C.J. Spiller Heisman-worthy? George Rogers thinks so

C.J. Spiller will get a vote on USC winner George Rogers' ballot

bgillespie@thestate.comNovember 28, 2009 

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Clemson running back No. 28 C.J. Spiller rushes for a four yard gain to the five yard line during the first quarter as Clemson defeats Virginia 34-21 at halftime at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009. Clemson's last home game of the year is to clinch the ACC Atlantic division and advance to the conference championship game against Georgia Tech.

RICH GLICKSTEIN/RGLICKSTEIN@THESTATE.COM

  • SOUTH CAROLINA VS. CLEMSON

    107th meeting: Tigers (8-3) at Gamecocks (6-5)

    WHEN: Noon Saturday

    WHERE: Williams-Brice Stadium

    LINE: Clemson by 3

    TV: ESPN (TWC 26/DTV 206/DISH 140)

    RADIO: WNKT-FM 107.5, ESPN 93.1 FM

    ONLINE: Seth Emerson blogs live from the game Saturday at gogamecocks.com

George Rogers says he plans to vote for C.J. Spiller in this year's Heisman Trophy balloting.

You're thinking: Rogers, a former USC star and winner of the 1980 Heisman, voting for a Clemson Tiger? Absolutely, he said.

Of course, Rogers also will vote for Alabama running back Mark Ingram. And for Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who often this season has played like a tailback.

"I like those running backs," said the 50-year-old Rogers, who rushed for a USC-record 5,204 yards from 1977-80, and a school-best 1,894 in his Heisman-winning season.

All three will be on his Heisman ballot, one of 926 mailed out Nov. 18 by The Heisman Trust: 870 to media members, 55 to former Heisman winners and one to national sponsor Nissan, which will conduct a public poll to determine its vote. And in what order - first (worth three points), second (two) or third (one) - will he place those three?

Rogers laughed. He's not saying.

"But (Spiller) deserves to be in that group," he said. "I've made up my mind (on who gets voted where). No doubt, he deserves to be in New York" for the Dec. 12 presentation, to be televised live at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

If Spiller somehow vaults past the other top names - Tebow, Ingram, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy - he will join Rogers as the only players from South Carolina schools to win. The late Felix "Doc" Blanchard of Bishopville (Army, 1945) is the only state native to claim the "stiff-arm trophy," named for the legendary John Heisman, who included Clemson among his coaching stops.

And, since becoming USC's coach in late 2004, Steve Spurrier, who won the trophy in 1966 at Florida, has given South Carolina a trio of recipients.

Otherwise, the closest a state player has come was 1978, when Clemson quarterback (and Spartanburg native) Steve Fuller tied N.C. State back Ted Brown for sixth in that year's voting. Oklahoma back Billy Sims won with 827 votes; Fuller finished with 82.

"I'd vote for (Spiller) if I had a vote, but I don't have one, so it's easy to say that," said Fuller, a Hilton Head-area real estate developer. "But if you look at what he's done, and the many ways he does them, you can make an argument that he's the best player."

Spurrier, whose team faces Spiller on Saturday, declined to say if he'd put the Tigers' back on his ballot. "I've gotten in enough trouble talking about who I vote for, so I'm not doing that anymore," he said with a laugh, referring to his preseason All-SEC "vote" for Mississippi quarterback Jevon Snead over Tebow.

Too, Spurrier might not want to aggravate Spiller, who has one big game (10 carries, 155 yards and two touchdowns in 2006) and two so-so ones (88 yards each, with no scores, in 2007 and 2008) vs. USC.

"Let's hope he has a big game in the (Dec. 5) ACC Championship" vs. Georgia Tech, Spurrier said. "I guess there are five or six (players) still in contention A lot of that voting comes down to who had the big last game. The big championship game seems to determine that winner a lot."

Two factors, Rogers said, hurt Spiller early: his lack of rushing yardage (less than 100 yards per game) and, worse, the Tigers' 2-3 start before winning their past six games in impressive fashion.

"Now, he's done everything a back can do," Rogers said. "That N.C. State game," where Spiller had touchdowns running, catching and passing, "he was everything a running back needs to be."

Spiller, averaging more than 190 all-purpose yards a game, broke the ACC single-season record vs. Virginia on Saturday, and needs 26 yards vs. USC to reach the 7,000-yard career mark, only the fifth player to do so in Football Bowl Subdivision history. He also has scored 15 touchdowns, the only FBS player with at least one TD in each game this season.

"He's a lot like (former Southern Cal back and Heisman winner) Reggie Bush, but with more speed," Rogers said. "Man, he can fly by Reggie. I bet Spiller would burn him."

Rogers said others have advantages by playing on teams - Florida, Alabama, Texas - involved in the national-title chase. "If you put Ingram on Clemson's team and Spiller on Alabama, (Spiller) wins hands down," he said.

But if Spiller is a long shot to win, his chances of being among the finalists at the trophy presentation seem solid, Rogers said. "If (Clemson) wins the ACC Championship game" two days before ballots are due, "there's no way he won't be invited."

Fuller said Spiller may already be on that short list.

"Nobody this season has stepped out and thrown ridiculous numbers at you," he said. "If I'm a voter in, say, New York, I'm probably going with the Tebows and McCoys and Ingrams as opposed to stepping out (and voting for Spiller). But, that said, it's hard to argue he's not one of the best two or three players."

Spurrier seemed to agree. "That's something that will play out for all those guys, and he could be in contention, yeah," he said.

This week, Rogers said he will pull for Spiller to continue racking up impressive numbers - and for USC to beat Clemson despite that.

"Ain't no doubt," he said, laughing. "Then he can go on to the championship game, maybe win that. I want him to go up and down the field Saturday - but not score any touchdowns.

"Hey," Rogers said, "has he scored a touchdown against us? I'd like to see that (Spiller shut out), so people would stop saying about me, 'He won a Heisman but never scored on Clemson.'"

Told Spiller scored twice vs. USC, Rogers sighed.

"They (Tigers) will go where he takes them," he said. "He's an impact player."

Good enough to get Rogers' top vote? He laughed.

"I don't know if C.J. is the best," he said, "but he's one of them."

Contact senior writer Bob Gillespie at (803) 771-8304.

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