Top 10 CFB Programs Without a Heisman Winner
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There are plenty of proud college football programs who have yet to produce a player to win the stiff-armed statue. We count down the Top 10 Programs Without a Heisman Winner, with a big hat tip to TheHeismanWinners.com.
In a four-year span during the late 1960s, the Boilermakers produced three Heisman runner-ups: Bob Griese (pictured/1966), Leyroy Keys (1968) and Mike Phipps (1969). Drew Brees, Purdue’s best player in recent memory, finished third in the voting in 2000 and fourth in 1999.
Indeed, Purdue is often called the “Cradle of Quarterbacks” based on its reputation for producing signal-callers, four of whom — Len Dawson (1957), Griese (1967), Phipps (1970) and Jim Everett (1986) — were Top 5 picks in the NFL draft.
Even before the Ducks became the epitome of modernity in college football, they were a program with a degree of national exposure despite some brutal years in the 1970s and ‘80s.
QB Dan Fouts and play maker Bobby Moore (now Ahmad Rashad) cut their teeth in Eugene under coach Jerry Frei before moving on to the NFL. Before them, future Los Angeles Rams star Norm Van Brocklin guided the Ducks to a 16–5 record. The school also produced five first round NFL draft picks between 1996 and 2008.
Yet Oregon can only claim two players to finish in the top four of the Heisman vote: RB LaMichael James (third in 2010) and QB Joey Harrington (fourth in 2001). Not even Joey Heisman’s legendary Times Square billboard (pictured) marketing campaign could bring the bronze statue to Eugene.
If Oregon wasn’t blowing out so many opponents this season and sitting its starters in the second half, RB Kenjon Barner would have a real shot at being the first Duck to fly away with the trophy.
8. Ole Miss
While Ole Miss has fallen on hard times lately, it has some very proud history.
Under legendary coach John Vaught, the Rebels enjoyed a four-year stretch from 1959 to 1962 about as good as any in college football history: A 40–3–1 record, three Sugar Bowl victories and three claimed national titles.
Perhaps because those Ole Miss teams were premised on a dominant defense, that four-year stretch only produced one Rebels Heisman finalist, QB Jake Gibbs (third in 1960).
Gibbs was supplanted a decade later by Archie Manning (pictured) as the best quarterback in program history. Alas, the best he could muster in the Heisman voting was third, in 1970. (He finished fourth the year before.) His youngest son, Eli, finished in the same position in 2003.
As we’ll see later in this list, they weren’t the only Mannings spurned by the stiff-armed statue.
The Tigers’ periods of sustained success have been more attributable to good coaches — namely Dan Devine (1958–1970) and Gary Pinkel (2001–Present) — than star players.
Which isn’t to say that Mizzou has lacked the latter. Yet a perusal of the Tigers’ 32 All-Americans includes only six players who played quarterback, running back or wide receiver — the classic skill positions most often considered for the Heisman.
The end result is just two Mizzou players who have finished in the top four of Heisman voting: QBs Paul Christman (fourth in 1939) and Chase Daniel (pictured/fourth in 2007).
In fact, Mizzou players have been honored with just two individual awards: The 1997 Mosi Tatupu Award for best special teams player (Brock Olivo) and the 2008 John Mackey Award for best tight end (Chase Coffman). While those are nice honors, they are light years away from the prestige of the Heisman.
Photo Credit: Brendan Maloney/US Presswire
6. Michigan State
Lost in the shadow of the Wolverines is a Spartans program just up the road that was a national force to be reckoned with in the 1950s and 1960s, during which time they claimed six national titles (1951, 1952, 1955, 1957, 1965 and 1966).
In that two-decade stretch, three Spartans finished in the top four of the Heisman vote: QB Earl Morrall (fourth in 1955), DB/FB Walt Kowalczyk (third in 1957) and HB Sherman Lewis (picture/third in 1963). Lorenzo White, the first Big Ten running back to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, was the school’s last Heisman finalist with a pair of fourth-place finishes (1985 and ‘87).
If current coach Mark Dantonio (48–24 MSU record entering this season) continues to build a winner, the program should produce more Heisman contenders.
The Huskies were crowned national champions way back in 1960, but it was in the 18 years for which Don James (1975–1992) was at the helm that Washington became a nationally known program. Under James the team went 153–57–2, winning five Rose Bowls and the 1991 national title (shared with Miami [FL]).
And like a lot of West Coast teams, the Huskies have featured a bevy of offensive stars. Guys like QBs Sonny Sixkiller, Warren Moon, Mark Brunell and Marques Tuiasosopo and RBs Greg Lewis, Corey Dillon and Napoleon Kaufman.
So naturally the one Husky to finish in the top four of the Heisman voting was ... DT Steve Emtman (pictured), in 1991 (understandable in light of how dominant Washington’s defense was in the 1980s and early 1990s).
Can Steve Sarkisian get the Huskies offense humming at a level that will turn his players into stars?
4. Virginia Tech
“Beamer Ball” isn’t premised on an electric offense. It’s all about a stout defense and winning the special teams battle.
That’s reflected in the fact that four of the five major individual awards won by Virginia Tech players have been for work done in the trenches: the 1984 Outland Trophy (DE Bruce Smith), 1999 Bronco Nagurski Trophy and Lombardi Award (Corey Moore) and 2003 Rimington Trophy (Jake Grove). The one exception is Don Strock’s 1972 Sammy Baugh Trophy (he finished ninth in Heisman voting that season).
Michael Vick (pictured) led Virginia Tech to the BCS national title game as a redshirt freshman in 1999 and finished third in that year’s Heisman race. He’s still the only Hokie to finish in the top four despite a program littered with impact backs such as Kevin Jones, Lee Suggs, Brandon Ore, Darren Evans and Ryan Williams.
Razorback football fans are a proud lot. And you would be proud too if your team could lay claim to 676 wins entering 2012, 13 conference championships, one shared national title (1964) and 45 All-Americans.
Running back Darren McFadden (pictured) fell into the lattermost category twice, in 2006 and 2007. In each of those years, he finished as the Heisman runner-up, to Troy Smith (2006) and Tim Tebow (2007). No other Hog has finished in the top four.
Under Bobby Petrino, players such as QBs Ryan Mallet and Tyler Wilson and RB Knile Davis received consideration and/or preseason hype. But when Petrino resigned after Motorcycle-gate, the aspirations of the latter two vanished.
Only if Arkansas’ coach in 2013 can continue to recruit offensive studs to Fayetteville is there a chance that cries of “Pig Sooey!” will rise up from the Nokia Theatre Times Square.
2. West Virginia
The Mountaineers are currently 14th in all-time FBS wins and in the past 30 years, five Mountaineers have been Heisman candidates: QBs Jeff Hostetler (1983), Major Harris (pictured/1988 and 1989) and Pat White (2007 and 2008) and RBs Amos Zereoue (1997) and Steve Slaton (2006). Harris finished third in the voting in ’89, while Slaton finished fourth in ’06.
White and Slaton got a lot of national love for executing then-coach Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense to perfection. Same goes for current QB Geno Smith running Dana Holgorsen’s Air Raid attack. Folks were ready to give Smith the Heisman after his awesome September, he has been supplanted by Kansas State QB Collin Klein as the Heisman frontrunner after two subpar weeks.
Unless Klein stumbles and Smith returns to his old form for West Virginia’s final five games, the Heisman drought will continue in Morgantown.
It’s hard to believe that a program with as much history as Tennessee has never had a Heisman Trophy winner. Currently eighth in all-time wins, the Volunteers have six claimed national title and 16 conference crowns and were perennial national title contenders during the 1990s.
Tennessee fans are still convinced they already had a Heisman winner in Peyton Manning (pictured), but Michigan’s Charles Woodson controversially beat him out in 1997. Manning wasn’t the only UT player to finish second as Hank Lauricella (1951), Johnny Majors (1956) and Heath Shuler (1993) also narrowly missed out on the bronze statue.
Needless to say, judging by the current state of the program, it might take a while for someone to finally bring the Heisman to Knoxville.