Who follows Derrick Henry? Early look at the 2016 Heisman race
NEW YORK—As Derrick Henry walked out of the Heisman Trophy winners' press conference Saturday night, the next item on his to-do list was to text his grandmother Gladys. The woman who gave Henry his nickname (Shocka) couldn't make it to the Big Apple to celebrate with the Alabama junior tailback. She was in a Florida hospital, but that hospital hosted one heck of a party.
Meanwhile, Stanford do-everything back Christian McCaffrey and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson left the ceremony already planning a return visit. They're sophomores, and it's quite possible they'll be back here next year. It's also quite possible one of them will hoist the trophy. But don't just picture those two with the Heisman. Take a look at the top eight vote-getters from this season.
1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama (1,832 points)
2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford (1,539)
3. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (1,165)
4. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (334)
5. Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy (180)
6. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (110)
7. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State (79)
8. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State (57)
Besides McCaffrey and Watson, Mayfield, Fournette and Cook will return next year. So will Oregon tailback Royce Freeman, who led the Pac-12 in rushing (1,706 yards). So will Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, who looked like a Heisman candidate as a redshirt freshman and should own the Buckeyes' starting job free and clear as a redshirt junior. So will UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, who looked like a budding superstar in his first few college games and should enjoy the fruits of a year-one-to-year-two improvement.
Coming into this year, there weren't a lot of obvious Heisman candidates beyond Fournette and TCU senior quarterback Trevone Boykin, who finished tied for ninth in voting this season. Next year? The star power will be off the charts from the opening kickoff. As enjoyable as it will be to see who on the above list winds up in New York, it'll be even more fun to see who works his way into the conversation.
So, let's try to see who we could add to the list.
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• Washington quarterback Jake Browning: Like UCLA's Rosen, Browning got tossed into the fray as a true freshman. He averaged eight yards per pass attempt, but expect that number to improve as his team begins to look like what we expected when coach Chris Petersen came to Seattle from Boise.
• Georgia tailback Nick Chubb: New Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart wants a punishing ground game just like soon-to-be former boss Nick Saban has. Chubb, who is coming off knee surgery, averaged 8.1 yards per carry before going down with a knee injury this year. Read on to the "First-and-10" section to learn more about the man who will draw up plays for Chubb.
Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett: Garrett could probably thrive in the NFL right now, but he has to come back to College Station for one more year to get held repeatedly while still racking up sacks.
Florida State safety Derwin James: If a Seminoles player is going to rack up Heisman votes, it will likely be Cook, who ran for 1,658 yards in 2014. But voters should pay attention to James, a 6' 3", 212-pounder who runs like a corner, hits like a linebacker and might turn into the ultimate weapon against a spread offense.
Washington State defensive end Hercules Mata'afa: Mata'afa didn't even start for the Cougars in 2015 and still tied for the team lead with six sacks. Does a guy who plays defensive line in Pullman, Wash., have a legitimate shot at the Heisman? Probably not. But who wouldn't love to see a lineman (and an All-Name Team member) take home the award?
Michigan safety/tailback/kick returner Jabrill Peppers: Look at all those slashes. It would be appropriate if another multitalented Wolverines star broke the quarterback/tailback stranglehold on the award.
Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley: At times this season, Ridley looked a little like another south Floridian who put up huge numbers in Tuscaloosa (Amari Cooper). As a sophomore, Ridley (11.9 yards per catch) could become a much bigger part of the Crimson Tide's offense.
• Baylor quarterback Seth Russell: Russell was enjoying a fantastic season (10.5 yards per attempt, 29 touchdown passes in eight games) when he fractured a bone in his neck in a win over Iowa State on Oct. 24. He is supposed to make a full recovery. If he can pick up where he left off, he could land in New York.
• USC receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster: Smith-Schuster averaged 16.3 yards per catch as a junior. Few receivers in the country can match his body control.
• Michigan State tailback LJ Scott: The guy who muscled the ball across the goal line to lift the Spartans over Iowa in the Big Ten title game averaged 4.9 yards per carry as a true freshman. He'll lose some excellent offensive linemen, but the Spartans have proven quite capable of reloading in recent years.
• Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr.: Ward blossomed in his first year under coach Tom Herman, throwing for 16 touchdowns, running for 19 more and completing 68.1% of his passes. He should be better next year.
• Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire: This was supposed to be Zaire's breakout season, but he was lost to an ankle injury in Week 2. He has to win the job back from DeShone Kizer. If he can, he could shine in 2016.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
A random ranking
Heisman winner Henry was born in 1994. That happened to be a great year for movies. Here are the top 10.
2. The Shawshank Redemption
3. Forrest Gump
4. Dumb and Dumber
6. Hoop Dreams
8. Quiz Show
9. The Hudsucker Proxy
10. Immortal Beloved
Big Ugly of the Week
This week's honoree took home an actual trophy—not for this, but because he won the finest postseason award in college football. Southeastern Louisiana defensive tackle Ashton Henderson won the inaugural Piesman Trophy in a ceremony in New York on Friday night. The award was the brainchild of SB Nation's Dan Rubenstein and Ryan Nanni, and it recognizes the finest performance involving a lineman who suddenly finds himself touching the ball.
Here's the scoop-and-score against Florida Tech that locked up the award for the 320-pound Henderson.
And here's Henderson accepting the trophy, which you'll agree is one of the finest in football.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
1. Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche is in stable condition after falling about 15 feet, according to an Atlanta police report.
Per the report, Nkemdiche fell at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Atlanta. Officers found a small amount of what was believed to be marijuana in the room Nkemdiche had occupied. Police spokeswoman Kim Jones told The Associated Press that it appeared Nkemdiche had broken a hotel room window and climbed a wall before he fell. Nkemdiche was conscious and responsive when officers arrived, according to the report.
"We are still learning about the matter, but obviously Robert's wellbeing is our greatest concern," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said in a statement. The Rebels play Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.
It's a safe bet the NFL teams at the top of the draft will also begin trying to learn as much as possible about what happened. The 6' 4", 296-pound Nkemdiche has the skill set to be the top overall pick in the draft, but this incident will raise plenty of questions.
2. A bunch of new coaches were introduced last week. Introductory press conferences tend to be fairly similar. See if you can guess which coach offered which stock introductory press conference quote. You'll find the answer key down at No. 9. Your choices are South Carolina's Will Muschamp, Georgia's Kirby Smart, Maryland's D.J. Durkin and Virginia's Bronco Mendenhall.
Quote No. 1: "That's not a question that I like to answer, hypotheticals. To answer that would be really difficult to say to put a pinpoint on a time on that. We want to develop a really tough, physical team. We want to get great recruits in here and do it the right way. That's what's important to me. Continuing on the foundation of integrity is of utmost importance for us here at the University of [redacted]."
Quote No. 2: "I celebrate effort. Very few people try as hard as they can at any one moment of their life, and when you do, you recognize it when it happens, and first and foremost, we will develop the will of our student-athletes. Skill will come along, the position mastery will come along, the execution will come along, but only after they learn to try hard. I don't know how long that will take."
Quote No. 3: "If you don't think I can recruit, look at [my wife] and look at me. I can sell ice to an eskimo."
Quote No. 4: "I think personally I really identify with this program. This is a blue-collar place, a blue-collar university, a blue-collar program. We get to compete in one of the best divisions, best conferences in the country. I embrace competition, I want to recruit guys that embrace that competition."
3. Smart couldn't get current Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos to run his offense at Georgia, so he hired the guy Enos replaced in Fayetteville. Jim Chaney left Arkansas last year for Pittsburgh, but he'll return to the SEC to work for Smart. Smart also hired Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman, so we know exactly what kind of offense Smart wants to run. If Smart gets what he wants, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are going to gain a lot of yards in 2016.
Smart hired a coordinator whose offenses he has thoroughly studied. Before going to Arkansas, Chaney ran Tennessee's offense from 2009-12. Smart matched up against Chaney's offenses for six straight seasons, so he obviously respects what he saw from Chaney.
The hire should excite Georgia fans who want to see the Bulldogs continue to run a pro-style offense. Here's something else that should excite them. The photo below was tweeted out Sunday by Elberton, Ga., recruit Mecole Hardman. Hardman, ranked as the nation's No. 1 athlete by Scout.com, remains undecided, but he was in Athens this weekend with Smart and top quarterback prospect Jacob Eason. Eason has long been committed to Georgia, but he took an official visit to Florida after the Bulldogs fired Mark Richt.
4. Ruffin McNeill, whose firing at East Carolina was one of the more puzzling moves of this coaching carousel, has landed on Mendenhall's staff as Virginia's inside linebackers coach. This is an excellent move for the Cavaliers. McNeill was beloved by his East Carolina players, and he understands recruiting in the region. He'll help Mendenhall adjust as he moves to the other side of the country from BYU.
5. Penn State coach James Franklin has plucked one of the best minds from the FCS level to run the Nittany Lions' offense. Joe Moorhead returned to his alma mater, Fordham, in 2012 to resurrect a program that had gone 1–11 the previous season. Moorhead went 12–2 in '13, 11–3 in '14 and 9–3 in '15. The Rams have averaged more than 36 points per game in each of the past three years. Now, Moorhead takes over an offense that will likely have to replace quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Under Moorhead, Fordham spread out defenses and ran at a fast tempo. Like Oregon or Ohio State, it also did not shy away from running between the tackles. In Moorhead's offense, quarterback Kevin Anderson averaged 9.3 yards per attempt and threw 32 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions.
Jon Durr/Getty Images
6. It's probably a sign of where the Texas program is at the moment that university president Greg Fenves had to join athletic director Mike Perrin and coach Charlie Strong to help lure new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert away from Tulsa. That the president had to step in to help get the guy who didn't even call the plays for his American Athletic Conference program—head coach Phillip Montgomery calls Tulsa's offense—suggests coordinators weren't jumping at the chance to come to the Longhorns.
Gilbert is a branch of the Art Briles coaching tree, but he worked at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green under former Briles assistant Dino Babers before joining Montgomery at Tulsa. Babers ran an offense similar to what Briles runs at Baylor but added under-center plays to help deal with inclement weather in the Midwest. The move is a good one for Gilbert, whose salary will jump to $850,000 as part of a three-year deal. If he revives the Texas offense and the Longhorns improve enough for Strong to keep his job, Gilbert will either get a head coaching job or a huge raise at Texas. If he can't help Strong stay employed in Austin, Gilbert will make gobs of money and shouldn't have trouble finding a job similar to the one he just left.
7. Now that he has led Navy to its 14th consecutive win over Army, coach Ken Niumatalolo will meet with BYU about its head coaching vacancy. Niumatalolo, who is a member of the Mormon church, said he would not consider leaving Navy for just any job. "My faith is everything to me, and so this is the only reason I just feel like I need to listen to what they have to offer, and that's it," Niumatalolo told ESPN's College GameDay about the Cougars' opening. Niumatalolo is scheduled to be in Provo on Monday.
8. Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight wins the award for the best press release quote of the year. Usually, quotes in press releases sound as if a team of attorneys wrote them. Not the quote attributed to Knight in a release Oklahoma sent Friday to confirm that Knight had been granted a full release to seek a transfer. (He still might stay in Norman for his final season of eligibility, but he won't decide until after the College Football Playoff.) The final line is pure Knight, who was elected a captain this year even though Baker Mayfield beat him out for the starting job.
"My decision to reach out and communicate with other potential programs is something I feel I must do in order to see if there is a perfect fit for my senior season," Knight said in the release. "I can promise you that no one is more proud to be a Sooner than I am, and in no way shape or form will this take away from my excitement and commitment heading into the championship season. I am truly touched by the support from both coach (Bob) Stoops and coach (Lincoln) Riley, as well as all of Sooner Nation during this time.
"Enough about me. Let's go beat the Tigers. Boomer!"
9. Here are the answers to the new coach and introductory press conference quote matching game.
Quote No. 1: Kirby Smart
Quote No. 2: Bronco Mendenhall
Quote No. 3: Will Muschamp
Quote No. 4: D.J. Durkin
10. Stanford tailback McCaffrey didn't win the Heisman on Saturday, but he'll get another crack at it next season. As you can see from the video below, he has boasted Heisman-level moves for a long time.
What's eating Andy?
Unless I give in to temptation, the next few restaurant reviews will come from a particularly gluttonous work trip to New York. I'm even fatter than usual. It's time to eat a lot more salad.
What's Andy eating?
Most of my experience with written material from Michelin involves a menu with choices like P235/60R18. I realize Michelin also publishes a guide to the world's best restaurants, but I always assumed a Michelin star was code for "no way SI's per diem will cover this." Last week, however, my inner cheapskate led me to a spot with one of those sought-after stars and a menu that doesn't require special financing.
The journey began last week when I explained my accommodations to Dan Rubenstein of SB Nation. I may outweigh Dan by 100 pounds, but he is every bit my equal in the gustation department. I told Dan that while visiting New York for work, I was staying in Long Island City because—even though it wasn't my money—I couldn't justify paying an extra $200 per night to stay in Manhattan. The E, M and R subway trains did a fine job of getting me where I needed to be, so why waste company funds that I could waste in more delicious ways later? As soon as the words "Long Island City" tumbled from my mouth, Dan's eyes illuminated. "We have to go to Casa Enrique," he said.
Casa Enrique sits across the East River from dozens of prettier, more expensive Mexican restaurants. But the little place in Queens has something none of those Manhattan joints do:
one bright, shining Michelin star.
First, you are ordering a cocktail. The house margarita whets the appetite with fresh lime juice, brown simple syrup and El Jimador tequila, but the better choice may be the Coco-Mojo, a Bacardi mojito mixed with coconut cream. You'll want to fill up on chips and the trio of fresh salsas, but don't. Also, limit yourself to a couple of the tacos—either carne asada or pastor. The reason you came here is coming next.
For your entree, you're ordering the Molé de Piaxtla ($18). This particular molé sauce is native to the Puebla region of Mexico, and it smothers two pieces of chicken and waits for you to spoon it over your rice. While I realize I've written regularly—usually with regard to barbecue—that a sauce should never be the reason for eating a meal, this is a glaring exception. This sauce is crafted with such great care that it can't help but be the star. If certain Kansas City barbecue joints that never met a sauce they couldn't pour liberally decided to drown their meats in this elixir, I wouldn't criticize them so often.
Casa Enrique's molé mixes dry peppers, almonds, raisins, plantains, sesame seeds and chocolate into a paste that is at once spicy, bitter, sweet and savory. It makes the chicken and rice delicious, but once those were gone, I found myself sopping up the sauce with the stack of fresh tortillas that were supposed to be for the entire table but wound up getting dunked almost exclusively in my molé.
From now on, I'll have to consult with Michelin about more than steel-belted radials. If its diners can look past glitz and pretension and find beauty in a dark brown sauce, perhaps I should take its advice more often.