The end of the college football regular season means two things. Along with bowl and playoff games, the award season is now upon us. There will be plenty of individual awards given out to players, but only one stands out. That award is the Heisman Trophy. Over the years, there has been only one player win that award twice (Ohio State’s Archie Griffin). The award does not have a particular position attached to it, although primarily running backs and quarterbacks have won it. And in this season, it seems like those two positions will be prominent this season. Alabama’s Derrick Henry, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey are the consensus top three for many across the nation. Al have had special seasons, but there can only be one winner. And that winner will be Derrick Henry of Alabama.
Henry came into this season knowing he was going to be the lead runner for the Crimson Tide. But what he did not know was who his quarterback was going to be. It was assumed by many that Jacob Coker would be the guy running the show, but that was not even certain to start the year. And quite frankly, he did not show that he was going to be the quarterback until Cooper Bateman was benched in favor of Coker during the loss to Ole Miss. Up to that point, the Alabama offense had been trying to get it together through the air while Henry handled business on the ground. During those first three games, including the Ole Miss game, Henry averaged 123 yards per game on the ground and had seven touchdowns. Over time, Coker became steady at quarterback and as he did, Henry just got better and better. Henry had seven 100 yard games after the Ole Miss game (including four games of 200+ yards rushing) playing against some conference foes. While he has continued to get stronger over the year, the Alabama offense has become more diverse because of it. Teams lined up to stop Henry and they were still not able to. All the while, Coker got easier coverages to go against and freshman receiver Calvin Ridley (71 receptions, 893 yards and 5 touchdowns) and sophomore receiver ArDarius Steward (54 receptions, 600 yards and 4 touchdowns) got one-on-one matchups and zone coverages that were favorable for them. And as for Henry, he went on to set a Southeastern Conference record for yards with 1,986 yards. To set that record in a league where guys like Fred Taylor(Florida), Herschel Walker(Georgia) and Bo Jackson(Auburn) and Jamaal Lewis (Tennessee) played is something that is a phenomenal feat. And with the playoffs coming, he has the chance to be the first 2,000 yard back ever in Southeastern Conference history. In a conference as tough as the SEC, this is an incredible accomplishment should he be able to do it.
The other candidates are not too shabby in their own right. For example, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson has been mentioned as a potential Heisman winner also. The dual-threat quarterback has been special this season while leading this Clemson team to an unprecedented 13-0 season so far. His 30 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions are very good stats. And in any other year he would be the winner, especially on an undefeated team. But when you look at the value of Henry or Watson, which one do you choose? It is a tough choice to pick between either, but look at the level of competition Henry did what he did against. Henry did it against some of the best defenses in the country in the Southeastern Conference. Sure, Alabama had a couple cupcakes on their schedule, but most of Henry’s yards came in the games that actually counted. Watson had some great numbers but along with the cupcakes outside of conference, Watson had some inside his conference as well. Teams like Boston College and Wake Forest were bad this year. The sophomore quarterback had 11 of his 30 touchdown passes against the likes of Wofford, Appalachian State, Boston College and Wake Forests. That is a total of 19 touchdown passes against competition that is considered formidable. Watson has had a great season, but this is just not his year to win the Heisman.
The other candidate that’s name gets mentioned is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey. The sophomore running back has been special for the Cardinal. He went from only having 300 yards rushing last season to 1847 yards this season (8 touchdowns), including three 200-yard games. But that is not all McCaffrey did for his team. He was also a threat in the passing game for the Cardinal. McCaffrey was not only the leading rusher but the leading receiver for the team. He amassed 540 yards rushing and he caught an additional four touchdown passes. McCaffrey also returned kicks and punts for the Cardinal and had an additional touchdown there. The imprint he made on this offense was incredible. And with the season he had, you would think he would be the frontrunner. But alas, McCaffrey is not in the football playoffs despite his lofty numbers. With losses to Northwestern and Oregon, the Cardinal are on the outside looking in of the playoffs. McCaffrey could not will his team to win in those games. And even though football is a team game, Heisman winners always have that signature moment in time. McCaffrey had one against Notre Dame at the end of the season. Henry had these moments over and over again all year long.
McCaffrey and Watson are both worthy of winning the award. And they are both special players that we will see playing on Sundays one day. But this year’s trophy belongs to Henry. He is the driving force behind that Alabama offense and he faced stiff competition to get the numbers and wins he did. And it’s because of that, he will be rewarded by joining the most prestigious club in college football history.