By Kevin McGuire-
(CBS) There have been just three wide receivers to win the Heisman Trophy in the award’s prestigious history. Nebraska’s Johnny Rodgers was the first, in 1972. Rodgers was eventually followed by Notre Dame’s Tim Brown, in 1987. The most recent receiver to win the Heisman Trophy was Michigan’s Desmond Howard, in 1991. So what will it take for a wide receiver to end the Heisman drought of 23 years and counting? Can Alabama’s Amari Cooper be the long-awaited receiver to win the Heisman Trophy this season?
Cooper is off to a fantastic start to the year for the Crimson Tide. Through four games, Cooper leads the nation in receiving yards per game with 163.8 yards per game and 655 receiving yards. His five touchdowns in four games are also among the leaders around the nation, trailing just two other players. The 6’ 1”, 210-pound receiver and Miami native is already about to pass his 2013 season totals of 736 yards and has already eclipsed his four-touchdown total from last fall. Being Alabama’s number one receiver sure has its benefits, and he has been handling that extra responsibility with great results. Now he is well ahead of the pace to shatter his 2012 totals of 999 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.
Every season is different when it comes to the Heisman Trophy, but history suggests it will be very tough for Cooper to have a legitimate shot at striking a pose in New York at the end of the season. Not only does Alabama have just one Heisman Trophy winner in school history (running back Mark Ingram in 2009), but also receivers rarely do very well in the Heisman voting since Howard was named the Heisman winner in 1991. Since 1992, there have been just 18 wide receivers to receive any votes in the final Heisman voting, and the only player to finish higher than fourth in the voting was Pittsburgh’s Larry Fitzgerald in 2003. Fitzgerald finished second in the 2003 Heisman voting behind Oklahoma quarterback Jason White and just ahead of Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning.
If Cooper is to have any realistic shot at the Heisman, he would probably have to mimic Fitzgerald’s 2003 numbers, which were off the charts. Fitzgerald recorded 92 receptions for 1,595 yards and 22 touchdowns in 12 games. That is going to require an average of 117.5 receiving yards per game by Cooper over the remaining eight games of the regular season (playing in the SEC Championship Game would allow for one more game and one more opportunity for a signature Heisman moment), and 17 more touchdowns. Julio Jones is Alabama’s only 1,000-yard receiver (1,133 yards in 2010) dating back to 2008. If Alabama keeps the offense more opened up though, Cooper will continue to rack up big numbers and remain in the Heisman conversation.
Weekly Heisman Spotlight Game: Texas A&M vs. Arkansas
Staying in the SEC West, we return the spotlight to the star of Week 1, Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill. Hill has thrown for 10 touchdowns and just one interception in the three games since his debut as Texas A&M starter in a week one upset at South Carolina. The Aggies should see another solid offensive showing from their young quarterback this weekend in division play against Arkansas in Arlington, Texas. The Razorbacks are ninth in the SEC against the pass, but Arkansas has not allowed a monster performance through the air from any opponent yet, including Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation.