This article was originally published on December 05, 2007
McFadden's the choice for how he changed the game
To gain the proper perspective on this year's Heisman Trophy vote, you have to look beyond the raw stats.
When you look beyond the raw stats and don't place the team record a priority (which theoretically you are not supposed to do), the choice is Darren McFadden of Arkansas.
When I placed McFadden first on my ballot, there were four pivotal, deciding factors for me beyond that he's the outstanding player in college football, which the award is supposed to represent:
1. He changed the game significantly. Last year, it was a unique touch when the Razorbacks used McFadden to take a direct snap and run essentially a single-wing option play out of the Wildcat/WildHog formation. This year, on every level of college football (including the University of Central Arkansas with Brent Grimes) and even throughout the national high school ranks, every team with an outstanding back had a formation and a few plays in which the back would take a direct snap and operate McFadden-style. McFadden took 107 snaps this season in the WildHog formation and accumulated more all-purpose yards in a season (2,172) than any player in SEC history.
2. His versatility: McFadden made big plays rushing, passing, receiving and threw a few blocks along the way. It is not terribly unusual for a quarterback to run for touchdowns. It's more unique for a running back to be a consistent touchdown passing threat. He was six of 11 this past season for 123 yards and four touchdowns. I think a running back passing for four touchdowns against major competition is just as special as a quarterback rushing for 20 touchdowns.
3. How he affected defensive preparations: A defensive coordinator, in preparing for McFadden, had to go through a range of options because he could do so many things so many different ways in so many different formations. McFadden was the toughest single player to prepare for in college football.
4. 321: He rushed for 321 yards in a single game against South Carolina, a ranked team at the time. That's a lot of yards for many backs for a season. He did it with a big target on his back. 321 yards in a game against a opponent that is not chopped liver. That says a lot to me.
A few other significant factors: McFadden got his yardage in 315 plays. Tim Tebow of Florida got his stats in 511 plays and Chase Daniel of Missouri his in 588 plays. The average rushing touchdown for McFadden covered 179 yards. The average passing touchdown covered 28.3 yards. For Tebow, it was 4.3 rushing, 20.7 pass. For Daniel, it was 13.0 rush, 20.9 pass.
And to compare apples to apples between McFadden and Tebow in games against LSU, which is playing for the national championship and had one of the best defenses in college football. Against LSU, McFadden rushed for 206 yards and three touchdown and completed three of six passes for 34 yards and another TD. He returned three kickoffs for 49 yards. In Florida's game against LSU, Teblow was 12 of 26 passing for 158 yards and two touchdowns and had 16 carries for 67 yards and one touchdown.
My down-to-the-wire No. 2 choice was quarterback Colt Brennan of Hawaii. The Rainbows are the nation's only 12-0 team and are headed for the Sugar Bowl, largely because of Brennan. Sure, I realize some of the competition was not of upper-shelf quality but Hawaii does play a schedule in an established, respected, often-underrated, major conference (Western Athletic) and the Rainbows are in the Sugar Bowl, which speaks volumes to me.
Brennan is also in a system geared toward great quarterback stats, but the convincer to me was what he did in Saturday's game against Washington. With a once-in-a-lifetime season for Hawaii on the line, Brennan led his team from 21 points down twice and completed 42 of 50 passes, including 20 straight, for 442 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. He was six for six on the 76-yard drive that produced the winning touchdown with 44 seconds left. When his team had to have it, Brennan produced bigtime as he has all season.
Tebow was my No. 3 choice, getting an ever-so-slight edge of Chase Daniel of Missouri and Pat White of West Virginia. He's a great athlete, a signature player for this season, accomplishing something (20 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns) we may not see again. However, the reason for many of Tebow's rushing exploits was Florida did not have a great running back. He was the best runner and passer. It was a special season for him, but in my opinion, what he accomplished as a quarterback did not rise to the level of what McFadden did as an all-purpose player. And his effect on his team did not rise to the level of what Brennan did for Hawaii.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)