The Tua Tagovailoa Heisman hype train is off and running. The Alabama quarterback continues to lead in most oddsmakers projections for who will win the award. At first, most chuckled at the notion considering we’ve only seen Tagoviloa play in one half of one game.
While we’re only one full game into the season, the path to a Heisman Trophy for Tua is a real possibility. Tua was 12-for-16 with 227 yards passing, two touchdowns, and added 26 rushing yards and another score on the ground in Alabama’s 51-14 win over Louisville last Saturday.
What does that path look like? Let’s look back at every quarterback who won the award since 2010 to get an idea.
There are outliers when it comes to past winners, something we’ll address on a case by case basis, but for the most part, all of these quarterbacks had enough similarities to set a baseline. For starters, being a quarterback on a great team isn’t necessarily a must although if you’re not on a championship contending team, your numbers have to make up the difference.
Lamar Jackson in 2016 (Louisville finished 9-4), Robert Griffin III in 2012 (Baylor finished 10-3), and Johnny Manziel. In 2012 (Texas A&M finished 11-2) all had to make up for multiple losses by posting incredible stats. Jackson and Manziel added over 1,400 yards of rushing to compensate while Griffin passed for over 4,000 yards.
Tagovailoa has the advantage of being on a great team so he’ll need to take advantage of other statistical categories to set himself apart from the crowd.
Aside from Jackson, every Heisman quarterback completed better than 66 percent of his passes for the year. This is an area where I think Tagovailoa can shine as Alabama has a multitude of receivers and running backs who can catch that ball at multiple levels downfield. Whether it be short, intermediate, or long passes, the receiving corps Tua has will help tremendously. Completing more passes with inevitably lead to the next category: passing yards.
Four of the last seven quarterbacks who won the Heisman Trophy passed for over 4,000 yards in their winning season. The three who didn’t, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, and Lamar Jackson, more than made up for it by rushing for over 1,400 yards on average in that same season.
While I think Tua will have a tougher time getting the rushing yards, the passing yards is an easier path for him for a number of reasons. One, he’s simply a better passer. This doesn’t mean he can’t run or won’t rack up yardage on the ground, he can simply cover more ground through the air because of his unique ability to see the field and read through progressions.
In 2017 alone, 19 FBS quarterbacks threw for more than 3,500 yards while eight had over 4,000. Tagovailoa will need to join that group and will probably have to do so in fewer attempts and with fewer turnovers.
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