Alabama football fans will celebrate Saturday night when Bryce Young lifts the Heisman Award trophy. Not only is he a fine young man and an outstanding role model; he was the best quarterback in college football this season.
The group picture that will follow with Mark Ingram, Derrick Henry, DeVonta Smith and Young will immediately become a treasured item of memorabilia.
There is nothing not to like about Bryce Young winning the Heisman. There is, however, an associated problem, having nothing to do with Young. The best player on this season’s Alabama Crimson Tide is not Bryce. It is Will Anderson Jr.
Offensive players have a massive advantage in Heisman Trophy voting. They benefit more than defenders from a season of high exposure, especially the quarterbacks. The QBs are in the center of the television screen on every offensive snap. They are by job requirement, designated leaders. None of the great ones suffer from obscurity.
Defensive players, no matter how good they are, don’t get a comparable amount of air time or the digital equivalent of ink. So defenders rarely win a Heisman Trophy. How rarely? There have been 85 Heisman winners. Only one, Charles Woodson, was primarily a defensive player. Woodson played cornerback and returned punts.
A solid argument can be made that Will Anderson Jr. has been college football’s best player this season. Should the Alabama football defender be the winner over Bryce Young? Alabama Crimson Tide fans are not interested in such an argument. What does have Crimson Tide fans riled and for good reason, is Will Anderson Jr., not being a Heisman Finalist.
Along with Young, the other finalists are quarterbacks, Kenny Pickett and C.J. Stroud, plus Michigan defensive lineman, Aidan Hutchinson. Hutchinson is a tremendous football player. But, he is not as good as Will Anderson Jr. The stats of the two players show a clear separation.
- Will Anderson Jr. – 91 tackles
- Aidan Hutchinson – 58 tackles
- Will Anderson Jr. – 52 solo tackles
- Aidan Hutchinson – 33 solo tackles
Tackles For Loss (TFLs)
- Will Anderson Jr. – 31 TFLs for 134 yards
- Aidan Hutchinson – 15.5 TFLs for 75 yards
- Will Anderson Jr. – 15.5 sacks for 96 yards
- Aidan Hutchinson – 14 sacks for 73 yards
Note: Player stats from Joey Blackwell
The Alabama Football Factor
Historically Heisman voting is heavily influenced by regional favorites. Not many voters outside the core states of the SEC would be inclined to vote for two Alabama Football players in their three selections. DeVonta Smith and Mac Jones overcame that disinclination last season, but it certainly limited the votes for Nagee Harris.
Fans across the terrain of college football often jump at chances to deride the Alabama Crimson Tide. Many current tweets label Tide fans complaining about the snub of Will Anderson, as selfish and greedy. Fans of most other programs cannot be expected to understand. When the cornerstones of a program are excellence, failing to acknowledge that excellence is an affront. Will Anderson deserves to be on the front row in New York, Saturday night – at least, as a finalist.
Will Anderson Jr. was honored on Monday night. He won the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation’s best defensive player.