Georgia and South Carolina engaged in their own Battle of Who Could Care Less last week when each school announced that it would not actively promote its star player for the Heisman trophy. Georgia SID Claude Felton said that the media would do most of the talking for Aaron Murray, and the Gamecocks cited Georgia’s precedent in their own lack of a preseason push behind Jadeveon Clowney.
Both schools’ decisions reflect the reality that the Heisman is a fluid process. If you go back a year ago, the names you saw at the top of many preseason Heisman lists included Matt Barkley, Denard Robinson, Landry Jones, Marcus Lattimore, and Montee Ball. Geno Smith became a favorite after West Virigina’s explosive start. None of those ended up in the top 5 of Heisman voting.
I think a key is that both schools left themselves a hedge. South Carolina admitted, “we’ll let it play out some.” Felton said, “We’ll see how things stand at the end of September.” The teams will have a good sense of where they and their stars stand after a month. The Gamecocks will have had a pair of SEC games and a fairly high-profile nonconference game under their belt. Georgia will have faced three top 20 teams, and Murray’s offense will have tested themselves against Clowney’s defense.
Now if either Clowney or Murray can navigate an undefeated September and play at the level we expect of them, I’d hope the schools would begin to take a more active approach, especially as we get closer to November. The circumstances of 2012 that saw a freshman emerge to win the Heisman were unique, but it should be noted that A&M’s campaign behind Manziel didn’t start until mid-November, and there was no Notre Dame campaign behind Te’o when the South Bend Tribune launched its own promotion in mid-October.
It’s true that the media will do a lot of the heavy lifting if either player has a season worthy of Heisman consideration. SEC players have advantages over someone from, say, Northern Illinois who must spend effort on name recognition and basic awareness. That said, there still will be a role for Felton and his counterpart at South Carolina. Voters, particularly those outside the region, won’t be focused on Murray and Clowney even if they know the names. They might see a highlight or be roughly aware of a team’s rise and fall in the rankings. But they’ll also need the case for any favorite to be distilled down to a few comparables that they’ll weigh against players from their own backyard – players with whom the voters are much more familiar. A gimmicky introductory campaign behind Murray or Clowney won’t be necessary, but when the time comes we would expect an SEC SID to shine along the lines of the informational site that A&M did behind Manziel last November.
We’ll let it play out some…