More On Running Backs And The Heisman

Good question from my friend Dave about running backs and the Heisman Trophy, which I wrote about here:

Dave writes: Reggie Bush? I seem to recall a sports journalist who called Bush the best college football player he had ever seen. I basically agree with your point, but had to wonder if Bush might be the exception for you (ignoring what we know now, of course).

Bush might, and I mean might, be the exception because he did so much in that offense. It’s not that he handled the ball very much, but it’s the fact that they would often line him up as a wideout. He caught 37 passes in 2005, a good total but not overwhelming, but his versatility caused fits for a defense.

Bush wasn’t simply catching passes out the backfield as a safety valve, he was lining up as a wideout and sending defensive coordinators to extra sessions with their therapists. When Bush lined up wide, he was the Trojans’ most dangerous downfield threat. I can’t think of another running back who has done that.

On top of that, Bush was an outstanding punt returner and returned more kickoffs than anybody for the Trojans (although not particularly well that season). Here are USC’s stats for 2005, including Bush’s average of 8.7 yards per carry.

Because of that versatility, Bush might be the modern exception of a running back who deserved the Heisman. But it’s still difficult to suggest that somebody who handles the ball 285 times is more important than, say, Matt Leinart, who threw 431 passes and made decisions on every play. Or Vince Young and what he did for Texas.

I felt very strongly in Bush’s favor five years ago. I’m not so sure now, even aside from the fact he since has been ruled ineligible.

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