Head to Head debates the biggest topics in College Football. With stellar season performances from this season’s crop of wide receivers, such as Alabama’s Amari Cooper and West Virginia’s Kevin White, our panel debates whether or not the wide receiver position should be more widely considered for MVP-type honors.
It’s been quite some time since a receiver won the Heisman Trophy: 23 years to be exact.
In its 79 years of existence, only two receivers have ever won the coveted award — Notre Dame’s Tim Brown in 1987 and Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991.
Since then 15 quarterbacks, six running backs and one defensive player (Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997) have hoisted the prestigious award. But this year may be different.
Receivers should be considered as legitimate contenders because in many cases, their offensive production and impact on a game surpasses that of a running back or quarterback.
It’s not uncommon for a class to have an exceptionally good crop of wide receivers. West Virginia’s Kevin White and Florida State’s Rashad Greene are essential to their team’s success, and then there’s Alabama’s Amari Cooper, arguably the best receiver in college football this year.
We’ve seen Cooper’s stats — six games with over 100 yards receiving, a school-record 224 receiving yards against Tennessee (edging Julio Jones’ previous mark of 221), 1,132 receiving yards and nine TDs (second on Alabama to quarterback Blake Sims) — and with four games remaining in the regular season, Cooper has room to improve upon an already impressive résumé.
More often than not, a true receiver’s body of work isn’t enough to sway voters at the ballots but Cooper’s national buzz has continued to climb with every performance.
The multi-purpose-receiver role doesn’t fit him as it did his predecessors, Howard and Brown, who each scored on kickoff returns and rushing touchdowns during their Heisman campaigns.
Woodson, also a do-it-all, had two receiving touchdowns to go along with his eight interceptions during his Heisman run.
Cooper’s only other non-receiving statistic this year — four rushing attempts for 14 yards.
The Heisman Trophy is handed to college football’s most impactful player and come December, Cooper may become the third receiver in college football history to win the award. In recent years, USC’s Marqise Lee (2012) and Larry Fitzgerald (2003) came close to accomplishing that feat, but fell short.
— Tesalon Felicien, NCAA.com
The Heisman Trophy winner should be the player that has the biggest affect on the football field.
And while Alabama’s stud receiver Amari Cooper is creating buzz about a possible Heisman campaign, it’s time to evaluate the true value of the receiver position and how it relates to a given game.
The reason why so many quarterbacks and running backs win the Heisman is because they affect the game in so many ways.
The quarterback position goes without saying — he’s the one that starts with the ball each play and is the captain of the offense. He directs traffic and has to be cognizant of what every player on the field is doing.
They make or break the offense. Signal-callers like Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott not only can sling it, but their differing, yet both effective, running styles can completely alter a defense’s gameplan. And while some receivers can warrant safety help over the top, it’s nothing compared to trying to game plan against a dual-threat QB.
Running backs don’t have as much of an effect as quarterbacks, but what separates them from receivers is the ability for a running back to dominate a game on a consistent basis.
Running backs rely heavily on their offensive lines, no doubt, but a receiver relies too much on the play of the quarterback and the secondary and cannot transcend a game like a running back can. Not to mention running backs make plays in the passing game, whether it’s catching passes out of the backfield or picking up blitzes in pass protection. A team can lean heavily on a running back, but the same can’t be said about a receiver.
Receivers don’t do enough to change a game to warrant consistent Heisman contention. There’s only so much the position can do on its own.
He can get open, but it’s up to the quarterback to recognize that the receiver is open and then put the ball in a place away from the defense for the receiver to get it. Save for a circus catch, success in the passing game is much more a product of the quarterback than any receiver.
So the success of Cooper has a lot to with the heightened play of quarterback Blake Sims.
Cooper will continue to do great things this season, but it’ll be a quarterback or a running back hoisting the Heisman in December.
— Stephen Sellner, NCAA.com