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Posted: Friday August 28, 2009 1:40PM; Updated: Friday August 28, 2009 3:16PM
Andy Staples Andy Staples >
INSIDE COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Think outside the box, voters (cont.)

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Heisman 2009

How non-QBs, RBs and WRs have fared in Heisman voting since 1980
Year Rank Player Position School First-place votes
2008 9. Rey Maualuga LB USC 2
2007 9. Glenn Dorsey DT LSU 3
2007 10. Chris Long DE Virginia 1
2005 10. Elvis Dumervil DE Louisville 0
2001 8. Bryant McKinnie OT Miami 26
2001 9. Dwight Freeney DE Syracuse 2
2001 10. Julius Peppers DE North Carolina 2
1999 9. LaVar Arrington LB Penn State 3
1998 7. Champ Bailey CB Georgia 6
1997 1. Charles Woodson CB Michigan 423
1996 4. Orlando Pace OT Ohio State 87
1994 6. Warren Sapp DT Miami 17
1994 10. Zach Weigert OT Nebraska 1
1992 4. Marvin Jones LB Florida State 81
1992 7. Michael Barrow LB Miami 10
1992 10. Eric Curry DE Alabama 3
1991 4. Steve Emtman DT Washington 29*
1988 6. Tony Mandarich OT Michigan State 3
1988 8. Deion Sanders CB Florida State 0
1988 10. Derrick Thomas LB Alabama 3
1987 6. Chris Speilman LB Ohio State 15
1986 4. Brian Bosworth LB Oklahoma 9
1986 7. Cornelius Bennett LB Alabama 3
1986 10. Chris Spielman LB Ohio State 5
1984 6. Bill Fralic OT Pitt 1
1983 5. Terry Hoage DB Georgia 7
1983 8. Bill Fralic OT Pitt 6
1982 5. David Rimington C Nebraska 13
1981 8. Kenneth Sims DT Texas 3
1980 2. Hugh Green DE Pitt 179
1980 9. Kenny Easley DB UCLA 5
* More first-place votes than Weldon or Detmer

The new breed of five-tool safeties could make a dent. Tennessee is touting Berry, who is fast enough to cover any receiver one-on-one and vicious enough to blast a charging tailback. Berry also has a nose for the ball and is plenty elusive once he gets it. The junior needs only 15 more interception return yards to break Terrell Buckley's NCAA record.

On the other side of the safety spectrum stand USC's Taylor Mays, a speedy, 230-pound genetic freak who probably would be one of the nation's best linebackers if he wasn't already one of the best safeties.

Since Heisman winners are expected to take over games, defensive tackle might be the best position to follow. No other position on the defense allows such a direct impact on every snap. Trickett explained a dominant defensive tackle can completely alter the course of a game. He cited the example of B.J. Raji, the 337-pound Boston College beast who nearly beat the Seminoles single-handedly in 2008. "He must have been feeling good that night," Trickett said. "Because I've got an All-America guard (Rodney Hudson), and (Raji) just took the game over."

But here's why defensive tackles don't get considered for the Heisman. Raji finished with one tackle that night for a nine-yard loss. That was his entire stat line. Yet Trickett, who has forgotten more football strategy than most Heisman voters will ever know, considers Raji the most important player in that game.

To understand why defensive tackles should be considered just as heavily as quarterbacks and tailbacks, consider what they can do to an offense, often without making a single tackle. Commentators often praise interior linemen for "blowing up" plays, but that description isn't accurate. They don't make plays explode. They make them implode.

Let's imagine Nebraska's Suh is facing Kansas in a game that could decide the Big 12 north title, and Suh decides to take over. If Kansas is foolish enough to try to block Suh with one lineman, Suh will either beat him with a rip or swim move or bull rush the poor Jayhawk into the backfield. If the play is a run, the back will have to alter his course, allowing Nebraska defenders more time to grab him. If the play is a pass, quarterback Todd Reesing's field of vision suddenly will be filled by a 6-foot-4, 300-pounder.

More likely, Suh will be double-teamed. Every once in a while, he'll split that double-team and wreak havoc. More often, the concentration of resources on Suh will allow teammates Jared Crick, Barry Turner and Pierre Allen to make more plays. Besides that, an offensive line sliding its pass protection scheme to one side to nullify one dominant lineman is more susceptible to a blitz or stunt.

Unfortunately, Suh is not much of a self-promoter. He's still mad at himself for throwing the ball after he returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown against Colorado last season. So don't expect a Heisman pose from him. And don't expect most Heisman voters -- who seem incapable of thinking inside the tackle box -- to notice him or any other lineman.

"It seems out of reach," Suh said. "Since I've been watching the Heisman, it's usually been a quarterback, a running back or someone in an elite skill position. I don't see myself being put in that view.

"But I'm not opposed to it."

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