The Norman Transcript

June 23, 2011

Broyles, the right Sooner in Trophy race


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The pre-pre-pre-pre-season volleys and lobs that pass for insightful college football prognostication typically isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, nor the bandwidth required to bring it to your screen.

It does, however, tend to succeed in one regrettable score. It sets the conversation up, providing a starting point from which the actual season may go in its merry way.

Though he may not be interested in singular praise nor forecasting, were he, it is all great news for Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones. Because being the Sooner quarterback, particularly coming into a season in which just about everybody has OU No. 1 or No. 2, means being at or near the very top at the beginning stages the Heisman Trophy discussion.

Too bad.

Jones broke many bad habits a year ago. He finally played well, with consistency, away from home. Though he did not quit throwing silly interceptions here and there — a trend that even continued at the Red-White Game — he very much quit letting early mistakes define the rest of his Saturday. And, as a result, OU closed last season with an epic Bedlam triumph, victory over Nebraska at the Big 12 title game and, clobbering Connecticut, ending its BCS bowl woes.

The problems is Jones is not OU’s best player. Ryan Broyles is OU’s best player. As it happens, Broyles is also the biggest reason Jones’ finds himself at the top of the preseason Heisman talk.

Irony.

It’s unfortunate, because not only is Broyles the best receiver ever to play at Oklahoma — while Jones is the third (and many would say fourth) best quarterback of the Bob Stoops era — he may be the best receiver ever to play college football.

Hype

If it’s too early to talk college football, somebody forgot to tell everybody. The preseason publications are out. OU is No. 1 in many of them. It wasn’t always this way, but Heisman talk has begun as well.

Matt Hinton, who writes the “Dr. Saturday” blog for Yahoo Sports, has Jones at the top of his Heisman list, one spot above No. 1 draft-pick-in-waiting, Stanford quarterback, Andrew Luck. The rest of Hinton’s top five are Alabama running back Trent Richardson, Oregon running back LaMichael James and Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden.

David Ubben, who covers the Big 12 for ESPN.com, has Jones listed as the Big 12 Conference’s best Heisman shot. Ubben isn’t taking bets, but that didn’t stop him from laying odds on Jones’ candidacy: 13 to 2. Ubben has Broyles and OSU receiver Justin Blackmon tied for second at 15 to 1.

Bodog.com, the online casino, poker room and sports book, has put out its own Heisman odds, with Luck leading at 9 to 2, Jones next at 13 to 2 and South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore third at 7 to 1. Down the list, Blackmon and Broyles are both listed 15 to 1.

Jones finds himself in this company for two reasons. One, he is the Sooner quarterback and OU may be the best team in the land. Two, after completing 405 of 617 passes last season, 38 of them touchdowns and only 12 of them interceptions, he is a numbers machine, likely to match or exceed last season this season and, perhaps, without regrettable losses like those suffered last season at Missouri and Texas A&M.

Reality

That Broyles is the best receiver ever to play at OU is not in question. He has every record and has looked better doing it than everybody who came before. Sorry, Marc Clayton. Still, claiming him to possibly be the best receiver in the history of college football should take more convincing.

Here we go:

Broyles has 266 career receptions. The NCAA Division I record is 316, set by Taylor Stubblefield, who played at Purdue from 2001-04. Last season, Broyles caught 131 passes. If he does that again, he’ll shatter the all-time mark.

Broyles has 3,429 career receiving yards. The record belongs to Nevada’s Trevor Insley — 5,005 — who played from 1996-99. Last season, Broyles caught for 1,622 yards. If he does that again, he’ll finish 46 yards in front of Insley.

Broyles has 35 career touchdown catches. The record — 60 — belongs to Rice’s Jarrett Dillard, compiled from 2005-2008. Asking Broyles to bring down 25 more catches in the end zone is asking a lot, but it could happen.

Yes, the Heisman Trophy is about a season, rather than a career. Theoretically, at least. But that didn’t keep Ron Dayne from winning it in 1999 or Herschel Walker from winning it in 1982. Both were better as freshmen.

Career marks aside, it’s about more than numbers with Broyles. He never drops the ball. He makes catches nobody else can make. He is a walking, breathing highlight reel. And he might be the most productive receiver ever to play college football.

Jones is all about the numbers. He is a very, very good college quarterback who may well turn into a fine pro. But he is not Jason White or Sam Bradford, the Sooners’ other Heisman-winning quarterbacks.

Perhaps Jones will reach that level. Perhaps his game will take another great leap and he’ll win the Heisman Trophy on something beyond the numbers.

Maybe.

But if you want to campaign in advance, get behind the right guy. Get behind Broyles. Get behind OU’s best player.

Clay Horning 366-3526 cfhorning@normantranscript.com