by Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)
After last year's PersaStrong Heisman campaign for Northwestern Dan Persa ended before the season started — it's tough to set up a Heisman campaign for someone who is injured — NU's marketing department likely won't be sending out any purple dumbbells to endorse a Heisman campaign for this year's quarterback, Kain Colter. However, that hasn't stopped people outside the program from giving the idea a little thought.
It started at Big Ten Media Days when Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson — a more serious Heisman contender — told our own Chris Johnson that he thought Colter should be getting Heisman consideration.
“He is a guy in the Big Ten who I can see winning the Heisman,” Robinson said. “I love the way he runs around, the way he throws and how he moves in the pocket.”
Colter and Robinson are similar players, so the praise makes sense, but it was basically written off as one quarterback trying to show respect for an up-and-coming quarterback in his league. However, the "Colter for Heisman" campaign gained a little more steam today when CBS Sports called him one of the top 10 dark horse Heisman candidates in college football. From the article:
Colter is one of the most entertaining players to watch in college football. The junior triple-threat did well last season stepping in for an injured Dan Persa, rushing for 654 yards and nine touchdowns and passing for 673 yards and six scores (with just one pick). Oh, he also caught 43 passes for 466 yards and three TDs. If there's a better a better example of the word 'versatile' out there, then I'd like to see it... An exciting player leading the Miracle 'Cats to a magical season could mean a dark horse Heisman dark run is in store.
That's high praise for a player who is just taking over as a full-time starter this year and a lot of this prediction depends on if these Wildcats become the "Miracle 'Cats" described in the article. However, despite the obstacles, people outside of Evanston seem to be taking notice of Colter's swift rise.
So does Colter have a chance at the Heisman this year? Realistically, no.
Don't get me wrong, I think Colter could end up being a better quarterback than Dan Persa. He'll likely never be as accurate — to be fair, nobody ever has — but he's a better athlete and can make more things happen with his feet. If he improves as a passer, he'll be the ultimate dual-threat quarterback and could even be more versatile than Denard Robinson, who is one of the best running quarterbacks ever, but sometimes struggles with passing.
This year, NU has been running a lot of option during fall camp with Colter and quarterback and speedster Venric Mark at running back. That could be a lethal combination and run up Colter's stats, in addition to creating some exciting, highlight reel plays that could gain national attention. If Colter and Mark live up to their potential running the option and Colter develops as a passer, there's no reason he can't be one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. But a Heisman season? That's pushing it.
First of all, most Heisman winners come from teams that are in the national championship conversation or teams that receive a lot of national media attention, and neither of those conditions describes Northwestern. Last year's Heisman winner, Robert Griffin III of Baylor, was an exception to both of those rules, but it's extremely unlikely Colter can put up the numbers that Griffin did, especially in the passing category.
Secondly, it's virtually impossible for any Northwestern player to ever win the Heisman, maybe even if they put up numbers like Griffin. There isn't enough hype surrounding the team, and as sad is it is, that's a big factor. "Never say never," as coach Pat Fitzgerald likes to say, but Dan Persa was never even a serious contender last year and he was arguably the "most-hyped" NU player in history. So unless NU shocks the world and goes to the Rose Bowl behind Colter's "RGIII-type" numbers, don't expect Colter to be in New York this December.
However, Robinson wasn't just blowing smoke with his comments. Colter has a versatility that may even be unmatched by Shoelace, so if he has a breakout year and puts up big numbers, he could get some hype heading into 2013 and end up on some All-Big Ten teams.
But the Heisman? This year? I wouldn't head to Vegas with that bet just yet.