After weeks and weeks of naming its players of the week, the Daily football writers will finally make their endorsement for the Heisman trophy. Unlike many Daily players of the week, these four players have not simply been flashes in the pan. They have led their teams to have absolutely incredible seasons – and in the case of Iowa and Penn State, surprising ones. The list includes two Big Ten players (Iowa’s Brad Banks and Penn State’s Larry Johnson) and the duo from Miami (Ken Dorsey and Willis McGahee). Although all four may not be invited to the ceremony, each should be given his due.

Brad Banks,


Why Banks?: Why Banks? Why Banks? Are you kidding? Because he’s the only guy you hadn’t heard of before the season began; because he came out of nowhere to engineer arguably the most prolific offense in the country. Because he is the second-highest rated passer in the country, behind only Ryan Dinwiddle of Boise State. Because if you go to a sporting goods store in Iowa City you can’t find a No. 7 jersey. Yet.

It would be great if there were a slew of close games that Banks won with dramatic fourth quarter comebacks, but there are not, because the Hawkeyes’ offense has trampled nearly every defense they have faced. The only game that Iowa lost, and the closest game the Hawkeyes have played, was a Sept. 14 loss to instate rival Iowa State. But even then Banks threw two touchdowns and no interceptions, and Iowa posted a 31 on the scoreboard. Banks has thrown just four interceptions all season.

Iowa is averaging 38.8 points per game, and has gained momentum as the season has continued. One of the nuances of Heisman voting is the tendency of voters to look for guys to finish strong. Two of Banks’ competitors, Miami’s Ken Dorsey and Willis McGahee, have continued to post good (not great) statistics, but their offense has slowed down.

Banks, meanwhile, saved his best for last, producing nine touchdowns in his last two games (five in the air, four on the ground) and going a perfect 10-for-10 on passing in his second-to-last game, against Northwestern.

The only thing that could get in the way of Banks’ Heisman candidacy is that the only thing he will have done in the waning days of November and early days of December is study for his finals. The Hawkeyes’ regular season is done; but truly, Banks’ Heisman hopes are not.

— David Horn

Larry Johnson,

Penn State

Why Johnson?: Anyone who has tried to tackle Larry Johnson this season would tell you how absolutely ridiculous that question is. Johnson is by far the most versatile player in America. He is impossible to bring down, and maybe the most important thing he has brought to the Penn State offense is his ability to catch the football out of the backfield.

Johnson has been the key to the Nittany Lions’ resurgence this season, because in the prior three seasons, Penn State could never establish a consistent ground attack. Johnson spent his first three years trying to break through the pack of Penn State runners who were trying take over the starting role, but Paterno never gave him his shot. Paterno said that he regretted that Johnson was not his starter last season, and the senior has shown why.

Saturday against Michigan State, he became the ninth player in NCAA Division 1-A history to run for 2,000 yards in a season, as he carried 19 times for 279 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone. In the first half, folks! This came after last week when he ran for 327 yards in Penn State’s win over Indiana. Johnson leads the nation in rushing and all-purpose yardage, and get this – he’s rushed for eight yards per carry on the season. To put it in perspective, that means that Johnson gets three first downs in four carries.

Heisman Trophies are traditionally won by being a veteran player who leads his team to success in the month of November. Penn State, after two down years, is back in the top 15 and will most likely be playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game. That’s because of Johnson, and anyone who says there’s been a more impressive performer in the last month of the season is kidding themself. Johnson is the the best player in college football – and the most valuable.

— J. Brady McCollough

Ken Dorsey, Miami (Fla.)

Why Dorsey?: He may be a dorky-looking, lanky beanpole, but Dorsey sure knows how to win football games. He’s the unquestioned leader on the best team in the nation and is an impressive 20-0 as a starter. How many other quarterbacks can say that?

Dorsey’s numbers are nearly identical to those from last season’s national title season – when he was a finalist for the award. He completes 55-percent of his passes, boasts a 139.2 quarterback rating and has more than twice as many touchdowns (22) as picks (9).

Yes, the 6-foot-5, 200 pounder does have one of the best tailback’s in the nation in Willis McGahee and numerous NFL prospects around him, but there’s something to be said about a guy who can effectively lead a group of superstars and keep the defending national champs motivated and focused throughout a quest for a repeat.

Dorsey’s the one they look to in the huddle, the one who helps set up the running game with his cannon of an arm, and unfortunately the one who takes the heat when Miami showed that it is, in fact, human over the course of this season.

He may not be racking up an absurd amount of fantasy points (sorry guys) but part of that is because the coaching staff has put more emphasis on running the ball – and McGahee reaps some of the benefits near the goalline.

Dorsey wins football games in a pressure-packed situation for a school that expects nothing less than a national championship.

He’s not as mobile as Brad Banks, and doesn’t have the gaudy numbers of a Byron Leftwich.

But he shouldn’t lose votes just because his team is so damn good and actually has a running game to support him.

He wins football games. And he should win the Heisman.

— Joe Smith

Willis McGahee, Miami (Fla.)

Why McGahee?: It is as simple as this: McGahee is the best player on the nation’s best team. As ESPN analyst Trev Alberts would say, “There is no better player in the nation, obviously.” But unlike Alberts, I will provide much information as to why McGahee deserves the award.

First, aside from his team’s current ranking as No. 1, McGahee is putting up the numbers. He has rushed for nearly 1,500 yards, 6.4 yards per carry and has broken former Hurricanes’ standout Edgerrin James’ record for most rushing touchdowns.

Second, he is a complete player. Like James, McGahee is a dangerous receiver out of the backfield. On the season, he has 22 receptions for 329 yards – an average of 15 yards per catch.

Third and most importantly, he has kept Miami winning. The team’s struggles have been well documented, but McGahee’s play has kept the Hurricanes unbeaten against some stiff competition.

He broke on to the national scene by rushing for more than 200 yards in the Hurricane’s 41-16 romp over Florida and has been clutch ever since.

Against Florida State, with five minutes left in the game, McGahee caught an 58-yard pass to set up the game-winning touchdown run by Jason Geathers.

This past week, Miami edged Pittsburgh 28-21. In the game, McGahee rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning score in the fourth quarter.

Although Penn State’s Larry Johnson has the better statistics, McGahee is a winner and he is only getting better. In a year where class standing is a hot topic (see: Maurice Clarett), McGahee’s standing as a redshirt sophomore shouldn’t lose him any votes.

Ken Dorsey may be at quarterback for Hurricanes, but McGahee is the reason they are undefeated.

– Jeff Phillips

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