Heisman Watch: Flip a coin

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Heisman Watch: Flip a coin

Out of 120 FBS teams (formerly known as Division 1-A) only 44 will be in action this week. The remaining 76 are either waiting to see what Bowl they will be playing in, or preparing for next season already.

Three of our top five Heisman candidates are "in the clubhouse" and have submitted their resumes. There are no more games left to improve, or hurt, their Heisman stock.

Rank Player, Position, School Recent Game Stats Season Stats Next Game 1a Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama 27 rush, 203 yards, rec. TD in 42-14 win over No. 24 Auburn 263 rush, 1583 yards (6.0 YPC), 20 TD, 327 rec. yards, 3 rec. TD Bowl Game 1b Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford 20-30, 233 yards, 4 TD, INT in 28-14 win over No. 22 Notre Dame 261-373 (70), 3170 yards, 35 TD, 9 INT, 2 rush TD Bowl Game 3 Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor 7-11, 106 yards, TD, 62 rush yards, 2 rush TD in 66-42 win over Texas Tech (didn't play in 2nd half) 252-347 (73), 3678 yards, 34 TD, 5 INT, 612 rush yards, 7 rush TD No. 22 Texas 4 Matt Barkley, QB, USC 35-42, 423 yards, 6 TD in 50-0 win over UCLA 306-446 (69), 3528 yards 39 TD, 7 INT, 2 rush TD Season Over 5 Case Keenum, QB, Houston 33-46, 457 yards, 5 TD in 48-16 win at Tulsa 342-467 (73), 4726 yards, 43 TD, 3 INT, 3 rush TD No. 24 Southen Mississippi
On the bubble: Montee BallRBWisconsin, Kellen MooreQBBoise State

Analysis:

1a) Trent Richardson: There is no doubt that Trent Richardson is the best running back in college football. Although Wisconsin's Montee Ball has more rushing yards and 11 more total touchdowns, the Heisman Trophy isn't awarded to the player with the best stats. Richardson rushed for a career-high 203 yards against Auburn on Saturday, a mark that may have won him the trophy (regardless of the fact Auburn entered the game with the 99th worst rushing defense).

1b) Andrew Luck: In the week leading up to Stanford's meeting with Notre Dame, media outlets everywhere were saying, "Andrew Luck needs a monster performance vs. the Irish to cement himself at the top of the Heisman list." Well, 233 yards and four touchdowns later, and it still doesn't seem as if Luck has done enough to win. At this point, I have him in a virtual tie with Richardson. Check back next week to see the final verdict.

3) Robert Griffin III: It's too bad that Griffin suffered a concussion late in the second quarter, because prior to the injury, he was having himself quite the game vs. the Red Raiders (Griffin left the game for one play, came back in and rushed for a 3-yard TD with 1:36 to play in the first half, and the Baylor medical staff had to take away Griffin's helmet at halftime to keep him off the field in the second half). The only way Griffin isn't invited to New York is if he has an awful performance against No. 22 Texas this weekend, to the tune of three or four interceptions -- don't count on it.

4) Matt Barkley: Despite the fact that Barkley threw for more yards and touchdowns than Andrew Luck, and threw less interceptions than Stanford's signal-caller, it was Luck who took home the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year honors on Monday. It will also be Luck who finishes ahead of Barkley in the Heisman voting, and will most likely be selected ahead of Barkley in the 2012 NFL Draft -- if Barkley elects to forego his senior year of eligibility (It's scary to think about it, but both Barkley and Luck could come back to college for another year in 2012). However, if Luck doesn't win the Heisman, it may be because of Barkley stealing away some votes from No. 12. These two will forever be linked because of the 2011 season.

5) Case Keenum: His year has been one for the record books, and the Cougars are sixty minutes away from a BCS appearance, and Keenum is sixty minutes away from receiving an invite to New York. Houston dismantled Tulsa on the road last Saturday, 48-16, and for those who don't believe in the Cougars, let's look at how other top-ranked teams fared against Tulsa...
- Oklahoma 47, Tulsa 14 -- Week 1
- Oklahoma State 59, Tulsa 33 -- Week 3
- Boise State 41, Tulsa 21 -- Week 4
Houston is legit and so is Case Keenum. However, a loss to No. 24 Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA title game and Houston's BCS dreams are dashed, and Kellen Moore will most likely replace Keenum in New York.

Check back next Monday for the final installment of Heisman Watch, before the winner is announced Saturday, December 10.

Drew Shiller is a Web Producer at CSNBayArea.com. You can follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

INDIANAPOLIS -- More and more college coaches are putting their starters and even their stars on special teams as they seek to pile up every possible point in an era of pedal-to-the-metal shootouts and never-safe leads.

Fading fast are the days when superstars would catch their breath on the sideline when the kicker or punter trotted onto the field with the scrubs.

NFL teams love it.

Watching how players handle themselves as a blocker, gunner or returner provides a glimpse into a prospect's range, selflessness and versatility. It also delivers a sneak peek into how coachable he'll be, says Phil Savage, the SiriusXM NFL Radio host who spent two decades as an NFL coach, scout and executive and now oversees the Senior Bowl.

"I think because of the landscape of college football where scoring is at a premium, you've got to figure out a way to put points on the board not only on offense but through your special teams and defensively, as well," Savage says. "These coaches want to get these young players on the field as soon as possible, and a way to do that is utilize them on special teams."

These tapes provide a bonus to pro scouts.

"Now you have a vision of what that player might forecast to in the NFL as a young player and, specifically, as a rookie," Savage said.

Offensive and defensive coaches have a better idea of the types of players they're integrating into their schemes, and special teams coaches no longer get blank stares and blank canvases from the rookie class.

"Not only do you like the fact that they come in and have experience doing it, but you love the mentality if you're a coach and a decision maker that this guy isn't a diva, he's got no ego about it, he understands the team and puts team before self," says ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.

"And he comes in with the mindset of 'What can I do to help the team and how can I contribute?' Those are the guys that seem to make it and last longer in the league because they're just willing to do different things and whatever it takes."

The prime example in this year's draft class is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey , a "dynamic player than can do it all," according to Broncos GM John Elway.

McCaffrey gained more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage in his college career and added almost 2,000 more as a returner.

"There's just a lot of big plays open in the return game," McCaffrey says. "You see special teams have such an impact on the game today. Any time I can have the ball in my hands, I feel like I can do something dangerous, and that's really why I love the return game."

Other highly touted draft prospects who polished their resumes on special teams include Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Washington wide receiver John Ross, and USC cornerback Adroee' Jackson, all of whom are projected as high selections.

McShay says "we're seeing more and more programs put an emphasis on special teams and having their key players contribute in one or more areas on special teams."

He pointed to Ohio State, where Urban Myers coaches special teams himself.

"It's a major emphasis there, and so you'll see some more guys typically lined up and contributing that are starters and stars," McShay says. "It's an honor to be on special teams."

Not a burden.

"It is not uncommon now to see people that are going to be picked in the first round having 100-plus special teams plays," suggests NFL draft consultant and former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt.

He pointed to the University of Florida, where Gators defensive backs cover kickoffs as well as they do receivers.

"Everyone's always trying to get their best guys on the field," Brandt says.

That's a change from years past when coaches feared exposing their star players to the extra hits.

The added value benefits the players, whose multiple talents allow NFL general managers to address many needs.

"We're seeing more emphasis on it in college, and I think NFL teams love to see it because if just means you're getting a bit more for your buck," McShay says.

Top talents who bolstered their value by playing special teams:

CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY , RB, STANFORD: He shined at the combine working out with the running backs and was as impressive running routes. Asked if there was anything he couldn't do, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey said then: "I can't sing."

JABRILL PEPPERS , S, MICHIGAN: He worked out with safeties and linebackers at the combine, where teams talked of him playing RB and WR in addition to returning kicks. "The bottom line is I'm a ballplayer and I'm a hell of a ballplayer," Peppers said.

JOHN ROSS , WR, WASHINGTON: He caught 81 passes with 17 TDs last season but actually posted more return yards (2,069) than scrimmage yards (1,924) in his college career.

ADOREE' JACKSON , CB, USC: One of the best special teams coverage players in the NCAA, Jackson also scored eight TDs on punt and kick returns in college. His punt return averages rose from 6.0 yards to 10.5 and 15.8.

JAMAL ADAMS , S, LSU: Another star in coverage, Adams' defensive mentality extends to special teams. "I love being on the field and just playing football," said Adams, whose father, George, was a first-round pick by the Giants in 1985.

ALVIN KAMARA , RB, TENNESSEE: In a deep running back group, Kamara separates himself with his special teams acumen. "A lot of teams have been bringing up special teams," Kamara said.

DESMOND KING , CB, IOWA: He had eight interceptions as a junior and three as a senior. "I had a really good special teams season," King said. "Not being targeted as much, I still went out there and competed the best I could and was still making plays."

CHRIS WORMLEY , DE, MICHIGAN: Wormley touts playing for Jim Harbaugh as one of his attributes. "Coach Harbaugh came in and ran our program like an NFL program, like he had with the 49ers," said Wormley, who blocked three kicks his senior season.

ZAY JONES , WR, EAST CAROLINA: Like McCaffrey, he has good NFL bloodlines (son of Robert Jones, brother of Cayleb Jones). He caught 158 passes as a senior, but spent his first two seasons in college also making his mark as a returner.

Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

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Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.

The 6-foot-8 swingman, who is considered a certain lottery pick, was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and its 13th straight regular season Big 12 title before losing to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Jackson signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.

"After thoroughly consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball," Jackson said in a statement Monday.

"I am very thankful for all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas," he said, "and I look forward to starting my career in the NBA."

Jackson was the nation's No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation's top backcourts.

With natural athleticism and ability to slash to the basket - not to mention defensive chops that are rare among freshmen - Jackson quickly established himself as one of the nation's top draft prospects.

His importance was never more evident than in the Big 12 Tournament, when he was suspended by coach Bill Self following a series of off-the-court issues. The top-seeded Jayhawks stumbled in a quarterfinal loss to TCU, ending their run at the conference tournament before it really began.

He returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well in wins over UC Davis, Michigan State and Purdue, but was hamstrung by foul trouble and managed just 10 points in a season-ending loss to the Ducks.

Jackson's suspension came following an incident outside a Lawrence bar in December, when a member of the Kansas women's basketball team got into an altercation with Jackson's teammate, Lagerald Vick.

Jackson followed the woman to the parking lot and the woman said he kicked her car and caused hundreds of dollars in damage. He pleaded not guilty last week in Douglas County District Court to one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property and a trial is scheduled for May 24.

His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said he was planning to file for diversion.

Jackson also was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene, and that drew Self's ire when he didn't tell his coach about the incident until several weeks later.

His decision to declare for the draft came a week after teammate Svi Mykhailiuk announced he would skip his senior season. But unlike Jackson, the 6-8 sharpshooter has not hired an agent and could withdraw his name by May 24 and return to the Jayhawks.