The Pac-12 has produced a handful of unexpected Heisman contenders of late, but none quite like Colorado’s sophomore receiver, Laviska Shenault Jr.
* He doesn’t play one of the Heisman’s favored positions; he’s not a quarterback or tailback.
* He toils for a second-tier program; the Buffaloes haven’t been a powerhouse since ‘Cheers.’
* He had no foundation of success: Last year, Shenault caught all of seven passes.
The conference’s unexpected Heisman contenders of recent years, USC’s Marqise Lee (’12), Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey (’15), Washington’s Jake Browning (’16) and Stanford’s Bryce Love (’17), each fit at least one of those key categories.
(Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was a preseason favorite, not a dark horse, when he won the trophy in 2014.)
Yet here’s Shenault, part of the conversation at the season’s midway point — his flabbergasting rise fueled in equal parts by attention-demanding production, Colorado’s smart use of his immense skills, and a series of easy-pickins opponents.
As the Buffaloes hit the toughest stretch of their schedule, Shenault ranks fifth in The Athletic’s straw poll, sixth in USA Today’s Heisman Watch and seventh in the ESPN version.
What’s the likelihood he stays in the race?
What must transpire in order for Shenault to grab an invitation to New York for the ceremony?
Could he conceivably, possibly win the thing?
For context, the Hotline turned to an expert, the man who wrote the book on the Heisman: Cory McCartney, an Atlanta-based reporter for Fox Sports and author of ‘The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and its Winners‘.
McCartney broke down Shenault’s unique situation and the various dynamics around the country that could impact his candidacy.
Working for Shenault: The Buffs’ upcoming schedule.
Soft early, it now turns wicked with a date Saturday night at USC and then a trip to Washington next week. If he dominates the Trojans, a Heisman blue-blood, and the Huskies, a top-10 team, Shenault’s campaign would gain incalculable momentum.
The showdown against UW is especially important, McCartney said, because it will unfold in a prime exposure window for the majority of Heisman voters: 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX broadcast.
In contrast, the USC game, although significant, kicks at 10:30 p.m. ET and overlaps (for the first quarter, if not the first half) with the MLB playoffs.
“Those 10 p.m. Eastern windows are a huge hill to climb,” McCartney said. “He has to own the next two games, and they have to make the Pac-12 championship game.”
Working against Shenault: His position.
The last receivers to win the Heisman were Notre Dame’s Tim Brown in 1987 and Michigan’s Desmond Howard in ’91.
Both played for brand-name programs and both, McCartney added, gave their campaigns a boost with big plays in the return game.
Shenault is used as a runner in the Wildcat formation but does not play special teams.
Since Howard claimed the Heisman, the best finish for a receiver came in 2003, when Pitt’s Larry Fitzgerald was a close second to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White.
The lone wideout to land in the top three in …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Sports