Heis­man Tro­phy: Stock soared for 1st-time start­ing QBs

The Bradenton Herald - - Sports - BY RALPH D. RUSSO

Tua Tago­v­ailoa rolled across the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on a black scooter with a lit­tle Alabama sticker on the front, his sprained left an­kle in a gray plas­tic boot, safely propped up as he pushed off with his right foot.

The Crim­son Tide quar­ter­back and fel­low Heis­man Tro­phy fi­nal­ists Kyler Mur­ray of Ok­la­homa and Dwayne Hask­ins of Ohio State were on Wall Street on Fri­day to ring the clos­ing bell on a day the Dow Jones In­dus­trial Av­er­age closed down 558 points.

Stock for the three first-year starters has been soar­ing this sea­son. A year ago they were sec­ond on their team’s depth chart. On Satur­day, one of them will win the Heis­man Tro­phy.

Tago­v­ailoa picked up where he left off in the sec­ond half of last sea­son’s na­tional cham­pi­onship game vic­tory against Ge­or­gia to lead the topranked Crim­son Tide back to the play­off as a sopho­more.

Hask­ins, a third-year sopho­more, stepped in af­ter the de­par­ture of a four-year starter and smashed Ohio State and Big Ten pass­ing records.

Mur­ray, a fourth-year ju­nior, re­placed last sea­son’s Heis­man win­ner and had an even bet­ter sea­son than his pre­de­ces­sor. Mur­ray waited the longest to fi­nally take over a team, trans­fer­ring from Texas A&M af­ter a rocky fresh­man sea­son, tak­ing a red­shirt year to sat­isfy NCAA trans­fer rules and then back­ing up Baker May­field in 2017.

“I think sit­ting down and watch­ing is kind of im­por­tant,” Mur­ray said. “I know Dwayne got to sit and watch. Tua ob­vi­ously got to sit and watch. I think it just helps you with your growth and ma­tur­ing on and off the field. I think that’s a big part.”

For the 16th time in the last 19 years, a quar­ter­back will win col­lege foot­ball’s most cov­eted

in­di­vid­ual award and that should not be a sur­prise this sea­son. This has been the year of the quar­ter­back, with FBS records for com­ple­tion per­cent­age, yards per pass and yards pass­ing per game all within range as bowl sea­son ar­rives. For the first time since 2008, when Ok­la­homa’s Sam Brad­ford, Texas’ Colt McCoy and Flor­ida’s Tim Te­bow were the Heis­man fi­nal­ists, only quar­ter­backs were in­vited to New York for the tro­phy pre­sen­ta­tion.

That sea­son, the Heis­man fi­nal­ists com­bined to pass for 9,726 yards and 100 touch­downs, com­plet­ing 70.9 per­cent of their passes at 9.1 yards per at­tempt. This sea­son’s fi­nal­ists, each still with at least one more game, have passed for 11,986 yards and 124 touch­downs, com­plet­ing 69.7 per­cent of their passes at 10.6 yards per at­tempt.

There is also a good chance that for just the sec­ond time in the 83-year his­tory of the Heis­man, the top-five vote-get­ters will be quar­ter­backs, too. West Vir­ginia’s Will Grier and Washington State’s Gard­ner Min­shew II were the other con­tenders, but nei­ther drew enough sup­port to earn a trip to New York. In 2001, when Ne­braska’s Eric Crouch won the Heis­man, the top six in the vot­ing were quar­ter­backs.

Dur­ing a 30-minute in­ter­view ses­sion with re­porters at the Stock Exchange, Tago­v­ailoa was asked a lot about his health. He sprained his an­kle in the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship game last week and said he ex­pects to be fine for the play­off, when No. 1 Alabama faces No. 4 Ok­la­homa and Mur­ray in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29. Alabama trainer Jeff Allen is trav­el­ing with Tago­v­ailoa on the awards cir­cuit this week.

“Life throws prob­lems at you some­time and it’s how you deal with it,” Tago­v­ailoa said. “Just try­ing to get bet­ter.”

Mur­ray fielded nu­mer­ous ques­tions about his fu­ture in base­ball. He was a first-round draft pick by the Oak­land Ath­let­ics in June and has al­ready signed $4.66 mil­lion con­tract. This will be his one and only sea­son as a col­lege start­ing quar­ter­back.

“My fu­ture’s al­ready kind of been de­cided as of right now,” Mur­ray said. Asked if he could see him­self try­ing to play both sports, Mur­ray said: “I would love to do be able to do both if that was pos­si­ble. I don’t know how pos­si­ble that is.”

The ques­tion Hask­ins will face is whether to re­turn to col­lege for an­other sea­son or en­ter the NFL draft. He could be a first-round pick.

“Af­ter the bowl game I'll sit down with my fam­ily and talk about it,” Hask­ins said. The six­thranked Buck­eyes face No. 9 Washington in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 in what will be coach Ur­ban Meyer’s last game be­fore re­tire­ment.

Tago­v­ailoa spent most of the sea­son as the Heis­man front-run­ner, but Mur­ray kept bail­ing out Ok­la­homa’s faulty de­fense and gain­ing ground in the race. It seems Mur­ray might have taken the lead last week­end, when Tago­v­ailoa threw two in­ter­cep­tions against Ge­or­gia and could not fin­ish the game.

“If I win it that’s awe­some,” Tago­v­ailoa said. “If not, it’s not the end of the world.”

Tua Tago­v­ailoa

Dwayne Hask­ins

Kyler Mur­ray

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