SB Nation is doing our own All-American voting, and most intriguing, to me, was the ability to fill out a ballot of three Heisman contenders. I picked Marqise Lee, Johnny Manziel, and you guessed it, Stefon Diggs. I'm here today to tell you why a Terrapin Heisman is a distinct possibility this season.
Let's start by talking about some of the other candidates - Manziel, Lee and Jadeveon Clowney. Three of the best players in the nation, for certain, and three definite Heisman favorites. However, they are by no means perfect candidates - although the committee broke one rule (no freshmen) last year on Manziel, they really don't like giving the trophy to the same player twice. Lee loses his quarterback from last year, and the Trojans aren't quite sure who will be throwing passes this season. And while he may be the single best player in the nation, Jadeveon Clowney does suit up on defense, which is a nearly impossible hurdle to overcome in the Heisman running.
Was that an effective dismissal of the most likely Heisman candidates in the nation? No? Great! Don't care. We're going to move on with talking about Stefon Diggs.
PICTURED: Two defenses Diggs will face this season.
So, you guys feeling about ready to talk about Diggs now?
Maryland's sophomore wide receiver is undoubtedly one of the most electric talents in the nation, and managed to gain national attention with a T-Rex playing quarterback (sorry, Shawn Petty, but being built like a truck is going to limit your range of motion).
This year, Diggs has real, live college quarterbacks throwing him real, live college passes. C.J. Brown is the starter, and after starting out as a simple run-first quarterback, he's developed quite the arm and as long as he stays healthy should have a solid season. Behind him, the Terps do have options this season - in addition to last year's Caleb Rowe and Perry Hills, Maryland adds Ricardo Young as a transfer option and Shane Cockerille as a true freshman. Even walk-on Dustin Dailey is a better option than Petty - who, it has to be said, did his actual best in a terrible situation.
That brings us back to the quarterback's number one target, Diggs, who possesses the rare combination of speed, strength, size, catching ability and open field awareness to score from literally any place at any time. Even with an improved receiving corps around him (looking at you Deon Long) and a score of talented running backs, the Terps will undoubtedly need to rely on Diggs for offense this season. In fact, the increased talent around him should only improve his productivity - defenses will not be able to consistently double- and triple-team him anymore, as Maryland has too many other weapons to worry about.
Looking at Maryland's schedule, it's pretty favorable for a Heisman candidacy - not too hard, but with enough marquee opponents to make a mark. After two easy games to get on the radar through sheer statistical output, Diggs faces off against two BCS opponents who he should have no problem scoring against in UConn and West Virginia. In particular, the Mountaineers game allows him to take over in a high-scoring affair, something Heisman winners in years past have done time and time again.
After that comes the first big test, for Maryland and for Diggs, as the Terps travel to Tallahassee to take on Florida State. While a big game would be nice here, the Committee generally recognizes late-season big performances most, so this is less important for his Heisman chances than it may first appear. After games against Virginia and Wake Forest in which he should excel, the season ends with games against Clemson, Virginia Tech and NC State among the last five - with the latter two on the road. This provides Diggs with the perfect opportunity to explode on the national stage late in the Heisman season - and if he's able to take over two of those games (especially the latter two) and win it on his shoulders, he stands in as good of a position as possible.
There have been two, arguably three wide receivers who have won the Heisman Trophy, and it is probably prudent to take a look at just how they did it.
The first (kind of) was Johnny Rodgers, the Nebraska star who won the award in 1972. Rodgers was technically a wing back, but he caught 58 passes for 1,013 yards that year, so I think it's alright if we bend the rules a little and include him here. He also ran 73 times for 348 yards, returned 39 punts for 618 yards, had eight kick returns for 184 yards, and scored 21 total touchdowns. The guy did everything, and had one of the most sensational single-game performances ever seen on a football field - scoring five touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving, and one passing) in the 1973 Orange Bowl. Rodgers, like Diggs, played with a run-first quarterback, the lefty David Humm.
In 1987, Notre Dame's Tim Brown became the first true wide receiver to win the award. He caught 34 passes for 846 yards, returned 34 punts for 401 yards, rushed for 144 yards, returned 23 kicks for 456 yards and scored eight touchdowns - like Diggs and the rest of these guys, he did a little bit of everything. Now, Brown didn't have the advantage of playing for the national championship-winning Irish that came the year after he graduated - Notre Dame was only 25-21 in his time there, with an 0-2 bowl record. He also did not have a star quarterback throwing to him, instead going with three different (bad) ones - Tony Rice, Terry Andrysiak and Kent Graham.
Desmond Howard was the last receiver to win the award, winning the trophy in 1991. He had, of course, his marquee game against Notre Dame, with "the catch", and finished the season with 61 receptions for 950 yards and 19 touchdowns, with some help from quarterback Elvis Grbac. He also ran for 180 yards on 13 carries for two touchdowns, and scored two return touchdowns, becoming the first receiver in conference history to lead the league in scoring.
Between those guys, there's a lot of Diggs - Brown and Rodgers did not have a marquee quarterback throwing them the ball, Brown did not play on a particularly good team, and all three were star returners who occasionally ran the ball as well. Stefon Diggs is in a position where he can win the Heisman this year, thanks to favorable (note: not the same as easy) scheduling, the offensive make-up of the team, and some inherent problems for the other candidates.
But when it comes down to it, it's the eye factor. There's a certain part of the Heisman voting that goes beyond stats, that goes to the player that just looks the best. As unfair as that might sound, it helped Johnny Manziel last season (although with his stats, he didn't need much help), and it will help Stefon Diggs this season. Take a look at those two GIFs above again. Go ahead. I'll wait.
Stefon Diggs can do things like this at any time. And he will. That was him as a freshman. It's time for three more months of Stefonukkah. And it's time to bring a Heisman to College Park.