Let the Joe McKnight Heisman campaign begin
Yes. I said it, and why not? Sure, the Southern California tailback was listed among several Heisman contenders before the season began. But even with a mention, no one really gave the Junior a real shot of bringing home the hardware or even making the trip to New York. He was supposed to be crippled by a “running back by committee” offense that would allow fewer touches and less impression points. He was just one of many Hollywood superstars coached by Pete Carroll, and 2009 was to be another year of blending in and not standing out. This has not been the case.
Two weeks ago, Jahvid Best was a Heisman favorite, and quite possibly the front runner. The most celebrated player for Cal was still riding the wave of popularity from the closing weeks of last season. He managed to rack up impressive numbers in victories over Maryland, Eastern Washington, and Minnesota, before running into a road block in Pac 10 play.
Two weeks later, after unimpressive outputs of 55 and 47 yards against Oregon and USC, and his team outscored 72-6 in the losses combined, the Best Heisman campaign took a turn for the worst. As his production and team falls, he is weighed to accompany the collapse. And just as his hopes were falling in Berkley last weekend, the “McKnight for Heisman” campaign was just taking flight.
With a true freshman leading the offense for the first time in school history, it has been Joe McKnight that has provided the necessary offensive punch to keep the program afloat during the learning process. Averaging 7.1 yards per carry, the Trojans’ starting tailback has come up big in each game, including the only bright spot in the upset loss to Washington.
McKnight ran for just 60 yards in Columbus, against the best defense USC has played so far. But more importantly, his play was key in the final drive that lifted the Trojans to victory over Ohio State. To go along with his 473 rushing yards on the season, his second dimension adds another 93 receiving, averaging 8 yards per catch.
In comparison to other backs that began the season with more media love, Joe McKnight has run for more yardage than three, and has a better average than all.
Working as just one member of ball sharing units, both McKnight and Dwyer have managed to contribute numbers equal to those of feature backs. Both runners have the fewer amount of carries, but McKnight has made the most of his possessions.
With Jahvid Best falling, Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford ailing, and Colt McCoy still waiting for a signature victory, the current front runner for the Heisman Trophy may be Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen, who has repeatedly brought his team from behind to secure victories this season. McKnight and Clausen will share a field in two weeks. And just as the showcase of talent steered eyes away from Jahvid Best, McKnight will have another opportunity to make a public statement and trip another contender.