Spiller Makes Run (And Return) at Heisman Consideration

by - Senior Writer -
Superman? Spiller broke the ACC mark for all-purpose yardage this fall and became the league's first player to surpass 6,000 yards.

CLEMSON – The 2009 Heisman Trophy presentation will be held on Dec. 12 at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square, New York, and Clemson running back C.J. Spiller deserves to be there, especially if the senior from Lake Butler, Fla., continues to put up stratospheric numbers like he has this season.

Spiller started the season with a bang, returning the opening kickoff of the first game, against Middle Tennessee St., for a touchdown, and C.J. “Thriller”, as he was named by his high school coach, Buddy Nobles, hasn’t slowed down at all, taking his play to another level this past Saturday when he set a Clemson record for all-purpose yards when he accounted for a Clemson-record 310 yards.

Despite the pre-season “Spiller for Heisman” posters and his continued onslaught on the record books, Spiller has garnered little national attention for the prestigious award, with the national media instead concentrating on the usual cast of SEC players and quarterbacks.

And that’s a shame. The award is supposed to go to the best college football player in the country, but instead has turned into more of a popularity contest, with the award given to the best player on the best team. As a result, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and lately, Alabama running back Mark Ingram have stolen most of the headlines.

They are all great players. They all play on great teams.

However, Tebow and McCoy have struggled, and Ingram is a rushing threat, but is not the threat in the passing or return games like Spiller is. Another of the preseason favorites, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, is out after having season-ending shoulder surgery.

As a result, Spiller finally became a blip on the Heisman radar after his unbelievable performance in Miami last week, and he should stay firmly planted in the eyes and minds of Heisman voters, especially if the rest of the season is as good as the first seven games.

ESPN's Mel Kiper said if the Heisman were given out today, he would give it to Spiller. ESPN’s Todd McShay has Spiller second on his current Heisman list. Sports Illustrated Heisman expert Gene Menz has Spiller fourth in his Heisman rankings this week. Dennis Dodd of CBSSportsline.com has Spiller fifth in the race this week. ESPN.com has fifteen college football experts on their panel for their Heisman Watch and Spiller has climbed to seventh in their composite poll.

If Spiller is to stay in the Heisman running, however, the Tigers will need to make a run at the ACC Championship game and keep on winning.
I spoke with Matt Hayes, the senior college football writer for The Sporting News, and he said that the mutual success of Clemson and Spiller should go hand in hand in landing Spiller a spot in New York on Dec. 12th.

“Everyone still is waiting for Tebow and McCoy to make a splash,” Hayes said. “But those two raised the bar so high; they’re a victim of their own success. Spiller can easily get in the race; it’s wide open right now. He needs Clemson to keep winning – and he needs to be the reason. Big returns, highlight stuff. The more touches he gets from various spots – tailback, wideout, returns – makes him more valuable in the eyes of voters.”

Perhaps some of those voters need to take a look at some of the numbers Spiller has put up this season – three kickoff returns for touchdown [one with just one shoe]; at least one play of over 60 yards in every game this season; a punt return for a touchdown; and now leads the nation in all-purpose yards per game.

Spiller broke the ACC mark for all-purpose yardage this fall and became the league's first player to surpass 6,000 yards. With just 127 all-purpose yards a game the rest of the season - he's averaged 208 so far - Spiller will join DeAngelo Williams of Memphis (7,573), Ricky Williams of Texas (7,206) and Napoleon McCallum of Navy (7,172) with more than 7,000.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg, and Spiller said he will continue to try and do everything in his power to help his team win games.

"If you're a competitor and you love the game the way I love it, you should go out there and prove you are the best guy in the country,'' Spiller said. "That's kind of what I do and try to help my teams win games.''

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney chimed in this week, and said his player deserves to be in the conversation for the award.

“He has given his teammates every ounce of what he has had all year long,” Swinney said. “He has been the first guy in the locker room to be an encourager. I don’t know what he is going to do the rest of the year, but if he doesn’t play another snap, this guy should be in New York.”

For his part, Spiller would never come out and say if he thinks he deserves or doesn’t deserve to be there, but instead does what he has always done: talks about his team first.

"The only thing I can control is how my team's playing," Spiller said. "At the end, we'll be where we want to be and individual awards will come to everyone on this team that it's supposed to come to. It'd mean a lot to go [to New York] and represent this whole team, this university, this town, everyone involved. It's a team trophy, it just happens to go to an individual."

TigerNet has already started casting their vote on ESPN’s Heisman Vote 2009, where the winner will receive one official vote for the Heisman Trophy. Clemson fans help take Spiller from not on the leader board to over 20,000 votes and fourth place in the three days following the Miami game. Hopefully, Spiller can finish the job.

C.J. Spiller talks with the media about the Heisman race.

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