I yield to no one in my admiration for Joshua Nesbitt as a collegiate player. (No one, I tell you.) After the epic Florida State game last season I anointed him a folk hero. Last month I noted that I consider Nesbitt as valuable to Georgia Tech as any player is to any team on any campus. That said …
I don’t think he has a real shot at the Heisman.
Doing its job, the ace Tech sports information department is cranking the volume. It unveiled Nesbitt4Heisman.com today — he’s billed as “the most interesting player in college football” — and I applaud the effort. I also know this:
Only one pure option quarterback — Eric Crouch of Nebraska — has won the Heisman, and that was mostly because the 2001 season wasn’t overrun with greatness. (Rex Grossman of Florida finished second, Ken Dorsey of Miami third.)
The best option quarterback ever was Jack Mildren of Oklahoma. He should have won the 1971 Heisman, but he didn’t crack the top five. (Pat Sullivan of Auburn won, followed by Ed Marinaro of Cornell, Mildren’s OU teammate Greg Pruitt, Alabama’s Johnny Musso and Lydell Mitchell of Penn State.)
Tim Tebow was an option quarterback, sort of, but Tebow also threw for 3,286 yards in 2007, his Heisman-winning year. In two seasons as Tech’s starter, Nesbitt has passed for a total of 2,509 yards. He passed for 1,701 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2009, but not once in Tech’s 13 games did he attempt more than 16 passes and only once, against Mississippi State, did he complete as many as 10.
I know, I know. You Tech folks will say, “But the guy wins.” And I’m right there with you. But I know, having been one myself, how Heisman voters are: They can’t see every game, so they rely on highlights and numbers. Nesbitt’s passing numbers aren’t remarkable — he did, however, rush for 1,037 yards last season — and what he does for the Jackets doesn’t translate well on ESPN. (Think about it: How many times did the Worldwide Leader, which aired the game, replay his astonishing snatch of the ball from Florida State linebacker Nigel Carr?)
As you know, I’m often wrong. I would love being wrong about Nesbitt and the Heisman. He’s a fine fellow and a tremendous ballplayer. But I can’t see him winning the thing. Heck, I think he’ll do well to crack the top five.