Why don't defensive players get more Heisman Trophy love?
In a story we posted online earlier today (and coming to your doorstep in Sunday's Tampa Bay Times), I made my case for why Florida State safety Derwin James should be a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate, even though he plays defense.
While reporting the story, I asked some players and defensive-minded coaches why they don't get much love for the Heisman. My favorite response came from Boston College defensive end Harold Landry:
"People fall in love with the big numbers you can produce on offense," Landry said. "You can go in the thousands and stuff."
That's certainly possible with passing or rushing yards. But sacks?
"It's kind of impossible," said Landry, who led the country with a mere 16 ½ last year.
From Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall: "I think most people, when they pay the price of admission for a ticket, they follow the ball. The players that are most noticed are the ones that have the ball. And so unless you're a dominant defensive player that gets the ball more than an offensive player, either by taking it away or knocking it out..."
So what's it going to take for a defensive player to win it? North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb (who was sixth nationally with 21 ½ tackles for a loss) laughed.
"It's got to be on their Ps and Qs week in and week out - try to get some heads on the ball a little bit, try to score some touchdowns."
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is the reigning Heisman winner, which means he's also a voter. He didn't have much advice for James, Landry or any other defensive aspirant.
"Just grind," Jackson said. "Just play ball. You know the sport. You're in it. Just grind. It'll come to you."