EVANSTON IL - OCTOBER 23: Dan Persa #7 of the Northwestern Wildcats looks for a receiver against the Michigan State Spartans at Ryan Field on October 23 2010 in Evanston Illinois. Michigan State defeated Northwestern 35-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Dan Persa
The position of quarterback is sexy, not just because you're the default leader, not just because you're BMOC, the figurehead, but also because your performance (unlike many other positions) is easily quantifiable. You either make the throw or you don't. Make a play to get out of pressure...or don't. Look at the play clock that's quickly running out and call a timeout...or take a delay of game penalty. Sure, there are mitigating factors (bad O-Line, no run game), but we judge quarterbacks easily more than any other position.
So with all that said, I'm going to do a couple of articles this week on every facet of B1G QB's in 2011. No topic will be left behind -
Is this the strongest, most athletic crop of Big Ten Quarterbacks of all-time?
Who is most dangerous outside of the pocket, Denard or T-Magic...or Persa?
But today, we take a look at the most unlikely of scenarios, a Northwestern Wildcat putting himself into Heisman Trophy consideration. Our own Chadnudj discusses...
Can a Northwestern QB win the Heisman? It says here.....yes (if everything goes right).
At least, that's the impression we're getting from Coach Pat Fitzgerald, and from Northwestern's marketing department. Much like Jim "I am the true owner of Samuel Jackson's wallet from Pulp Fiction" Delany, Northwestern "considers them rolled"..... and by "them," I refer to the Heisman campaign for Dan Persa, launched this with billboard in Chicago and (perhaps even ballsier) Bristol, CT (home of ESPN), 80 selected college football writers receiving 7-lb. purple dumbbells (to honor Persa's #7), and a multi-platform campaign built around the theme "Persa Strong" (or, for those of you on Twitter, #PersaStrong).
Last year, Persa set the B1G record for completion percentage (73.5%) and threw for 2581 yards passing, 15 TDs, and only 4 INTs, leading to a QB rating of 159.0 -- good for 9th nationally last year. He also ran for over 519 yards and 9 TDs....and all of this in just 10 games (in which Northwestern was 7-3). His receiving corps and offensive-line return almost entirely entact, and he put up those numbers without much of a viable running game -- something expected to improve this year now that Mike Trumpy and Adonis Smith seem to have taken the lead in running the ball (indeed, both showed some flashes later in the season last year of being at least decent B1G running backs). The Legends division is a toss-up (I could see any of the non-Minnesota teams winning that division this year), Northwestern guys have been finalists before (Darnell Autry finished 4th in 1995, Damien Anderson finished 5th in 2000), and since Heisman candidates almost exclusively come from top-10 type teams, Northwestern has even been ranked high enough at the time of Heisman voting to be considered a national championship contender/near-contender (in 1995, they entered the Rose Bowl ranked #3 in the nation). If things go well.....
That's not to say Persa should be considered a front-runner for the Heisman, or even a presumptive finalist/top 10 candidate. To win a Heisman, EVERYTHING has to go right for you -- your team must win a lot, you have to stay healthy (Persa's returning from a torn Achilles, but from all reports is way ahead of schedule), you have to put up other-worldly numbers, and you have to hope that no one else has a better season. Guys like Andrew Luck, Landry Jones, LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore, and Trent Richardson all have higher pedigrees and a deserved position as frontrunners at this point. But they all also have those same obstacles/hurdles to clear to win the Heisman -- if their teams don't win, or they get hurt, or their numbers slide, or someone else does better....well, they'll be on the outside too.
If Persa and the Cats can go 10-2/11-1, play for the B1G championship (and not get embarassed there), and make a BCS bowl with Persa putting up huge numbers (he's capable of the numbers part; the rest is dependent on the rest of the team, but given they went 7-3 with Persa last year, there is hope)....well, obviously a lot of "ifs" involved, and some perhaps falling into "Michigan State in 2010 dream season" territory. But it's at least not out of the question to wonder "what if" in Evanston this year in regards to the Downtown Athletic Club. So consider them rolled....
I should also add, that while I'm legitimately geeked about Persa in 2011, last year and this year suggest that QB in the Big Ten has never been stronger -- Tolzien, Pryor, Stanzi, Cousins, Persa, Denard Robinson, Taylor Martinez, Nathan Scheelhaase, Russell Wilson, MarQuis Grey, Vandenberg.....our league is stacked with great and exciting QBs. Compare that to the list of QBs in the SEC this year....where, according to one commenter at OTE, Stephen Garcia might be the best QB in the conference. Yep -- a guy who has played hungover and who is prey to the whimsically quick QB hook of the Ol' Ballcoach Steve Spurrier is the "standard-bearer" at the premier position for the SEC. I think we can all agree how ridiculous that is -- Garcia might not crack the top 10 at QB in our conference. And for that reason, I am excited to see ALL of the B1G QBs play this season -- our QBs will be heads and shoulders above our southern brethren.