again, they said the same thing about Jason Pierre-Paul at No. 15 a few seasons ago. The Seahawks put up pedestrian sack numbers in 2011 (33, for a sack percentage of 5.7). Coples never put up huge numbers at UNC, but it’s his potential — a 4.7 40 time at 6-foot-6 and 284 lbs. — that has Seattle pulling the trigger.

13. Arizona Cardinals — Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

The smart pick might be an offensive lineman like David DeCastro or Riley Reiff, but Larry Fitzgerald has been begging for somebody to take double-team pressure off of him for the longest time.

14. Dallas Cowboys — Mark Barron, S, Alabama

The Cowboys have taken three defensive backs in the first round the last decade — safety Roy Williams in 2002 and cornerbacks Terence Newman in 2003 and Mike Jenkins in 2008. Barron becomes No. 4 here and it’s easy to believe he could be better than any of the three.

15. Philadelphia Eagles — Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

Philly chose a guard with its first-round pick a year ago, but it’s been a long time since it used such a high pick on an offensive tackle — 1998 ,to be exact. With left tackle Jason Peters possibly out for the season, now seems as good a time as any to break the streak.

16. New York Jets — Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

For a team that’s made the AFC Championship game two of the last three years, the Jets sure do have a lot of holes. The “ground and pound” offense hasn’t gone anywhere behind Shonn Greene (22nd in team rushing last season), the passing game is in a state of disillusion (21st) and the Jets finished in the red in takeaways. But dangling Poe in front of Rex Ryan — who loves taking on defensive projects — is just too tantalizing.

17. Cincinnati Bengals — David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

With a boatload of draft picks after dealing Carson Palmer to the Raiders midseason, there’s plenty of time later on for the Bengals to make a sexier choice, possibly at corner or receiver. Take the draft’s best guard prospect off the boards.

18. San Diego Chargers — Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

What is it that has caused the Chargers to fall short so often? Among other things, the team failed to establish the run it its six-game losing streak in the middle of last year, posting a paltry 98 yards per game. You’ve got a capable runner in Ryan Mathews, now give him somebody to run behind.

19. Chicago Bears — Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia

Unless the plan is to turn Jay Cutler into David Carr, it’s high time to improve the offensive line. Stick Glenn at right tackle and hope last year’s top pick, Gabe Carimi, is healthy enough to play a full season at left. Then bid adieu to J’Marcus Webb and Lance Louis, the weak links of a unit that allowed 49 sacks in 2011.

20. Tennessee Titans — Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama

In a division that will one day be run by Andrew Luck, it’s imperative to have somebody who can get after the passer. Upshaw (8.5 sacks last season) can put his hand in the dirt in a 4-3 defensive set or play upright in a 3-4.

21. Cincinnati Bengals — Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Here’s that cornerback pick I was telling you about. If it weren’t for a few character issues, Kirkpatrick might have been drafted higher. Really good value here for the big, physical Kirkpatrick.

22. Cleveland Browns — Reuben Randle, WR, LSU

Randle is just the kind of deep threat the Browns need to stretch the field, and clear out the box for fellow rookie Trent Richardson. His 17.3 yards per reception ranked among the top 20 in the nation a year ago.

23. Detroit Lions — Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

Character issues, schmaracter issues. When you can get this kind of talent this late in the first round, and fill a need while doing it, you take a risk. (Jenkins was dismissed by the Florida Gators after a myriad of drug problems and he’s fathered four children with three different women.) If Jenkins can stay out of trouble — granted, a big if — he can help the Lions.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers — Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin

It has been a game of musical chairs at the right guard position for Steelers, where Darnell Stapleton, Ramon Foster and Trai Essex have been used as temporary replacements until a franchise-type player comes along. In the rugged AFC North, with Ben Roethlisberger feeling the heat, here’s the opportunity to grab a long-term starter.

25. Denver Broncos — Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

Those who didn’t flip the channel in between Tim Tebow’s series on offense most likely noticed Denver’s glaring weakness. In eight losses, the Broncos gave up an average of 150 rushing yards a game. Peyton Manning won’t be nearly as effective if he’s sitting on the sidelines watching the opposition run at will.

26. Houston Texans — Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

It’s a choice here between Wright or Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech. Because Houston needs somebody to step in opposite Andre Johnson immediately, the best bet is it’s the uber-productive Wright (one touchdown in every seven catches last season) over a raw talent like Hill.

27. New England Patriots — Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

Last year’s sack leader (16) winds up on a team that has twice seen, firsthand, what an effective pass rush can really do (the New York Giants of 2007, 2011). There's a hole to fill, too, with Mark Anderson signing with the Bills.

28. Green Bay Packers — Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State

Like Clay Matthews, McClellin is a bit of a late-bloomer who’s just now starting to pick up steam. Funny timing. Green Bay is in desperate need of a pass-rushing ‘backer to draw some attention away from Mr. Matthews.

29. Baltimore Ravens — Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State

A receiver is tempting, but Adams can either replace the aging Bryant McKinnie or the departed Ben Grubbs.

30. San Francisco 49ers — Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech

Call it a reward for quarterback Alex Smith who, ahem, faithfully came back to San Fran after flirting with the Dolphins in the offseason. Michael Crabtree looks like a flop, anyways.

31. New England Patriots — Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State

This pick might fall into the hands of a team trying to trade up for Brandon Weeden. Among the contenders, Cleveland has the most to offer in terms of draft picks (Nos. 37 and 67). If not, Patriots should go defense again.

32. New York Giants — Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford

One minor cost of the Giants winning the Super Bowl in Feb. was that two of their tight ends, Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum, suffered knee injuries that could cause them to miss the entire 2012 season. Fleener averaged about 20 yards a catch in his final year at Stanford and also hauled in 10 touchdowns.

LSU’s Morris Claiborne is projected by many to go within the Draft’s first few picks. Claiborne impressed at the combine and saw his stock climb.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The Colts have removed the large banner featuring Peyton Manning outside of Lucas Oil Stadium. Andrew Luck is coming to town.

This draft has had more drama leading up to it than others. The seemingly never-ending Manning, Tim Tebow and Luck saga will finally come to an end, and Luck will be heading to Indianapolis.

Although Heisman winner Robert Griffin III is a standout quarterback, he will be chosen second and going to Washington. This will be the fourth time since 1967 that a pair of quarterbacks will go No. 1 and No. 2 in the draft. With the first two picks virtually set in stone, the ones following are where it gets more unclear.

Trent Richardson could shake things up

There is no doubt that Trent Richardson is one of the best players in the draft. The 5-foot-11 speedster has the ability to break tackles, catch the ball and run (he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds).

But how long it will take for his name to be called on draft day is unclear. Running backs are often underappreciated and teams will likely be torn as to whether or not he deserves to be a top-10 pick.

He was vital in Alabama’s national championship season. But in a pass-heavy NFL, teams that will be calling names early may be hesitant to choose Richardson.

Although it is unclear where Richardson will go, the Browns are in need of a solid running back. Richardson could be that guy.

But it would be hard to use the No. 4 pick on a running back.

Some surprises could break into the first round

LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle had 53 catches for 917 yards and eight touchdowns during LSU’s impressive run to the BCS National Championship. He had a breakout season and was named to the All SEC-First Team. He only caught 44 passes in his first two years as a Tiger, but this year he proved he is NFL-ready, even potentially deserving to be a first rounder.

Like Randle, Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith had a strong year that will put him in contention to be a first round pick. This season he had 93 tackles, seven interceptions and seven pass break ups. He could be a strong fit for the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants or the Patriots, who are in need of some improvement on the defensive end. Smith has snuck up and is the second best safety in this year’s draft behind Alabama’s Mark Barron.

No surprise here; the SEC will dominate first round

With the SEC winning the last six national championships, it’s no surprise that players from the conference will be hearing their names called very frequently today. Between nine and 12 players will likely be picked from the conference in the first round.

Alabama’s Richardson and LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne will likely be the first two chosen from the competitive conference. Barron will be chosen in the first round, even though safeties aren’t typically chosen so early. South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore and Melvin Ingram will probably be top 20 picks.

Printed on Thursday, April 26, 2012 as: SEC expected to represent, dominate first round picks

Robert Griffin III QB Baylor
Week 14 vs. Texas- Passing: 15/22 (68.2%) for 320 yards, 2 TD 1 INT Rushing: 12 carries for 32 yards, 2 TD
Season Stats- Passing: 267/369 (72.4%) for 3,998 yards, 36 TD 6 INT Rushing: 161 carries for 644 yards (4.0 ypc), 9 TD

Remember all that talk by the Longhorns’ defense about how RGIII wasn’t going to win the Heisman against them? Well, he may have done just that last week. Against what proved to be a pretty tenacious Texas defense in the second half of the season, Griffin executed and came out with yet another big win. In the last five games Griffin has scored no less than three touchdowns and has only tossed two interceptions. The 9-3 (6-3) mark that Griffin has led the Bears to is the most successful any team from Waco has been in decades. It’s not likely that Griffin will return for his senior season after the arcade-like numbers he put up this year. However, he has an excellent chance of becoming the only Bears’ player to ever win the Heisman.

Trent Richardson RB Alabama
Week 14- DNP
Season Stats- Rushing: 263 rushes for 1,583 yards (6.0 ypc), 20 TD Receiving: 27 receptions for 327 yards (12.1 ypc), 3 TD

All of the BCS imperfections aside, the rematch between Alabama and LSU should be another game that is decided by the slimmest of margins. Whenever the nation’s top offensive and defensive lines clash you can’t help but fix your eyes on the action. Richardson has been one of the most consistent backs in the nation throughout this year, scoring at least once in every game but one- against LSU. He’s also among the nation’s leading rushers and like many other juniors, will likely forego his senior season to enter the NFL draft. In the end, Richardson’s numbers may not stack up as well, but he has put this team on his back the entire year and is easily the most important offensive player for the Tide.


Andrew Luck QB Stanford
Week 14- DNP
Season Stats- Passing: 261/373 (70.0%) for 3,170 yards, 35 TD 9 INT Rushing: 43 carries for 153 yards, 2 TD

Luck wasn’t able to sway voters any more this past week as Oregon and UCLA duked it out for the Pac-12 title, but his Heisman chances haven’t been squelched quite yet. Head coach David Shaw has been campaigning for Luck ever since the season came to a close two weeks ago, and he’s showing no signs of easing up, either. It’s a shame that the Heisman isn’t given out after the conclusion of bowl season because Luck could have a career night in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State. While Luck was the clear favorite to win the Heisman throughout most of the year, he sort of leveled off as the season drew to a close and allowed both Griffin and Richardson to garner more attention. Luck threw six interceptions in his final five games, including two in a crucial loss to Oregon.


Montee Ball RB Wisconsin
Week 14 at Michigan State- Rushing: 27 carries for 137 yards (5.1 ypc), 3 TD Receiving: 3 receptions for 7 yards, 1 TD
Season Stats- Rushing: 275 carries for 1,759 yards (6.4 ypc), 32 TD Receiving: 20 receptions for 255 yards (12.8 ypc), 6 TD

It’s crazy to think that the hype surrounding a player from Baylor has overshadowed one of the greatest single-season performances of the past decade. Well, at Wisconsin at least. Ball now owns a couple Badger all-time records, including most rushing touchdowns in a season (32), most points scored in a season (230). His 38 total touchdowns also rank first on the Badgers’ all-time list, a record previously held by the always entertaining Ron Dayne. Ball is also the nation’s leading rusher and scorer this season. The next closest player on the scoring list this year is Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein with 156 points, which makes it a little easier to see just how dominant Ball was for the Badgers this year. Stat-wise, Ball may have the most impressive resume; it’s not easy running for 30-plus touchdowns, especially in the Big Ten.

Tyrann Mathieu CB LSU
Week 14 vs. Georgia-
4 solo tackles, 4 punt returns for 119 yards (29.75 avg.), 1 TD
Season Stats- 71 total tackles (54 solo), 2 sacks, 2 INT, 6 forced fumbles (4 recovered), 4 total TD (2 fumble returns, 2 punt returns)

This is one player that opponents must absolutely dread playing against. Mathieu has an innate sense for not only ripping the ball away from his offensive counterparts, but also putting the ball in the endzone after he’s separated it from a player. He’s been nicknamed “Honey Badger” for his ferocious defensive skill-set and his ability to completely change a game in an instant. Nevermind his play on defense, Mathieu is a top-notch punt returner with a nose for sparking big returns. More than once this season Mathieu has brought his team to life after a lengthy punt return. He may not take home the Heisman this season, but for the sheer excitement he’s provided this year he deserves the invite to New York. Give Mathieu one more year under coach Les Miles and he could be much higher on this list at the end of next season.

1. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor
Week 14 vs. Texas- Passing: 15/22 (68.2%) for 320 yards, 2 TD 1 INT Rushing: 12 carries for 32 yards, 2 TD
Season Stats- Passing: 267/369 (72.4%) for 3,998 yards, 36 TD 6 INT Rushing: 161 carries for 644 yards (4.0 ypc), 9 TD

Remember all that talk by the Longhorns’ defense about how RGIII wasn’t going to win the Heisman against them? Well, he may have done just that last week. Against what proved to be a pretty tenacious Texas defense in the second half of the season, Griffin executed and came out with yet another big win. In the last five games Griffin has scored no less than three touchdowns and has only tossed two interceptions. The 9-3 (6-3) mark that Griffin has led the Bears to marks the most successful season from Baylor in decades. It’s not likely that Griffin will return for his senior season after the arcade-like numbers he put up this year. However, he has an excellent chance of becoming the only Bears’ player to ever win the Heisman.
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2. Trent Richardson RB Alabama
Week 14- DNP
Season Stats- Rushing: 263 rushes for 1,583 yards (6.0 ypc), 20 TD Receiving: 27 receptions for 327 yards (12.1 ypc), 3 TD

All of the BCS imperfections aside, the rematch between Alabama and LSU should be another game that is decided by the slimmest of margins. Whenever the nation’s top offensive and defensive lines clash, you can’t help but fix your eyes on the action. Richardson has been one of the most consistent backs in the nation throughout this year, scoring at least once in every game but one — against LSU. He’s also among the nation’s leading rushers and like many other juniors, will likely forego his senior season to enter the NFL draft. In the end, Richardson’s numbers may not stack up as well, but he has put this team on his back the entire year and is easily the most important offensive player for the Tide.

3. Andrew Luck QB Stanford
Week 14- DNP
Season Stats- Passing: 261/373 (70.0%) for 3,170 yards, 35 TD 9 INT Rushing: 43 carries for 153 yards, 2 TD

Luck wasn’t able to sway voters any more this past week as Oregon and UCLA duked it out for the Pac-12 title, but his Heisman chances haven’t been squelched quite yet. Head coach David Shaw has been campaigning for Luck ever since the season came to a close two weeks ago, and he’s showing no signs of easing up, either. It’s a shame that the Heisman isn’t given out after the conclusion of bowl season because Luck could have a career night in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State. While Luck was the clear favorite to win the Heisman throughout most of the year, he sort of leveled off as the season drew to a close and allowed both Griffin and Richardson to garner more attention. Luck threw six interceptions in his final five games, including two in a crucial loss to Oregon.

4. Montee Ball RB Wisconsin
Week 14 at Michigan State- Rushing: 27 carries for 137 yards (5.1 ypc), 3 TD Receiving: 3 receptions for 7 yards, 1 TD
Season Stats- Rushing: 275 carries for 1,759 yards (6.4 ypc), 32 TD Receiving: 20 receptions for 255 yards (12.8 ypc), 6 TD

It’s crazy to think that the hype surrounding a player from Baylor has overshadowed one of the greatest single-season performances of the past decade. Well, at least Wisconsin fans know about it. Ball now owns a couple Badger all-time records, including most rushing touchdowns in a season (32), most points scored in a season (230). His 38 total touchdowns also rank first on the Badgers’ all-time list, a record previously held by the always entertaining Ron Dayne. Ball is also the nation’s leading rusher and scorer this season. The next closest player on the scoring list this year is Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein with 156 points. Stat-wise, Ball may have the most impressive resume; it’s not easy running for 30-plus touchdowns, especially in the Big Ten.

5. Tyrann Mathieu CB LSU
Week 14 vs. Georgia- 4 solo tackles, 4 punt returns for 119 yards (29.75 avg.), 1 TD
Season Stats- 71 total tackles (54 solo), 2 sacks, 2 INT, 6 forced fumbles (4 recovered), 4 total TD (2 fumble returns, 2 punt returns)

This is one player that opponents must absolutely dread playing against. Mathieu has an innate sense for not only ripping the ball away from his offensive counterparts, but also putting the ball in the endzone after he’s separated it from a player. He’s been nicknamed “Honey Badger” for his ferocious defensive skill-set and his ability to completely change a game in an instant. Nevermind his play on defense, Mathieu is a top-notch punt returner with a nose for sparking big returns. More than once this season Mathieu has brought his team to life after a lengthy punt return. He may not take home the Heisman this season, but for the sheer excitement he’s provided this year he deserves the invite to New York. Give Mathieu one more year under head coach Les Miles and he could be much higher on this list at the end of next season.

Doak Walker for Best Running Back
Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama
A finalist for the Heisman trophy, Richardson rushed for 1,583 yards this season, which was good for No.5 in the nation while leading the SEC. He set a single-season school record for rushing touchdowns with 20 this season, and fits the award mold of the best player on one of the best teams in the nation. His main competition is LaMichael James out of Oregon and Monte Ball from Wisconsin. James led the naiton in rushing this season and is looking to join Ricky Williams and Darren McFadden as the only two time winners of the award. Ball, meanwhile, led the nation in scoring with 32 touchdowns for the Badgers.


 

Bednarik Award for Best Defensive Player
Dant'a Hightower, Linebacker, Alabama
The best player on the best defense in the nation, Hightower is a solid choice for this award. He was the one calling the plays and making the shifts for the nation’s No.1 defense. He also led Alabama in tackling this season with 79, including eight tackles for loss and three sacks. He also recorded his only interception of his career this season against Tennessee. A finalist for many awards this season, Hightower has a chance to win many of them, but the one thing going against him for the Bednarik is the history of the award going to seniors. The last non-senior to take the award was Penn State’s Paul Polslusznay in 2005, the first of two wins for him. If this is the case, watch out for Devon Still, another Penn State senior at Defensive Tackle.


 

Thorpe Award for Top Defensive Back
David Amerson, Cornerback, North Carolina State
Amerson leads the nation in interceptions this year with 11, getting almost one every game. He only had four games without an interception and had three games in which he recorded two, all of which were wins. He is in the top 10 in the nation in passes defended and had one pick-six against Virginia to seal the game. Only a sophomore, he will have more chances to win the award, which, like Hightower, could hurt him considering that upperclassmen usually take the award. If this is the case, watch out for a pair of SEC defenders to take it in either Mark Barron of Alabama or Morris Claiborne of LSU.


 

Maxwell Award for Collegiate Player of the Year
Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
Entering the season as the Heisman favorite, Luck put up solid numbers but was never able to take over as the main guy for the award. He passed for 3,170 yards this season, completing 70 percent of his passes. He threw 35 touchdown passes to only nine interceptions this season but never made the leap that was expected of him. Traditionally, the Maxwell Award winner does not win the Heisman Trophy, which doesn’t bode well for Luck, but he still had a season in which he did nothing to lose the award, he just never outright won it either. 

1. Trent Richardson RB Alabama
Week 13 at Auburn- Rushing: 27 carries, 203 yards (7.5 ypc) Receiving: 1 reception, 5 yards, 1 TD
Season Stats- Rushing: 263 carries, 1,583 yards (6.0 ypc), 20 TD Receiving: 27 receptions, 327 yards (12.1 ypc), 3 TD

Although he didn’t find the endzone on the ground for only the third game this year, Richardson did spearhead a dominant offensive gameplan that pummeled rival Auburn 42-17 last weekend. He also topped 200-yards rushing for the first time this season while adding a receiving score to his resume. In all but three games this year Richardson has gone past the 100-yard rushing mark and scored at least one touchdown, precisely why he sits atop the most recent Heisman Expert’s Poll. Richardson and the Tide aren’t participating in the SEC title game due to their earlier loss to LSU, but with their No. 2 national ranking it seems as if they are headed for the National Championship game anyhow.


2. Andrew Luck QB Stanford
Week 13 vs. Notre Dame- 20/30 (66.7%), 233 yards, 4 TD 1 INT
Season Stats- Passing: 261/373 (70.0%), 3,170 yards, 35 TD 9 INT Rushing: 43 carries, 153 yards (3.6 ypc), 2 TD

Once again Luck was efficient enough to lead his team over a pretty good Notre Dame squad. He also surpassed two of the former Cardinal quarterback John Elway’s records in the win; one for career touchdown passes (78), and another for single-season touchdown passes (33). Those are no small records, and that’s just another reason Luck remains close to the top of the Heisman rankings. You can’t help but think that his projection into playing in the NFL has a little to do with his Heisman hopes as well. Whatever the case, he is having a good year and is still one of the most accurate passers in the nation. There’s no doubt Luck will be among the top-three vote getters in New York come the end of the year.


3. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor
Week 13 vs. Texas Tech- Passing: 7/11 (63.6%), 106 yards, 1 TD Rushing: 14 carries, 62 yards, 2 TD
Season Stats- Passing: 252/347 (72.6%), 3,678 yards, 34 TD 5 INT Rushing: 149 carries, 612 yards (4.1 ypc), 7 TD

One can only speculate at what sort of gaudy numbers Griffin would have put up in last week’s game against the Red Raiders had he returned from an apparent concussion, but he wasn’t too shabby in just under two quarters of work either. His numbers are still competitive but he’ll need a solid performance this week against the Longhorns if he wants to jump Richardson and Luck. I can’t imagine head coach Art Briles keeping RGIII out of this week’s game so expect backup Nick Florence to return to bench, even after his on-the-spot performance a week ago.


4. Case Keenum QB Houston
Week 13 at Tulsa- 33/46 (71.7%), 457 yards, 5 TD
Season Stats- Passing: 342/467 (73.2%), 4,726 yards, 43 TD 3 INT Rushing: 44 carries, 43 yards, 3 TD

It’s hard not to root for this guy. Don’t forget this is the same guy that tore his ACL in the third game of the season just last season. After Keenum went down the Cougars’ backup quarterback, Cotton Turner, went down with a fractured clavicle in the same game and was also lost for the year. This season things are a bit different as the Cougars are in prime position to reach the Sugar Bowl for the first time. Ever. No team from C-USA has ever reached a BCS bowl in fact. Even after all the run-and-shoot teams the Cougars had in the early ‘90s where they would sometimes score 80 points, they never did reach the Sugar. If Keenum and the Cougars can get past Southern Miss in the C-USA title game they can put to rest any talk about not being a legitimate BCS contender.

5. Montee Ball RB Wisconsin
Week 13 vs. Penn State- 25 carries, 156 yards (6.2 ypc), 4 TD
Season Stats- Rushing: 248 carries, 1,622 yards (6.5 ypc), 29 TD Receiving: 17 receptions, 248 yards (14.6 ypc), 5 TD

At the beginning of the season it was another Badger receiving Heisman consideration, but Ball has been so consistent this year he needs to be mentioned among the top performers in 2011. Ball fits the mold of a Badger running back, checking in at a stout 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds. He’s second in the nation in total rushing yards and his 29 rushing scores are the most in the country. Even Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein’s monster season of 24 rushing touchdowns is still a ways off of Ball’s incredible total. Add his five receiving scores to that total and now his numbers are among the most impressive of any player in college football. To put it simply, Ball has rushed for no less than 60 yards and a touchdown in every game this season. Talk about dependability.

1. Trent Richardson RB Alabama
Week 12 vs. Georgia Southern- Rushing: 32 carries for 175 yards (5.5 ypc), 2 TD Receiving: 1 catch for 4 yards, 1 TD
Season Stats- Rushing: 236 carries for 1,380 yards (5.8 ypc), 20 TD Receiving: 26 catches for 322 yards, 2 TD

The junior back added another huge game to his already impressive resume and got the Tide one step closer to a potential rematch with LSU. His most recent performance was a dominating one as he carried the bulk of the Tide’s rushing game. He’s strong, smart and quick — everything an SEC back should be. Richardson will have a bit of a tougher time running the ball against No. 24 Auburn this week. Three of the Tigers’ four losses have come to teams currently in the top-15 of the BCS standings. Should Richardson keep up his pace, the Tide could very well make it to the BCS title game for a rematch of the “Game of the Century.”

2. Andrew Luck QB Stanford
Week 12 vs. California- 20/30 (66.7%) for 257 yards, 2 TD 1 INT
Season Stats- Passing: 241/343 (70.3%) for 2,937 yards, 31 TD 8 INT Rushing: 39 carries for 133 yards, 2 TD

In a week that saw four top-10 teams lose, Stanford was able to avoid an upset behind the play of Luck. It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but Luck showed some grit in defeating Cal. It’s been slow-and-steady for most of the year as Luck has yet to have a massive game stat-wise. He’ll still draw considerable Heisman hype even if the Cardinal are unable to make it to the national title game. No matter what happens this year, Luck is sure to enjoy success at the next level, and a Heisman trophy with his name on it may just solidify him as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play college football.

3. Case Keenum QB Houston
Week 12 vs. SMU- Passing: 30/45 (66.7%) for 318 yards, 1 TD Rushing: 4 carries for 19 yards, 1 TD
Season Stats- Passing: 309/421 (73.4%) for 4,269 yards, 38 TD 3 INT Rushing: 41 carries for 54 yards, 3 TD

Just looking at the numbers, one would wonder why Keenum isn’t at the top of every Heisman candidate list. However he does play in the not-so-distinguished C-USA, so his numbers are weighted a little differently than other players. That’s not to discount his play completely — the guy is a stud. He’s already laid claim to numerous NCAA record and still has one game left to play. Don’t look now, but the Cougars have moved to No. 8 in the BCS standings, setting up a potential nightmare for bowl selection committees. Who isn’t for a Houston appearance in a BCS game? They’ve earned it this year.

4. Brandon Weeden QB Oklahoma State
Week 12 at Iowa State- 42/58 (72.4%) for 476 yards, 3 TD 3 INT
Season Stats- 355/486 (73%) for 4,111 yards, 34 TD 12 INT

The Cowboys’ defense finally let the team down as Iowa State was able to pull off one of the year’s biggest upsets. Weeden’s three interceptions were crucial because they allowed the Cyclones to stick around and eventually win in overtime. The Cowboys’ BCS hopes aren’t entirely crushed, but any shot at a national title is out of the picture. Weeden needs to regain his confidence in preparation of the annual Bedlam game against Oklahoma in the coming weeks. His numbers are still competitive with any other Heisman candidate.

5. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor
Week 12 vs. Oklahoma- Passing: 21/34 (61.8%) for 479 yards, 4 TD Rushing: 18 carries for 72 yards (4.0 ypc)
Season Stats- Passing: 245/ 336 (72.9%) for 3,572 yards, 33 TD 5 INT Rushing: 135 rushes for 550 yards (4.1 ypc), 5 TD

RGIII has rewritten the Baylor record books so many times the school might want to think about changing to dry erase markers before he uses up any more ink. In the Bears’ first ever win over the Sooners last week Griffin broke his own single-game passing record by throwing for 479 yards against the once vaunted Sooner defense. By now this shouldn’t come as a surprise as the junior has amassed jaw-dropping numbers nearly every week. There are still two games remaining on the Bears? schedule which means two more games for Griffin to shine. This weekend’s game against the Red Raiders should be another nice audition for NFL scouts, who have to be falling in love with the smooth dual-threat quarterback.