The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

December 2, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: Trio’s seasons worthy of Heisman shot

MORGANTOWN — If you were to give me time, I could come into your kitchen this morning, sit there over a Sunday breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and hash browns along with a smoking hot cup of coffee and convince you that Geno Smith should win the Heisman Trophy.

Or Tavon Austin.

Or Stedman Bailey.

Now all of them know that none of them will probably win it, maybe shouldn’t even win it considering that despite their heroics they played on an underachieving team, which never plays well with the voters.

The truth is, if one of them were to be among the Final Five at the Heisman ceremony it would probably be an upset.

But, know what, if Smith and Austin — and we're leaving out Bailey in this discussion, mainly because he’s a junior — were to make it there isn’t a soul in America who could strongly opine against such a happening.

Just so you know, Bailey’s credentials are every bit as good as the others, leading the nation in receiving touchdowns with 23 and with 106 catches for 1,501 yards. And he might be as close to never playing a game for West Virginia again as the seniors, because those are numbers that first-round draft choices carry and while he says he has to discuss things with his family, he also adds:

“If the money calls, you gotta go.”

But let us for a moment talk of Smith and Austin, both sure first-round NFL picks and both as solid as anyone from West Virginia ever has been as a Heisman candidate.

We begin with Austin mostly because he is probably the one who has been flying lowest under the radar, which is something of a shame for he is simply the most spectacular player in college football, a mercurial kick returner who catches 110 passes for 1,259 yards and 12 touchdowns, yet when moved to running back late in the season rushed for 344 yards in a single game, third best in the entire NCAA this year.

And he wasn’t running against Snow White and Seven Dwarfs. It was Oklahoma.

O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A. Oklahoma, OK!

You ask his quarterback, Geno Smith, about him, and this is what you get:

“The eyeball doesn’t lie. He can make anyone miss,” Smith said.

You ask his offensive coordinator, Shannon Dawson, about him and the Heisman and he replies:

”He’s the best player in the country. I’ve never been around anyone like him. He plays a lot different than everybody else does.”

That’s like saying Beethoven wrote music different than everyone else did.

“He’s got vision; he’s got speed. Who knows what genetically goes into making a great player, but he has the perfect attitude. He’s never been selfish,” Dawson said.

He wasn’t kidding, either, about that selfish thing.

Ask Austin about him and the Heisman.

“I could see all three of us deserving being in the final five,”Austin said. “In reality, we won’t be there. Even if one of us is there, each of us did good. If none of us were there it would make us feel like we weren’t doing it in front of the country.

“I think my name should be in there, but I don’t really care. In the end, my real dream will come true, and that’s to go to the NFL.”

And the thing is, Smith isn’t mounting a campaign as a Heisman candidate, either.

“I said this back when they had me No. 1 for the Heisman. I said it didn’t mean much to me. The game is all about winning. I wanted to win every game this year. I didn’t want to win the Heisman. I wanted to win the national championship, but that didn’t happen.”

In the end it is Bailey who probably sums up these three West Virginia players and their chances for the Heisman Trophy best.

“From what I understand it has a lot to do with politics and the Heisman is supposed to go to the best player from the best team. As far as the things we accomplished this year you can’t deny that. Tavon should have gotten a whole lot of recognition as far as the Heisman goes,” he said.

The Heisman is going to go in a strange direction this year, maybe to a redshirt freshman quarterback at Texas A&M whose greatest accomplishment is beating Alabama or a defensive player from Notre Dame, who would simply be the second defensive player to win the award.

But if you really want to know who should win the Heisman, it being the most prestigious award in sports, it should go to the player who has given the most memories to his fans and if anyone has come up with memories to top Smith and Austin … well, I have forgotten them.

Of course, I’m 72 years old.

Now, pass the pancakes.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter@bhertzel.

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