Where the Heisman race stands

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What to make of this year’s Heisman race?

In my 10 seasons covering the trophy, I’ve never seen a race this unsettled this late in the process.

Every candidate has at least two major drawbacks that in any other year would probably be disqualifying. In the end, it may come down to which candidate ends up dominating his region while appearing on just enough ballots nationwide to eke out a win. I envision the results of this race looking a lot like that of 2001, when Eric Crouch won the Heisman with just one region and 770 points (the lowest winning total since Terry Baker won with 707 points in 1962) while five other candidates totaled over 200.

Let’s do a rundown of what we’re dealing with.

— The tentative front runner, Jameis Winston of Florida State, has a major legal issue hanging over him that could potentially derail his candidacy. That issue is unlikely to be resolved one way or the other before Thanksgiving, which means that the decision could come just as the Seminoles begin preparations for the ACC title game. If he is not charged, then I think it’s likely that enough Heisman voters will give him the benefit of the doubt to enable him to win the trophy. Even then, he’s going to have a hard time benefiting much from what he does on the field from here on out because FSU’s remaining schedule includes the worst Florida team since 1979 and Duke in the ACC title game — hardly the type of matchups that will compel voters to tune in. Of course, if he is charged with a felony, he will likely be dropped from the majority of ballots and voters will look elsewhere.

— AJ McCarron of Alabama seems to be the safest candidate. After all, he’s the quarterback for the No. 1 team and a well-known and proven commodity. But to win he’ll have to overcome his relatively lackluster production and the perception that he’s not really the engine that drives Alabama’s success. Big games in his remaining matchups against Auburn and in the SEC title game could help him change that perception just enough to tilt the race in his direction. I have a feeling that, while he’s likely to appear on a lot of ballots, he’ll need to finish strong in his home region (the South) to have a shot at winning. That means putting distance between himself and Winston and Manziel — a tall order indeed.

— The conventional wisdom is that Bryce Petty of Baylor is now out of the race as a result of his team’s crushing defeat at the hands of Oklahoma State. But Petty has two more games left to add to his still-impressive resume and his one loss may not be that fatal given that none of the other candidates have been able to pull away from the pack either. The narrative aiding Petty until tonight was that he was leading an unstoppable offense on a Cinderella charge to an undefeated season. That’s now gone and all he’s got left are his numbers and, potentially, the best season in school history. But that attribute doesn’t capture the imagination of voters around the country the way it might with, say, a more traditional power. The problem with Petty is that he never got a chance to break out of his status as a quality regional candidate — he lost that shot tonight. But in a really close race with a lot of candidates getting support, it’s possible that he wins his region and remains a viable contender so long as he finishes strong against TCU and Texas.

— Is Marcus Mariota out of the race after throwing his first two interceptions of the season in his team’s second loss, this one a 42-16 drubbing by Arizona? I believe so. But, again, with so many candidates having so many weaknesses and the race likely coming down to hard-core regionalism, it’s still possible that Mariota’s production and name recognition could attract enough voters out West to give him influence over the final outcome. With Oregon now out of the Pac-12 title game, I can’t see a path to victory, but I can see him getting to New York.

— Heismandment No. 9 looks to be safe for another year and I’d venture to guess that if Johnny Manziel can’t overturn it, who will? Johnny Football had perhaps his worst game in his team’s loss to LSU and won’t win that second Heisman, but if he rebounds with a great outing against Missouri, I think there’s enough sentiment in his favor out there to allow him to have a respectable showing in this race. People know how good he is, even if they don’t think he had the most outstanding season this time around. He might end up weakening Winston (assuming he’s not charged) and McCarron in the South region while also sapping Petty’s strength in the Southwest. I think he’s headed to New York and will likely finish third.

— All the chaos of the day opens up the door for perhaps the most unlikely Heisman candidate in recent memory. I’m talking running back Andre Williams of Boston College. I don’t think he was on anyone’s radar until this weekend and I think most voters still don’t know who he is. But I suspect that is about to change (BC will need to give him a boost). After all, he’s now eclipsed the 2,000-yard rushing mark with one game yet to play. With so many flawed candidates arrayed against him, I think voters might be more inclined to overlook his team’s 7-4 record — keep in mind Toby Gerhart of Stanford was on an 8-4 team in 2009 and he was the runner up in the vote by the closest margin in Heisman history. And it helps that his recent rushing explosion has spurred his team to a four-game win streak. There’s a possibility that Williams captures the vote in the Northeast and does well in the Mid-Atlantic as well. Again, in a close race spread out over several candidates, the winner might not need to capture more than one region. (Note: I think it’s interesting that the ACC could have two Heisman finalists this year after not having a single one since 2000)

— There are definite cases to be made for Jordan Lynch and Derek Carr, but I don’t expect them to be able to get enough national support to make it to New York. Ironically, Lynch and Carr did not benefit much from today’s meltdowns since the lack of a consensus Heisman front runner is more likely to depress their vote totals.  The presence of a clear cut winner usually makes it easier for a voter to take a flyer on a player like Lynch or Carr by putting them in the 2nd or 3rd spots on their ballot. But with so many options still remaining and voters still undecided on a leader, they are likely to be crowded out a bit by the remaining group of contenders. I expect Lynch to influence who wins the MidWest, while Carr will obviously be a factor in the West, but I can’t see either winning their region.

Yes, there are still games to play that will decide this thing. It seems that anything that can happen will happen, which is why we might end up with one of most suspense-filled races in Heisman history before all is said and done.

How would the race go if the vote was held right now? I think it would look something like this (don’t quote me…it’ll probably change next week):

1. Jameis Winston

2. AJ McCarron

3. Johnny Manziel

4. Bryce Petty

5. Andre Williams

6. Marcus Mariota

7. Jordan Lynch

8. Ka’Deem Carey

9. Derek Carr

10. Tajh Boyd

Florida State DB A.J. Lytton, removed from Seminole roster last week, makes way into transfer portal

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One former member of the Florida State football program has taken the next step in finding a new collegiate home.

Last week, it was reported that A.J. Lytton is no longer consider a member of the Seminoles team.  A Florida State football official subsequently confirmed that the defensive back “has been removed from the team.”

No specific reason, including whether the separation was voluntary or involuntary, was given for Lytton’s removal from the roster.

Wednesday, 247Sports.com, citing an unnamed source, reported that Lytton has entered the NCAA transfer database.  Thursday, an official from the Florida State football program confirmed that the ex-Seminoles has entered Ye Olde Portal.

A four-star 2018 signee, Lytton was rated as the No. 3 recruit regardless of position in the state of Maryland.  He was also the No. 7 cornerback in the country.  Only one signee in FSU’s class that year, fellow defensive back Jaiden Woodbey, was rated higher than Lytton.

Over two seasons, Lytton played in a total of 22 games.  A dozen of those appearances came during the 2019 campaign.  He started one of those appearances, with that lone start coming this past season.

In those appearances, Lytton was credited with 28 tackles, two tackles for loss, two passes defensed, an interception and a forced fumble.  That lone interception came in a 2018 loss to Clemson.

With two-year starter Stanford Samuels III leaving the Seminoles early for the NFL, Lytton had been expected to compete for a starting corner job prior to his departure.

Lytton’s departure continues the expected Florida State football roster churn since Willie Taggart‘s firing and Mike Norvell‘s hiring.  Norvell will be taking over a program that has gone 11-14 the past two seasons.  That two-year stretch is the worst for the school since they went 8-14 in 1975-76.

Starting safety Nolan Turner knocked out of Clemson’s spring practice after surgery

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As Clemson football officially kicked off its quest to earn yet another spot in the College Football Player, there was some injury news to update when it comes to the 2019 national runners-up.

Wednesday, Clemson football held the first of what will be 15 spring practice sessions that will culminate in an April 4 spring game.  One key player who didn’t take the field was Nolan Turner.  According to Dabo Swinney, the senior safety underwent surgery on his right/arm shoulder earlier this offseason.

The specific nature of the medical procedure performed on Turner, who was seen viewing the goings-on with his right arm in a sling, wasn’t detailed.

“We went ahead and did a little surgery on Nolan so he’s going to be out,” the Clemson football head coach stated. “He could’ve gone through spring and we could’ve done it after spring… But he’s incredibly knowledgeable and knows what he’s doing. We felt like from a timing standpoint if we went ahead and did it he’d be ready for the start of May and really have a full summer. Having him out there this summer and leading skills and drills and all of that is important.”

After redshirting as a true freshman in 2016, Turner played in 43 games the past three seasons.  He started four of those contests, with all of those coming in 2019.  Given the departures at safety as well as his experience in the system, Turner is expected to start for Clemson football in 2020 when he gets healthy.

In his nearly four-dozen appearances, Turner has been credited with 124 tackles (5.5 for loss), 14 passes broken up, three interceptions (all in postseason play), a sack and a forced fumble

Turner is the son of Kevin Turner, who played with Swinney at Alabama.  The elder Turner died in March of 2016, shortly before his son arrived on the Clemson campus, after a courageous and inspirational battle with ALS.

Ex-TCU QB Trevone Boykin sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to beating girlfriend so bad her jaw was wired shut

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The next chapter of a former TCU football player’s tumultuous life will play out by bars.

Wednesday, Trevone Boykin was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to a pair of felonies related to aggravated assault and tampering with a witness.  He was also sentenced to 180 days in jail for theft of services and theft of property on charges unrelated to the assault.  The misdemeanors are related to his failure to pay for a hotel room in December; the former TCU football player has been in jail ever since that arrest.

In June of 2019, Boykin was arrested on one count each of aggravated assault of a family member with a deadly weapon and tampering with a witness.  In March of the year before, Boykin beat his girlfriend Shabrika Bailey so badly that she was hospitalized and had her jaw wired shut.

A member of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks at the time, Boykin was immediately cut.

These incidents continued what’s been a spate of legal issues in which Boykin has been involved over the past five years.

In December of 2015, Boykin was charged with, among other things, felony assault of a police officer following an incident outside of a San Antonio drinking establishment very early Thursday morning.  The altercation, which was preceded by Boykin skipping out of the team hotel following bed check, led to Boykin being suspended for the Alamo Bowl matchup with Oregon, leaving his teammates in a lurch and effectively ending his collegiate playing career.

Video of that incident subsequently surfaced.

After leaving the TCU football program, Boykin was arrested twice in an 11-game span in late March and early April of 2017.

In 2014, Boykin was named as the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year.  He remains the TCU football leader in career passing yards (10,728), passing attempts (1,356), pass completions (830) and touchdown passes (86).  In that 2014 season, he also set single-season team records for passing yards (3,901), touchdown passes (33), touchdowns responsible for (42) and total offense (4,608).

Pair of Oregon State assistants given additional titles

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It’s Oregon State football “Additional Title Week” in Corvallis.

Earlier this week, Jonathan Smith announced a pair of on-field assistants have been given additional duties.  Linebackers coach Trent Bray has assumed the title of assistant head coach.  Additionally, running backs coach Michael Pitre will assume the role of recruiting coordinator.

Obviously, both assistants will continue on in their on-field roles.

“Working with Coach Bray for over two years, I recognize the value in his wealth of experience makes him a great resource for me to bounce ideas off,” the Oregon State football head coach said in a statement. “I love his passion and the perspective he brings to our conversations. …

“Coach Pitre is a tremendous recruiter and his influence on our recruiting staff will provide great vision, direction, and growth.  He is exceptional and connecting with people and building relationships with coaches and young men.”

This past cycle, the Beavers pulled in the No. 9 recruiting class in the Pac-12 in 2020.  Prior to that, they were 10th in 2019 and 12th in 2018.

Pitre has been part of the Oregon State football coaching staff since 2018.  This was his first on-field job at the FBS level.  He did, though, begin his collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant at Colorado.

Pitre, who played his college football at UCLA, was the running backs coach at FCS Montana State (2014-17) prior to joining the Oregon State football program.

Bray, who played for Oregon State football, has also been at his alma mater since Smith took over in 2018.  This was his second stint with the Beavers as held the same job coaching linebackers from 2012-14.  In between those two Corvallis stops, he was at Nebraska from 2015-17.  From 2009-11, he was at Arizona State.

Taking over a one-win program, Smith won two games in 2018 and five in 2019.  That was the program’s most wins since hitting that same number in 2014.

Last month, it was reported that OSU is working on a contract extension for Smith.