Tebow, McFadden, Brennan and Daniel are Heisman finalists

Tebow, McFadden, Brennan and Daniel are Heisman finalists

Tebow, McFadden, Daniel and Brennan invited to NYC
   
NEW YORK (AP) -- Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, trying to become the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, and Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, the runner-up for last year's award, were among the four finalists selected Wednesday.

Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel and Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan were the other finalists. They will all be in New York on Saturday night when the award is given to the top player in college football.

The Heisman race took a while to develop this season and seemed wide open until the last month when Tebow, McFadden and Daniel emerged as front-runners.

Since the first Heisman was given to Chicago's Jay Berwanger in 1935, all 70 players who have won college football's most prestigious award have been juniors or seniors.

Tebow could break that trend. The ultimate dual-threat quarterback at about 235 pounds, Tebow ran for 838 yards rushing and an Southeastern Conference-record 22 touchdowns.

He's also the nation's second-leading passer, having completed 68 percent of his throws for 3,132 yards, with 29 touchdowns and just six interceptions in his first season as a starter.

Tebow's already had a historic season, becoming the first major college player to run for 20 touchdowns and throw 20 TD passes in the same season.

McFadden was one of the preseason favorites after finishing second to Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith last year. His candidacy lagged with a mediocre October, but he gave himself a boost with a spectacular November. In the final month of the season, McFadden tied the SEC record with 321 yards rushing against South Carolina, and ran for 206 yards and three TDs and also threw a touchdown pass to lead the Razorbacks to a 50-48 triple overtime victory over then-No. 1 LSU.

McFadden could become the fifth player to win the Heisman the year after being the runner-up, joining Tom Harmon of Michigan, Glenn Davis of Army, O.J. Simpson of USC and Herschel Walker of Georgia.

Daniel was one of six quarterbacks to reach 4,000 yards passing this season. He threw for 4,170 yards and 33 TDs to get the surprising Tigers within a victory of reaching the BCS national championship game.

Brennan led Hawaii (12-0) to the only perfect regular season in major college football and its first BCS appearance, but his numbers were down from last year because he lost some time to injuries.

Running the Warriors' run-n-shoot offense, Brennan passed for 4,174 and 38 touchdowns. He also set the major college record for career touchdown passes with 131.

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My Heisman pick? How 'bout C. Brennan?

The Heisman Trophy ballot has no names on it, only lines with blank spaces above them. You list a first, second and third choice, and the players' schools. It's not a multiple-choice test. You can write down almost anyone this side of Jay Berwanger. The only rules are the recipient must be "a bona fide student of an accredited college or university" and "must be in compliance with the bylaws defining an NCAA student athlete."

Over the 25 years I've had a Heisman vote, I've shown the ballot now and again to friends and family before filling it out. As they've marveled at the open invitation to vote for any one of several thousand college football players each year, they've occasionally wondered aloud if I could do something silly like, say, write down my own name.

I've always scoffed at them.

This year, I did it.

With the kind of record-setting year and career Colt Brennan has had, combined with the fact that he is the only quarterback in Division I-A football to lead his team to an undefeated season, I asked myself a very simple question the other day:

How could this C. Brennan not vote for that C. Brennan?

It's not like I was giving my vote to any old famous Brennan, such as the late actor Walter or the actress Eileen or the late Supreme Court Justice William. I wasn't tossing my support to former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Brian, who actually played at Boston College with Doug Flutie, who has a Heisman of his own.

No, this was a legit first-place vote for one of the four players who has been invited to New York for Saturday night's Heisman announcement. This was a real vote for a once-troubled player who seemingly has gotten his act together at the University of Hawaii to become the most dominant throwing quarterback the NCAA has ever seen, including a stellar junior year, in 2006, when he threw for a record 58 touchdowns. He also holds the NCAA record for most touchdown passes in a career, with 131.

We just so happen to share the same last name, and the same initials. As best as I can tell, we are not related. We have Ireland in common, but so do millions of other people, and that was a long time ago, even before Keith Jackson started calling college games.

I had never spoken with Colt until Wednesday. "I appreciate the vote," he said over a cellphone on his way to a journalism class on the Hawaii campus. "I've met a lot of Brennans over the past few years. It's a name people take a lot of pride in. I know I do."

Did he wish that there were perhaps a few more Brennans in the sports media voting for the Heisman this year?

"That would be nice," Colt Brennan said with a laugh.

He might need several more of us as Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, my second choice, appears to be the favorite for the award. (I picked Arkansas running back Darren McFadden third.)

If in fact my vote goes against the grain this year, it won't be the first time. Four years ago, hardly impressed by the choices in the 2003 voting, I gave my first-place vote to a quarterback from Miami of Ohio. I was in a distinct minority, one of only five out of 750 voters to choose Ben Roethlisberger first. Oklahoma quarterback Jason White won, followed by Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Roethlisberger finished ninth.

At the time, a few vociferous readers let me know how ridiculous they thought my selection was. In hindsight, it doesn't look quite so bad.

I've picked a lot of Heisman runners-up over the years: John Elway over Herschel Walker in 1982, my first vote; Chuck Long over Bo Jackson in 1985; Anthony Thompson over Andre Ware in 1989.

I've voted for winners destined for greatness, like Flutie and Barry Sanders. I've chosen winners we've barely heard from on a football field again, like Gino Torretta and Eric Crouch.

But no Heisman story of mine can touch one of the most legendary tales ever told about the trophy.

When quarterback Joe Theismann first arrived at Notre Dame, his last name was pronounced Theez-man. One day at spring practice his freshman year, Irish sports information director Roger Valdiserri jokingly said, "That's Theismann, as in Heisman."

The pronunciation stuck. Theismann forevermore would have a name that rhymed with Heisman. Unfortunately for him, though, he'd never have the actual trophy.

In 1970, his senior season, Theismann lost the Heisman to Stanford's Jim Plunkett. A catchy last name, at least in that case, could carry one only so far.

Perhaps things will be different this year for that kid from Hawaii, you know, what's his name?

usatoday.com

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By any standard, Heisman should belong to Tebow

If there's any debate about the Heisman Trophy race, it should be over who finishes second.

The logical recipient, providing the voters truly did their homework, is the player who achieved his monster numbers against the best competition.

That would be Tim Tebow, and it's not even close.

But given the unpredictable, fickle nature of this 925-member electorate, who knows if the University of Florida quarterback won't be another sophomore jinx runner-up like Rex Grossman (2001)? Some of the voters are so blase about doing any research, they'll fill out a ballot based simply on what the ESPN talking heads are saying.

In most years, there are three to five solid Heisman candidates. Voters will make their choice on a variety of factors (statistics, on-field impact, team accomplishments, etc.), but rarely do you see an apples-to-apples comparison of the defenses they're facing.

That's where Tebow, a former Nease High School standout, separates himself from the rest of the Heisman field. Not only was he arguably the greatest dual-threat quarterback in college football history this season, Tebow's combined 3,970 passing/running yards and 51 touchdowns were accumulated against significantly better opposition.

Nothing against Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan, Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel or Central Florida tailback Kevin Smith, but all those guys lagged behind Tebow either in overall proficiency or quality of competition.

Daniel was reasonably close on both counts. He might have been a Heisman lock had he led Missouri to a win over Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. However, Daniel's pedestrian outing compelled me to take him off my ballot, though you can argue he belongs in the top three.

In my judgment, Tebow is a clear-cut No. 1, followed on my ballot by McFadden and Brennan. Some might charge hometown bias, but the opposition's numbers reveal why Tebow's name should be inscribed on the statue.

The combined record of Florida's opponents is 88-58, and the average total defense ranking of opponents that Tebow faced was 46.6 (out of 119 Bowl Subdivision teams). Only Daniel - with an opposition record of 88-69 and a total defense ranking of 58.9 - is in the vicinity.

McFadden had a great year with 1,725 yards and 15 touchdowns. His impact in Arkansas' triple-overtime upset of LSU might have been the most impressive single-game performance of 2007. But looking at the total picture, he went against run defenses with an average ranking of 75th, and his opponents had a combined record of 69-75.

While Hawaii's perfect season is a notable feat, the truth is there's at least 25 schools that could have gone 12-0 against that schedule. The Warriors faced only two teams (Boise State, Fresno State) with a winning record and played two Football Championship Subdivision opponents with a combined mark of 6-17. Brennan, who isn't a running threat, compiled his numbers against foes with an average pass defense ranking of 76th.

Smith might break Barry Sanders' single-season NCAA rushing record, thanks to going against nine bottom 30 run defenses and opponents with a combined record of 53-92.

The only player whose numbers and opposition hold up to Tebow was Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon, whose status as Heisman favorite was derailed by a season-ending knee injury against Arizona.

So what reasonable argument against Tebow winning the Heisman is there? That he's only a sophomore? Put a lid on that. It's an antiquated thought process that should have been thrown out in 1980 when Herschel Walker was a freshman.

No matter how you judge this Heisman race, the conclusion is inescapable: Tim Tebow is at the head of the class.

jacksonville.com

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A bumpy road to the Heisman

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is now favored to win after a series of fumbling performances derail other picks.

The race for the 73rd Heisman Trophy has mirrored the season itself -- it has been a madcap mess.

Candidates rose and fell, sort of the way schools ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press poll did.

In the same way that Ohio State and Louisiana State ended up as the last teams standing in the Bowl Championship Series standings, the Heisman race also staggered to a finish.

An unprecedented season might lead to an unprecedented result, with Florida quarterback Tim Tebow's becoming the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy.

Several key straw polls have tabbed Tebow to win while projecting junior Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden to finish second for a second straight year.

Quarterbacks Chase Daniel of Missouri and Colt Brennan of Hawaii also received invitations to tonight's ceremony in New York, but this year's award seems destined to go to a Southeastern Conference player for the first time since Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel won in 1996.

It has been an unusual year when you consider Tebow and McFadden played on teams that combined for seven losses.

Tebow is favored because he posted off-the-chart numbers for 9-3 Florida, becoming the first player to run and pass for at least 20 touchdowns in a season. Tebow led the Gators with 838 rushing yards and also passed for 3,132.

McFadden, after a couple of sub-par midseason games, played himself back into award contention on Thanksgiving weekend with one of the year's most impressive performances: a 206-yard rushing effort in a win over LSU that included McFadden playing quarterback in Arkansas' "Wild Hog" formation.

Tebow and McFadden needed a few breaks. Preseason favorites John David Booty of USC, Mike Hart of Michigan, Steve Slaton of West Virginia and Brian Brohm of Louisville all fell out of contention.

Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan appeared the favorite until the Eagles suffered a Nov. 3 home loss to Florida State.

The trophy then seemed Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon's to lose until he suffered a season-ending knee injury against Arizona on Nov. 15.

Last weekend, Tebow and McFadden became clear-cut favorites after contenders Pat White of West Virginia and Daniel of Missouri suffered Heisman setbacks.

Daniel, a week after completing 40 of 49 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Kansas, was held without a scoring pass in Missouri's Big 12 title-game loss to Oklahoma. White suffered a dislocated thumb in West Virginia's stunning home defeat to Pittsburgh.

Brennan finished sixth in last year's Heisman Trophy balloting after setting the NCAA single-season record with 58 touchdown passes.

Brennan threw "only" 38 scoring passes this year but led Hawaii to a 12-0 finish and a berth in the Sugar Bowl. Brennan probably earned his Heisman invite after rallying the Warriors from a 21-point deficit last weekend to a 35-28 win over Washington.

Brennan threw for 4,174 yards this season and also became the NCAA's career leader in touchdown passes with 131.

latimes.com

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Tebow becomes first sophomore to win Heisman
December 8, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -Tim Tebow needed only two years of college to graduate to Heisman Trophy winner, putting the sophomore in a class by himself.

Florida's folk-hero quarterback with the rugged running style and magnetic personality won the Heisman on Saturday night to become the first sophomore or freshman to take college football's most prestigious award.

Since 1935, when Jay Berwanger of Chicago won the first Heisman, every winner had been a junior or senior - until Tebow.

He beat out Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, the first player since 1949 to finish second in consecutive seasons. Tebow received 1,957 points and 462 first-place votes to McFadden's 1,703 points and 291 first-place votes.

Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan was third, and Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel fourth.

A year after Tebow helped Florida win a national title, and in his first season as the Gators' starter, the chiseled 235-pound quarterback in a fullback's body put together a historic campaign. He's the first major college player to run for 20 touchdowns and throw 20 TD passes in the same season.

In an unpredictable college football season, the Heisman race was as unsettled as the national title chase. Tebow emerged as the front-runner even though Florida (9-3) stumbled early.

Six of the last seven Heisman winners picked up their bronze statues on the way to playing in the national championship game. Tebow won't get that chance this season, but Heisman voters didn't hold Florida's failure to defend its national title against him.

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