Thursday and you all know what that means, the mailbag is here. We have good football questions to get in to, so I won't waste your time. Here we go!
Mostly because winning the Heisman is really hard. I mean, think about it, 120-plus teams, 100-plus guys on each team, football's inherent injury risks and all that jazz. Oh, and everyone that you play has affixed a bull's-eye to your back because of the hype that preceded you. Coming into the season as "the favorite" puts a lot of pressure on the kid, a lot of pressure on his team and creates almost unreal expectations.
Matt Barkley entered 2012 as the Heisman favorite, and between his own injury, his center getting hurt for the Stanford game and his defense doing a great turnstile impression, he did not even come close to winning the award. Andrew Luck, in 2011, saw Robert Griffin III rise up and steal it from him on the strength of a magical season. In 2010, Mark Ingram entered as the favorite, then missed games and saw Auburn QB Cam Newton win the award.
The list goes on, emphasizing the point that winning a Heisman is very difficult. Johnny Manziel, who enters as this year's early odds-on favorite, is going to find that out as he tries to navigate those waters. He has to avoid being hurt by defenses aiming to get a good shot on him, hope his supporting cast stays healthy and then rely on a rebuilt Aggies defense to help get him back to New York.
Quite honestly, of the BCS era, I come away the most impressed with Darren McFadden and Andrew Luck, two guys who finished second for the Heisman twice. That speaks to their consistency. Also, shout out to Tim Tebow, a one-time winner with two other top-five finishes, and Colt McCoy, a two-time top-three guy.
From talking to Heismans to just talking about quarterbacks. This question stemmed from my earlier tweet about how tough quarterback is to play at the college level.
I think for each kid the reason why it does not always work out is unique. Some guys fail to grasp the complexities of the collegiate scheme. Some players can grasp the scheme, but the coaching style does not fit with their learning methods. Others are victims of coaching changes. Then there are, of course, the ceiling that stops some players from ever getting better beyond their high school days.
Oh, plus the players that end up stuck behind someone that they just can't beat out.
Quarterback is a tough position because you can only play one, most of them are either not equipped to contribute in another way, or their coaches do not want them risking injury to do so. The ones who are athletic enough often change positions. Others, who are sold on playing quarterback but can't climb the depth chart, transfer out and sometimes down to keep chasing the goal.
I don't think there is one right answer as to why some kids don't pan out; the transition to college is not easy and having just one signal-caller to take snaps doesn't make their playing prospects any brighter.
Urban appears to be set up in a good way at Ohio State. If he loses a bowl game, I'm not sure that it will matter that much. He's building a monster, a monster that few others in the Big Ten are going to be able to beat. He has Michigan as a legitimate conference rival and a Penn State team that still has some issues. That means he'll continue to get the kids he wants and not have to worry as much about recruiting as head coaches in the South.
I am really excited for this kid to come into his own during the 2013 season. Teams are going to be extremely focused on Marqise Lee. So with Agholor entering the year as a virtual unknown, just 19 catches for 340 yards in 2012, he will have some opportunity to show what he can do. The skills are there, for sure, and the team will need him to come through in a big way.
However, quarterback is going to be what determines just what Agholor can make of what should be a breakout season. Losing Matt Barkley hurts, establishing a rapport with a less experienced quarterback is going to be the story of the early part of the season for the Trojans' receiving corps.
Slowing it down is nice.
But, yes, stopping it is better.
The obvious answer is get better players. Instead of being so excited to put every best athlete, best player you have on offense, put some, or all, of those guys on defense and you'd be surprised what you get. Elite athletes on defense make a world of difference.
If you can't get better athletes, then might I suggest tackling. Tackle people. Get them down on the ground after you get to them for minimal gain. Tackle them and then get lined up and tackle them again. You don't have to deliver crushing blows, just stop explosion plays and limit the run-after-the-catch yards on the ground and in the air.
From a schematic standpoint, being smart and simple is the best way to force teams to do what you want. That means do not stunt yourself into bad positions when to try to get cute and bring pressure. And, more importantly, it means all 11 hats doing their job and only their job. If you can do that, then you've got a shot.
Texas Tech, a team that does not have many elite athletes on defense, found a way to slow down West Virginia while the Mountaineers were riding high with their superstar offense. It was not a special, herculean effort. Rather, it was guys just doing their job.
Offenses tend to get impatient when a defense forces them to dink and dunk the ball down the field. They start throwing low percentage passes, and when those fall incomplete, 3rd-and-7 becomes 4th-and-7, and you get a punt.
I should probably be too embarrassed to admit this, but I am not: I do not eat much stadium food. I usually tailgate before games that I go to, so I have a full belly of food. Thus, when I get to the stadium buying things to eat just never really crosses my mind. To be honest, if I had to play the odds, chances are I've left games early and gone back to the tailgate more often than I've bought stadium food.
Unless that food is popcorn. I can tailgate for 10 hours, eat all manner of smoked hog and tailgate fare, but as soon as I smell the popcorn, I am a sucker for buying a couple tubs of that. Sorry, if I let you down, I could go on for hours about tailgate food, but my stadium-eats game is lacking. Popcorn is my only sure thing.