BYU’s very own Taysom Hill was recognized on the website heismanpundit.com as a potential candidate for the Heisman Trophy this year. VTF’s Kevin Kennedy did a piece on this which you can find here. This list included 25 names, some of them you have already heard of, and some of them you haven’t. A few weeks ago, he was named on to NFL.com's 14-person list of hopefuls who may have a fighter’s chance of hearing his name called in the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City this December. This piece attempts to explain the calculus (ok, maybe algebra) ad history of recent Heisman voting and lay out a plan for how Taysom Hill can do the stiff-arm pose after all the games have been played.
I write this as an amateur Heisman Pundit. I am 22 years old now, and I have been following the Heisman race almost every single week since 2001 when a very short and very fast QB named Eric Crouch from Nebraska ran his way to the DAC.
There are a few observations that can be made about what sells and what does not sell to Heisman voters from the last 13 years of results:
Dual threat QBs are very attractive vote getters
This may explain why Heisman trophy winners have always sort of struggled in the NFL. Until recently, there were no dual threat QBs in the NFL. I remember reading in the newspaper that Eric Crouch was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the 3rd round as a WR, not as a QB because at 6 feet tall he was too short to play QB (apparently someone forgot to tell that to Russell Wilson and Drew Brees). Being Duel threat allows a QB to generate even more stats, it is the cherry on top and could put you past an equally effective passer on an even better team.
Eric Crouch (2001)
Troy Smith (2006)
Tim Tebow (2007)
Cam Newton (2010)
Robert Griffin III (2011)
Johnny Manziel (2012)
Heisman voting is extremely regionalized
This may come as a shock to some, but voters like to vote for people that play for schools close to them. Many people have pointed out a strong east coast bias in the voting and claim that west coast and mountain west players are severely underrepresented among the winners. Voting breaks down into six regions: far west (not the church historic site in Missouri), midwest, southwest, south, northeast, and mid-atlantic. Every region is allotted 1/6 of the total vote, which can hurt players out west because the far west region has 22% of the country’s population but only 17% of the vote. If Taysom Hill wants to have any chance to win the Heisman Trophy, he must be the outright best player west of Texas. If any PAC-12 player generates too much buzz late in the season, it will split the far west regional vote and the award will go to a player from the SEC, BIG-10, or Big-12. So as mean as this is to say, Brett Hundley and Marcus Mariota tripping this fall will improve Taysom Hill’s chances.
It is almost impossible to repeat as Heisman Trophy winner
This one does not have as much to do with Taysom Hill winning the trophy, as it does with explaining why Jameis Winston will not win the Heisman trophy again. So much of creating a national buzz comes from surprising people and it is really difficult to surprise people in consecutive years. You could argue that Tim Tebow was better during his junior and senior seasons, but he was not as much of a hot commodity like he was when he was a sophomore. We all knew what to expect in those last two years, and so did all the teams he faced. They all have film on you at that point and you are unable to surprise them anymore, which means that your statistics will almost always drop down at least slightly. I believe that the lack of a surprise factor was what kept Darren McFadden from ever winning a Heisman. McFadden came in second in two consecutive years. In 2006, he lost to Troy Smith because Smith played for the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes (see below for best player on the best team disease) and in 2007 lost because voters were already too familiar with his game and more enamored with the up and coming Tim Tebow. The lack of surprise factor was one thing that kept Manziel from repeating last season. So while everyone has Winston as a top candidate on their Heisman short lists, I believe that he is probably the one candidate that Hill will not need to overcome unless FSU goes undefeated again with flying colors and Winston has an appreciable improvement in his statistical categories.
Watch out for best player on the best team disease
When there is no ridiculously dominating player in college football, voters will often look at the ridiculously dominating team in college football and give it to their most visible player. Watch out for Braxton Miller at Ohio State and Marcus Mariota at Oregon if this happens in December. Teams that dominate every single week do not put their Heisman hopefuls in compromising situations, thus allowing them to go week to week looking pretty outstanding.
Voters like sharp guys
Likeability can act as a sort of tiebreaker. People like to vote for guys who "play the game the right way." They like leaders, they like interesting stories, and if we're really lucky they might like married men. I do not believe that skeletons in the closet spell death to a Heisman race. Many of the recent winners have proven that. Winston had the sexual assault allegations, Manziel had the partying and the general attitude, and Newton had the eligibility controversy. Further back you find more Heisman winners who could do no wrong and practically walked on water. So maybe the recent trend of winners dealing with "bad press stuff" will cause voters to take a more holistic perspective. If this becomes the case, then Taysom Hill stands to gain a lot. He served a mission in Australia, he recently got married, and he is an all-around good guy and solid leader. If it gets to the end of the season and he is in the running, the old-timers at ESPN will literally be unable to stop talking about how much they want to coach a kid like that." Being a good human being will not win the most coveted award trophy in college football, but it could certainly help, and it will help BYU maintain its good national reputation
Hill’s path to Heisman Glory
If Taysom Hill wants to win the Heisman trophy BYU must finish no worse than 11-1 through the regular season. In that one loss he still must perform amazingly, and that one loss would be much less harmful if it was in the beginning of the season. Hill will need a strong statistical start, but also improve in every game that he plays. BYU’s games against Texas, Connecticut, Central Florida, and Cal will be crucial opportunities for him to put up some numbers. The Texas game is an obvious one, but the Central Florida might be a more important game for a Heisman campaign. It will give him some mid-season east coast exposure. Overall, get more excited about his chances if he peaks later in the season. Good games early will certainly get his name out there, but it is the closeout games that will really get him some votes. Watch for one major Heisman moment in a nationally televised big game late in the season, say, maybe against Boise State or Cal and Taysom Hill may have a chance of getting invited to the Downtown Athletic Club for the big night.
I wrote this in an effort to show what it might take for Taysom Hill to be considered a serious Heisman trophy contender. Is it possible? I would say it definitely is. He is a veteran, dual threat stat monster on a good team who just happens to be a very likeable kid. Is it likely? Probably not, even with BYU’s increased national exposure. However, it has been done before. The last player from a non-power conference to win the trophy was BYU’s Ty Detmer. Even if Taysom Hill was just invited to the ceremony in New York (like Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois was last season), it would do wonders for the BYU brand and help us elevate our stature and prestige throughout the college football landscape.