Wisconsin’s Corey Clement is the latest running back to attempt to break the mold of quarterback Heisman Trophy winners. To truly understand the uphill battle Clement has, you must first know how exactly the annual recipient of the Heisman Trophy is determined.
Heisman Trophy 101
Chris Huston, who is now editor-in-chief for Heisman.com, is the foremost authority on the Heisman Trophy and its variable intricacies. In fact, he broke down the Heisman Trophy in such a scientific fashion, he came up with his infamous “Heismandments” a play of words on the famous Ten Commandments. And in reality, they’re the best “Heisman Trophy for Dummies” anyone will probably ever find. I’ve studied the Heismandments, and this is what I realized regarding Clement’s chances at winning the trophy. First, a look at the infamous list:
The more Heismandments that apply to a player in a given season, the better his chances are of winning.
1. The winner must be a quarterback, a running back, or a multi-threat athlete.
2. Juniors and seniors have the overwhelming advantage in the Heisman race and, as a general rule, will win over an underclassman if all other factors are equal. Underclassmen can overcome this disadvantage only through extraordinary single-season production.
3. The winner must produce good numbers in high-profile games on TV.
4. The winner must have some prior name recognition.
5. The winner must be one or more of the following three: (a) The top player on a national title contender. (b) A player who puts up good numbers for a traditional power with good record or (c) A player who puts up superlative single-season or career numbers on a good team, or produces numbers that are way out ahead of his Heisman competitors.
6. The winner cannot be considered an obvious product of his team’s system.
7. If you are a quarterback, running back or multi-purpose athlete at one of the following schools — Notre Dame, USC, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan, Miami, Florida and Florida State — you have a good chance to win if you have a very good statistical season and your team wins at least nine games.
8. Statistical benchmarks exist for each position to help voters gauge a player’s "Heisman worthiness."
a. A running back who is NOT on a traditional power or a national championship contender usually must gain at least 2,000 yards. This hefty yardage requirement for such backs has risen a bit over the years as the longer regular season has made it more commonplace. A back on a traditional power or national title contender, must gain at least 1,600 yards. In either case, the back must score at least 15 touchdowns.
b. Dual-threat quarterbacks must produce at least 3,500 yards of total offense and 35 combined touchdowns and have a passer rating of 140 or better. Traditional pocket passers must have a passer rating over 160, at least 3,500 yards passing and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of at least 4-to-1.
c. A multi-purpose athlete/receiver has to score at least 20 touchdowns and can only win by producing spectacular plays on special teams, specifically kick and punt returns.
9. There will never be another two-time Heisman winner.
10. The winner must be likeable.
When you essentially “dumb down” this list, you come to a player needing to be very good at three essential things:
*Play on a team that wins and wins in big games
*Put up gaudy numbers in said big games, and even better numbers in your less-marketable matchups
*Be the epicenter of your offense’s success
Essentially, without those three you’re not going to find yourself anywhere near the top of any Heisman voting ballot.
To stress how difficult it’s going to be for Clement to win the award, Melvin Gordon’s season statistically dominated the prior Heisman-winning running backs before him. If you were to include Reggie Bush as a winner, for the sake of an argument, the combined stats for Bush, Ingram, and former Badger Ron Dayne (1999 winner) you’d be looking at 1,810 yards to go with 17 touchdowns and 6.7 yards per carry. Melvin Gordon’s season totaled 2,587 yards rushing with 29 touchdowns and a mind-numbing 7.5 yards per carry.
So, to put it in perspective for Clement, in order for him to even be considered for the Heisman Trophy, he’d have to surpass the 2,000-yard mark, and ring the bell somewhere around the 30-touchdown mark. In two seasons of essential garbage time, Clement has amassed 1,496 yards with 16 touchdowns, averaging seven yards per carry. Quite impressive for someone stepping in from time-to-time without any definitive role other than to give your record-breaking tailback a breather.
Key Games For Clement
Sept. 5 vs. Alabama
Alabama was the 12th-ranked defense in the country in 2014, and fourth best against the run. The kicker? The Crimson Tide allowed five rushing touchdowns... all year. If Clement wants to solidify himself as a true Heisman candidate, he’s going to need at least a 200-yard performance, and is going to need to find the end zone anywhere from two to three times.
Oct. 10 at Nebraska
Oct. 31 vs Rutgers
Nov. 7 at Maryland
These are three top Big Ten opponents the Badgers will play this year on an overwhelmingly soft schedule, so Clement needs to absolutely dominate every single one of these contests, especially the road games against Nebraska and Maryland, in order to maintain any national respect amongst voters. After the season-opening bloodbath with Alabama, Clement has a cakewalk against the likes of Miami (Ohio), Troy, Hawaii and the down-on-their-luck Iowa Hawkeyes. If Clement doesn’t surpass the 1,000-yard mark by at least the Iowa game, it’s over for him and his Heisman wishes.
While Clement is expected by many national pundits to have a breakout campaign, it’s highly unlikely he’s a finalist for an award that’s just too tough on non-passers. Clement could see misfortune like Gordon and surpass the 2,000-yard plateau and wind up the trophy’s runner-up. In all likelihood, Clement has a dominant season, where he finishes with anywhere from 1,700-2,000 yards rushing and 20-plus touchdowns on the ground. Far less than what’s going to be needed for his consideration as a national finalist for the prestigious award.
Note: The Heismandments and voting information were provided courtesy of Chris Huston, editor-in-chief of Heisman.com with his full consent. You can follow Chris on Twitter @HeismanPundit.
— Written by Chris Dougherty, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Dougherty also serves as a National Recruiting Analyst for 247Sports.com and has written for other sites, including FanSided.com and Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @warontheweekend.