Heisman Trophy 2021: How I would have voted
Heisman Trophy ballots were turned in Monday afternoon and tallied quickly enough for the field to be trimmed to 4 finalists Monday night: Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud and Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett.
Voters have certainly done far worse in the past.
I am not among that crowd of voters. Almost was once. The person in charge of that region’s voting had me next in line had the first person they asked turned it down. That person didn’t turn it down, so now I’m the Uncle Rico of would-be Heisman voters.
“Ndamukong Suh woulda won it in ’09 if they had given me a vote!”
The upside of this situation is that unlike actual Heisman voters, I can share the results of my fictitious ballot before Saturday’s trophy presentation. Which makes you, the reader, the real award-winner here.
Here are the 3 candidates that I believe deserving of my votes.
1. Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
My Heisman views were formed in what I call the Lazy Voter Era. It was less about awarding the actual best player in the country and more about lazily voting for whomever compiled stats for the No. 1 or 2 team in the country.
Even at the age of 10, I knew Gino Torretta winning over Marshall Faulk and Garrison Hearst was a travesty of the highest order.
It happened a whopping 3 times when I was in college, with Chris Weinke, Eric Crouch and Jason White all winning the trophy. Quarterbacks of the top-ranked teams. That’s it. The height of the lazy era.
I bring all this up because it’s important you know how much I loathe the concept of voting for the quarterback of the No. 1 team. Because that’s what the lazy people do. I’ll always find a way to argue against it.
Yet I can’t talk myself out of the recognition that Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is deserving of this year’s trophy.
As recently as halftime of the Auburn game, I would have been fine with Young being left off the ballot entirely. But the ensuing game-and-a half changed everything.
Facing his team’s most bitter rival on the road, Young pulled a John Elway and drove the Crimson Tide 97 yards in 1:11 to send the game into an overtime Alabama eventually won. Most significantly, he did so without the best receiver in the country — Jameson Williams, who was ejected from the game for targeting.
At that point, Young’s season stats weren’t empty calories. He was a legit top 3 guy.
His encore performance against what was considered one of the best collegiate defenses ever assembled sealed the deal. Only 3 opponents this season managed to pass for more than 200 yards on Georgia and none threw more than 2 touchdowns. Young dissected the Dawgs for 421 yards and 3 scores.
2. Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
Hutchinson has lifted the Wolverines to their first Big Ten title in 17 years, their first-ever CFP appearance and is appearing as the top name across NFL Draft boards.
Defensive players are rarely included in the Heisman picture because their stats don’t always quantify their impact. It can be hard for a guy to accrue eye-popping numbers when the entire game plan is built around avoiding him.
But Hutchinson doesn’t have that problem, setting a Michigan single-season record with 14 sacks. He also tied Alabama’s Will Anderson for the national lead with 10 sacks against opponents with winning records.
A big difference? Bama has too many guys in the mix splitting the electorate. Hutchinson is the clear-cut face of Michigan football, and the Big Ten as a whole, in 2021.
3. Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
Walker’s absence from the stage in New York City is the one true miscarriage of justice in this year’s Heisman voting.
This is where voter laziness factor comes into play. Most voters watched Walker finish with just 25 yards on 6 carries against Ohio State, and at that point his candidacy was dead in the water. Because these people would apparently propose that Mel Tucker continue feeding his running back with his team down 49 freaking points at halftime.
The game they should be giving more weight to is his epic performance against Michigan: 197 yards and 5 touchdowns. The Wolverines ranked 22nd against the run nationally, allowing 3.5 yards per carry. Walker torched them for a ridiculous 8.6 per carry.
If you remove Walker’s performance from the season totals and average out the other 12 games, Michigan finishes 15th in the country against the run rather than 22nd. That’s how good that individual performance was. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be in NYC. None.
Also in consideration:
4. Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt: I’m glad Pickett got invited, because he would have been my first guy to miss the cut. And it’s always hard to not vote for someone who had a terrific season. If you’re breaking Dan Marino’s school records, you are absolutely one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
5. Will Anderson, OLB, Alabama: Bama fans point to Anderson’s nation-high 31.5 tackles for loss as evidence he’s more deserving than Hutchinson. But a lot of those came against inferior opponents — Anderson has 15 TFL against teams with winning records. As a sophomore this year, he’s also got another shot at getting to NYC. And if he puts together another season like this, he certainly needs to be there.
6. Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia: The ultimate player who cannot be quantified by his own stats, but by those around him as he occupies opposing double- and triple-teams. If you watch the tape, Davis is definitely a top player in college football this season.
7. Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa: Same story as Davis. Linderbaum has no stats to speak of, and the rest of Iowa’s offensive line was pretty shoddy this season. You just have to watch the guy play. There was no offensive lineman in the country like him this year.
8. Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama: To me, the biggest reason Bama had to squeak out the win at Auburn was Williams’ aforementioned absence. Despite missing most of that game, he still finished second nationally behind top Pickett target Jordan Addison with 15 touchdown catches this season. And his 7-catch, 184-yard performance against Georgia was jaw-dropping. It wouldn’t be crazy to give Williams a first-place vote.
Not on my ballot
CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State: Stroud had 3 of the top 20 wide receivers in the country — Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxson Smith-Njigba. Probably 3 of the top 15. Possibly 3 of the top 10. (They certainly were all in the top 10 of my Biletnikoff Award ballot, which I do vote for.)
I’m not saying any quarterback could have thrown for 38 touchdowns and averaged 9.8 yards per attempt like Stroud did, but I do think Ohio State is still a 10-2 team if you give a Craig Krenzel-caliber QB the same arsenal Stroud had.
Given that he’s a freshman, there’s a good chance he’ll blow our minds the next 2 seasons. But I’d like to see what Stroud looks like without savvy route-runners like Olave and Wilson to throw to before saying he’s the best player in the country.