Friday, June 10, 2011

Three Heisman campaigns in 7 days

The Dawgs will face two legitimate Heisman contenders the first two games of the season. Kellen Moore is first up, and will likely shoulder more burden for that one game than Marcus Lattimore will the following week. If Moore doesn't have a great showing in the Dome that will plant a seed of doubt that he would spend the rest of the season fighting against.
Team success will be critical to Moore's campaign as well. Playing in a non-AQ conference, Boise State likely will have to run the table in order for Moore to win the award. Not since BYU’s Ty Detmer in 1990 has a player outside a Big Six conference won the Heisman.
And let's hope Grantham can dial up the pressure on Moore.
After finishing fourth in Heisman voting a year ago, Moore could climb higher in 2011. One area in which he separated himself from other quarterbacks is accuracy -- especially on deep balls.  
In 2010, Moore completed 59 percent of his passes that traveled 15 yards or more in the air, with 21 touchdowns and two interceptions. When his distance increased to 30 yards, Moore’s completion percentage was 60.9 with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. (By comparison, Luck completed 39.1 percent of his passes thrown 30 or more yards, and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones completed 28.6 percent.)  
The last three quarterbacks to win the Heisman ranked either first or second in pass efficiency and yards per attempt. Downfield accuracy is an easy way for Moore to put his name at the top of those statistical categories.  
With the departure of Titus Young, Moore will have to find a new downfield receiver, as Young was the target on more than 85 percent of Moore’s 30-yard attempts last season. Boise State also has to replace Moore’s other go-to receiver, Austin Pettis, who was targeted more than any other Broncos receiver in the red zone and on third down.  
 Then comes Lattimore and Jeffery.
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Lattimore is in position to compete for the school’s second Heisman (George Rogers, 1980). During SEC play in 2010, Lattimore ran for 112.1 yards per game, second to Newton. On Nov. 13, Lattimore ran for a career-high 212 yards against Florida, the only 200-yard rushing game allowed by the Gators during Urban Meyer’s tenure.

Lattimore gets his yards in bunches. Last season, he had 33 rushes of at least 10 yards against SEC opponents. Over the past seven seasons, only five other players accomplished that feat, all of whom were selected within the first 36 picks of the NFL draft, including four first-rounders.
Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina  
The 6-foot-4-inch junior burst on to the national scene last season with 1,517 receiving yards. More impressive was the fact that he dropped just one pass. 

In 2010, Jeffery had 88 receptions and 61 of them gained at least 10 yards. There have been only five instances over the past five seasons when a receiver had at least 70 receptions and gained 10 yards or more at a higher rate. Compare that to former Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green, the fourth pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He gained 10 yards or more on just 56 percent of his receptions last season. 
Jeffery’s production is helped by a dynamic teammate who keeps defenses honest, running back Marcus Lattimore. In 2010, South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia completed 84 percent of his passes -- and averaged 19.6 yards per completion -- when targeting Jeffery after a play-action fake. Those numbers could go even higher this season as respect for Lattimore grows. (Lattimore will be featured in our look at running backs on Tuesday.)  
Personally I'm hoping Alec Ogletree has eaten all three of these campaigns by the time we're tailgating for Coastal Carolina.

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