Setting the stage for the 2013 Heisman Trophy ceremony

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Saturday night, and even as anyone with an Internet connection or television set already knows who it will be, one of six players will take home one of the most prestigious awards in all of sports, the Heisman Trophy.

More than likely, viewers won’t be tuning in to see who wins; rather, they’ll take a peek to see if Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston can make it a historic night vote-wise while also becoming the second straight redshirt freshman to claim college football’s highest honor.

Ahead of that ceremony, here’s a quick primer on tomorrow’s activities as well as a brief historical look at the iconic stiff-armed trophy.

WHAT: the 79th Annual Heisman Memorial Trophy
WHERE: New York City
WHEN: Sat., Dec. 14, at 8 pm ET on ESPN
WHO: In addition to Winston, the finalists are Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Auburn running back Tre Mason, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and Boston College running back Andre Williams.

Winston, in his first year as a starter at this level, has already set a slew of school and national freshman records in helping FSU to its first BCS title game since the 1999 season.  Winston finished the regular season leading the nation in passing efficiency; second in passing touchdowns and yards per completion; and eighth in passing yards.

Manziel, of course, is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, becoming the first redshirt freshman to capture the award last year.  In attempting to become the second player to win back-to-back Heismans, Manziel has actually thrown for more yards (3,732-3,706), has more touchdown passes (33-26) and a higher completion percentage (69.1-68) than he did last season.  Where Manziel has lagged is with his feet; after rushing for 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2012, the A&M quarterback totaled “just” 686 and eight in 2013.

In leading the nation in rushing with 2,102 yards, Williams has topped the 200-yard mark five times and the 300-yard mark once in putting up the ninth-best single-season rushing performance in FBS history.  He’s also just the second BC Eagle to be named a finalist, joining 1984 winner Doug Flutie.  While Lynch plays quarterback, he’s second to Williams in rushing yards with 1,881 and is tied for third in the nation with 22 rushing touchdowns.  The NIU senior is just the third player ever from the MAC to be named a Heisman finalist, joining a pair of players from Marshall — wide receiver Randy Moss (1997) and Chad Pennington (1999).

Tied for third in the country in rushing touchdowns with Lynch is Mason, who, like his Tigers team, seemingly came out of nowhere toward the end of the season to put both himself and his program in the national spotlight.  Mason’s 1,621 yards are sixth in the nation and played a significant role in putting the Tigers into the BCS title game against Winston’s Seminoles.

In McCarron’s three years as a starter, the Tide has gone 36-3 and won a pair of BCS championships.  He’s eighth in the country in passing efficiency this season after finishing No. 1 in 2012, and has thrown just 15 interceptions — and 75 touchdowns — in 996 career attempts.

Finally, some historical tidbits on college football’s biggest award.

FIRST AWARDED: Dec. 9, 1935
FIRST WINNER: University of Chicago running back Jay Berwanger
2012 WINNER: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel
TWO-TIME WINNER
: Ohio State running back Archie Griffin (1974 & 1975)
TAINTED WINNER: USC running back Reggie Bush, who had his 2005 win vacated because of NCAA improprieties.
CLASS BREAKDOWN
: 56 seniors, 17 juniors, three sophomores and one freshman.  Just one senior (Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, 2006) has won the award the past nine years.
POSITION BREAKDOWN: 38 running backs, 31 quarterbacks, three fullbacks and one cornerback; Yale’s Larry Kelley (1936) and Notre Dame’s Leon Hart (1949) are listed as ends on the official Heisman website.  While running back is the position most often awarded, quarterbacks have won 11 of the last 12, the lone exception being Alabama’s Mark Ingram in 2009.
VOTER BREAKDOWN: The Heisman Memorial Trophy electorate is comprised of 928 sports journalists and every living former Heisman winner — 870 of the former, 58 of the latter. The United States is broken down into six sections (Far West, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, South and Southwest), with 145 media members from each section.

LSU lands commitment from nation’s No. 1 cornerback

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LSU rarely loses a player it wants out of Louisiana. Now add in that said player isn’t just from Louisiana, but lives in Baton Rouge. Now add in that he’s regarded as the No. 1 player at his position. Yeah, this kid was never going anywhere else.

Derek Stingley, Jr., committed to LSU on Wednesday, beating out Texas and Florida.

Rivals ranks Stingley as the No. 1 corner and No. 1 overall player in its 2019 rankings. Stingley stands as the No. 1 corner and the No. 8 overall player on the 247Sports ratings. ESPN is more bullish on Stingley, slotting him as just the No. 3 cornerback and the No. 67 overall player. (247Sports lists Lewis Center, Ohio, defensive end Zach Harrison as its No. 1 overall player, while ESPN favors Westlake Village, Calif., defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux.)

Stingley was previously committed to LSU, but de-committed to take his time and make an informed decision. All that information led him to the exact same conclusion.

“There are a lot of reasons I love LSU, but the main thing is coach Corey Raymond. We have built a strong relationship over a long period of time. We have really gotten to know each other. I am relaxed around him, we can talk about anything and I know he will be there for me at any time. Our connection is what really pushed LSU to the top,” he told Rivals. “This commitment is completely different. I took my time. I put more time into it and really looked at other schools. I got caught up in the hype before and I did not know anything about recruiting or other schools. I know all I need to know now and LSU is the school for me. I am done now and I will not visit any other schools.”

LSU’s 13-man class is rated No. 10 nationally in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Vanderbilt transfer DL Rutger Reitmaier receives all-clear from NCAA

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Vanderbilt got some good news Wednesday when the NCAA approved transfer Rutger Reitmaier to compete this fall.

The Nashville native signed with Oregon out of high school in 2017 but did not compete for the Ducks. He left the team after spring practice, sat out the 2017 season and enrolled at Vanderbilt in January.

“Adding Rutger to our roster is huge,” head coach Derek Mason told Vanderbilt’s official site. “He adds depth, athleticism and will be a key piece for us. I’m excited about what an impactful player he is, and it’s great to add another quality player from Nashville.”

A 4-star recruit, Reitmaier was recruited by the likes of Tennessee, Ole Miss and South Carolina, but favored Vanderbilt when leaving Oregon.

“Vanderbilt was the first school I considered after deciding to leave Oregon,” he said. “It was one of my top-three schools during my initial recruitment in high school. Defense wins championships, so having a head coach like Coach Mason with that background was attractive for me. I’m excited to get going.”

 

Northwestern announces slew of schedule changes, including future home-and-homes with Tulane and Rice

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Northwestern claims they have the best home schedule in the country for the upcoming 2018 season and they have a pretty good case with Duke, Akron, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Notre Dame all coming to Ryan Field. Based on the latest moves on their future schedules however, that good run of big names doesn’t quite continue.

The school announced a slew of new games in the coming years on Wednesday, including a pair of home-and-homes with AAC and CUSA opponents. First up is a date with Tulane in Evanston on Sept. 12, 2020, followed by a return game in New Orleans on Aug. 30, 2025. As a result of that first game against the Green Wave, the Wildcats had to move their previously scheduled contest against Central Michigan from Sept. 12 to Sept. 19 in 2020 (also at home).

Another school in the South was also added to the NU docket with a second home-and-home series with Rice way out in the future. The pair will play in Houston on Sept. 8, 2029, while the return game at Ryan Field is set for Sept. 6… 2031. Yeah, 2031. The two teams will also meet in 2024 and 2025.

A single home game against FCS power South Dakota State was also announced by Northwestern and will be played on Sept. 12, 2026.

The moves mean the Wildcats’ non-conference slate is pretty much set in 2019 (at Stanford, vs. UNLV and UMass), 2022 (vs. Duke, Miami (OH) and Southern Illinois) and 2024 (vs. Duke, Miami (OH) and Rice). The games announced Wednesday fill in some of the holes left in other years but outside of the trip to the Farm next season and a home-and-home with Colorado in 2026/27, there’s not a ton to write home about.

At least Northwestern will always have that 2018 home schedule to point to.

NCAA data shows number of graduate transfers in football nearly doubled last year

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The biggest issue the NCAA is tackling at the moment is an easy one to pick out: transfers. Coaches have chimed in about potential changes and new rules have been enacted but even as we approach the Media Days portion of the calendar next month, transfer talk has been one of the hot topics across all major sports at the collegiate level.

Perhaps that interest is one reason why the NCAA released a new study this week looking into the numbers of one particular category of players: graduate transfers. While the number of actual graduate transfers remains relatively low (about 1% of the total number of student-athletes), the number itself continues to skyrocket year-by-year as more and more players take advantage of rules that allow them to graduate and play immediately at their next school.

According to the NCAA, that number of grad transfers is five times bigger in 2017 than it was in 2011 for men’s sports alone and football in particular saw the number of players moving around nearly double from 117 total in 2016 to 211 the following season. The rates are higher in men’s basketball but the overall number is naturally much bigger in football given the vastly bigger roster size.

Data for 2018 was naturally not made available since we’re just in the middle of the year but a similar increase wouldn’t be too surprising to see given the number of big names that have made headlines prior to the upcoming season. That includes players like Michigan’s Wilton Speight (to UCLA), Cal’s Tre Watson (to Texas), Notre Dame’s Jay Hayes (to Georgia) and Alabama’s Brandon Kennedy (to Tennessee) all among those taking the grad transfer route. It seems like nearly every week we see one or two players announce their intentions to take a similar path.

While we might not have 400+ players listed as graduate transfers in football when 2018 comes to a close, it certainly doesn’t appear that this trend will be slowing down anytime soon and the coaches that are complaining about this brand of “free agency” in college football will just have to get used to the new reality of player movement in light of a number of new NCAA reforms on the subject.