Preseason Heisman Trophy campaigns might be slightly more meaningful than … well, the lists of preseason position rankings and predictions for ACC finish that are being churned out (and will continue to be here as well, over the course of the next week or so). But not by much.
Every player is technically a candidate and in the race. Some just have considerably greater staying power than others.
Any breathing Heisman voter – or media outlet with an influence in a voter’s decision – should be well-aware of Clemson running back C.J. Spiller and his difference-making skills.
That hasn’t deterred the university from launching a Spiller-for-Heisman preseason campaign nonetheless, even though it (wisely) abstained from the notion of launching one for Cullen Harper before last season, opting for a wait-and-see approach.
The school plans to distribute these 6-foot lifesize posters (Spiller is listed as 5-11, for the record) to about 700 media outlets as well as make about 4,000 available to the public for free Wednesday (namely at Bi-Los in the Clemson area).
In these dire economic times when every expenditure deserves to be scrutinized, it’s reasonable to question the necessity of the campaign – as well as the legitimacy for his chances of at least becoming a finalist.
But I find it hard to argue that this decision doesn’t come out looking like relative pennies well-spent.
Two sponsors ponied $5,000 apiece as well as covered the $10,000 in printing costs.
Thus, Clemson is only on the hook for the estimated $1,000 mailing costs to media.
And hope is priceless.
New coach Dabo Swinney, whose resume is highlighted by his recruitment of Spiller, understandably tooted Spiller’s horn at the January announcement for Spiller’s return, playfully suggesting Clemson could go ahead and crank up a Heisman campaign.
Anyone who has witnessed Swinney’s affinity for bells and whistles should have recognized he wasn’t kidding.
Not that such promotional campaigns from universities haven’t become trite. I guarantee colleagues at the newspaper I used to work for I guarantee had never watched Xavier’s basketball team; but they grew to recognize the likes of David West and Romain Soto because of the bobblehead dolls and promotional trinkets that piled up on my desk.
So I’m sure there’s probably some marketing value to establishing name recognition for your standout player among media types who haven’t gotten the chance to see them.
I think it’s fair to predict Spiller’s chances of even being invited to New York as a Heisman finalist are remote – for any number of reasons excluding his individual talent.
First and foremost, all three finalists from a year ago are back, and it would take a precipitous demise for Florida QB Tim Tebow, Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford or Texas QB Colt McCoy to not make the cut.
Tebow’s a given for career achievement alone, and you have to think either Oklahoma or Texas will emerge from the Big 12 again, maintaining its QB’s profile. Bradford’s status as the clear-cut top NFL QB prospect in next year’s class only helps his case, too.
To stay in consideration (stating the obvious here), your team has to do well, you have to post ridiculous statistics (unless you’re on a top-5 team) and you need name recognition.
Spiller possesses the latter as well as the skill to accrue the statistical production. What he requires is at least a Clemson run to the ACC title game as well as a substantial stat spike from his junior year (1,065 rushing and receiving yards combined, 11 total TDs), because there are a number of other players (Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant, Cal RB Jahvid Best, probably Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor or Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead) whom should be able to make a case for their inclusion as well if they perform as expected.
So it seems premature to consider Spiller more than a distant darkhorse at this stage.
Yet if I was in Clemson’s shoes, I’d be touting him as a “candidate,” too.
Mainly, seeing as you cannot pay players per NCAA rules (which I agree with), the campaign amounts to a gesture showing Clemson’s appreciation for what Spiller did for the program by returning:
* He prevented 2009 from being viewed as a rebuilding year, which provides a morale boost impossible to quantify. * He gave a young/unproven offensive coaching staff a toy to work with in a season where it needs to establish a schematic identity and develop credibility for recruiting purposes. * His return probably cushioned Clemson’s decline in season ticket sales.
Considering the amount of money every program frivolously spends to pamper recruits and its athletes, Clemson could have paid the full $21,000 to start up the campaign and still reaped more than it had sewn.
Coincidentally, the university wanted to sell the posters as it did with its William Perry poster promotion (for the Lombardi and Outland Trophy awards) 25 years ago, donating the funds to charity. But the NCAA has changed its rules since, disallowing the sale of such items (although I’m not sure how it technically differs from, say, a gameday program).
The timing of the campaign’s kickoff is hardly coincidental. Swinney will hold Clemson’s annual coach/media golf outing and press conference Tuesday. And Spiller will be joined by defensive end Ricky Sapp as Clemson’s two player representatives for the ACC’s media kickoff Sunday-Monday in Greensboro, N.C.
So you’ll likely be hearing or reading a lot about Spiller in the coming week.