Heisman Watch: R...G...3

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Heisman Watch: R...G...3

We began this journey with the first Heisman Watch on September 11, and today the journey ends with Heisman Watch No. 14.

Earlier today, at around 3:15 PST, Eddie George, the 1995 Heisman Trophy winner, announced the five Heisman finalists.

On Saturday, the winner will be announced in New York City.

It's becoming clear that Robert Griffin III is the favorite, and deservedly so.

Rank Player, Position, School Recent Game Stats Season Stats 1 Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor 15-22, 320 yards, 2 TD, INT, 2 rush TD in 48-24 win over No. 22 Texas 267-369 (72.4), 3998 yards, 36 TD, 6 INT, 644 rush yards, 9 rush TD 2 Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford Idle 261-373 (70), 3170 yards, 35 TD, 9 INT, 2 rush TD 3 Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama Idle 263 rush, 1583 yards (6.0 YPC), 20 rush TD, 327 rec. yards, 3 rush TD 4 Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU 62-yard punt return for TD, 4 tackles, TFL, fumble recovery in 42-10 win over No. 14 Georgia 2 punt return TD, 2 fumbles return TD, 70 tackles, 2 INT, 6 forced fumbles 5 Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin 27 rushes, 137 yards, 3 rush TD, rec. TD in 42-39 win over No. 13 Michigan State 275 rushes, 1759 yards (6.4 YPC), 32 rush TD, 255 rec. yards, 6 rec. TD
Snubbed: Matt BarkleyQBUSC, Kellen MooreQBBoise State, Case KeenumQBHouston

Analysis:

1) Robert Griffin III: Back on September 2, in front of a national TV audience, Robert Griffin III completed 21 of 27 passes, for 359 yards and five touchdowns as Baylor upset No. 14 TCU. It was Baylor's first win over a ranked opponent since 2004. Although Griffin continued to put up big numbers in practically every game, the Bears lost three of four games in October, including blowout losses at Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. As a result, Griffin didn't break into the top 5 in our Heisman Watch until just two weeks ago on November 21. Why? Because the trophy isn't just about statistics. Your team needs to win as well. Well, after Griffin completed 21-34 passes for 479 yards, four touchdowns, rushed for 72 yards, and completed a 34-yard touchdown pass with 8 seconds left to upset No. 5 Oklahoma, the Baylor Bears were 7-3, and ranked No. 18 in the country. Griffin became practically a household name over night, and became the "sexy" pick to win the award. The following week against Texas Tech, Griffin wasn't able to play in the second half after suffering a concussion right before halftime. Although he accounted for 168 yards and three touchdowns in the first two quarters, not playing in the second half hurt his chances. He needed a monster performance in Baylor's final game against No. 22 Texas to have a shot. He didn't disappoint. Robert Griffin III has singlehandedly turned Baylor football around, he's been the most exciting player to watch all season long, and deserves to win the award.
- Note: Griffin will become the third player since 1998 to win the award despite the fact his team is not playing in a BCS bowl game (Ricky Williams in '98, and Tim Tebow in '07)2) Andrew Luck: In our Heisman Watch from October 31, Luck had such a big lead in the race he was considered a virtual lock to win the award. He was coming off a "Heisman moment" in which he led the Cardinal back to a triple-overtime win over USC after throwing a pick-six with 3:07 left in regulation to give the Trojans a 34-27 lead. But two weeks later came the 53-30 home loss to Oregon, in which Luck threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a TD (Yes, I know it was a dropped pass and completely not Andrew's fault, but still -- it didn't help his cause). He had great games against Cal and Notre Dame to finish the season, but he simply didn't do enough to win the award. There are three reasons as to why he won't win: 1) The preseason hype was out of control to the point that no matter what he did, he couldn't live up to the expectations 2) Stanford is a run first team 3) He didn't have the weapons around him -- injuries to Chris Owusu, Zach Ertz, and Levine Toilolo handicapped his ability to put up big numbers and make deep throws down the field. At the end of the day, Andrew Luck may be the best player in Stanford football history, spearheaded a turnaround that saw Stanford improve from 1-11 in 2006 to back-to-back BCS appearances in '10 and '11, and will most likely wind up finishing second in the Heisman two straight years. Unbelievable stuff.3) Trent Richardson: As Scott Reiss noted in "No Luck is bad luck," Richardson, like Luck, was hurt by not having the opportunity to play on "Championship Saturday." Robert Griffin III wasn't playing in a "championship" game, but he took advantage of the schedule and did what he needed to do against Texas in Baylor's regular season finale. Last week, we had Richardson and Luck tied for the top spot, and Richardson certainly didn't do anything to lose the award. Robert Griffin III stole it away from him. The junior has had an unbelievable career at Alabama, and will trade a victory over LSU in the BCS title game for the Heisman any day of the week. 4) Tyrann Mathieu: The last time a defensive player finished in the top 5 of the Heisman voting was Ndamukong Suh in 2009. The last defensive player to win the award was Michigan defensive back Charles Woodson in 1997 (he did register 11 catches for 231 yards, two TDs, and also rushed for a TD). Mathieu has been nothing short of amazing in 2011, and has made some plays that literally made your jaw drop. His defensive exploits are one of the main reasons LSU is playing in the national championship game, and his punt returning capabilities resemble that of a certain Patrick Peterson -- who anchored LSU's secondary a season ago, was drafted No. 5 overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2011 NFL Draft, and has tied Devin Hester's NFL single-season-record with four punt returns for touchdowns this season. The bad news for the SEC: Mathieu is a true sophomore and will be back in purple and gold next season, terrorizing opposing quarterbacks. 5) Montee Ball: If the award was based solely on numbers, Montee Ball would hear his name called on Saturday night. His 38 total touchdowns leaves him one behind Barry Sanders' all-time-single-season-record of 39, and there's no reason to believe he won't break that record when Wisconsin takes on Oregon in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2. Ball is hoping to become the first Badger to win the award since Ron Dayne did so in 1999. It's amazing that a guy with so many touchdowns, who plays at a big-time program like Wisconsin, was able to fly under the radar for so long. In fact, after Wisconsin thumped Nebraska 48-17 back on October 1 (Ball rushed for 151 yards and four touchdowns) it was quarterback Russell Wilson who became a serious Heisman contender, not Ball. However, on Monday, not only did Ball find out he will be in New York City this weekend, but he can legally buy himself a drink to celebrate because he turned 21 on Monday. A day to remember to say the least.

Thank you for following the Heisman Watch all season on CSNBayArea.com. Already looking forward to next season.
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.