Monday, September 7, 2009

Eric Berry, Heisman candidate?

In the wake of the joint partnership among Lane Kiffen, Tennessee, and ESPN in promoting Eric Berry as a Heisman candidates, fans and voters have to ask a question: Is Eric Berry a legitimate candidate?

It is rare for a defensive player to honored as a Heisman finalist. It is even more scarce for the Defensive player to be awarded the Heisman. Since the installment of the Heisman in 1935, only 18 defensive players have qualified as finalists: Charles Woodson (DB/WR/KR-1997), Marvin Jones (LB-1992), Steve Emtman (DT-1991), Brian Bosworth(LB -1986), Terry Hoage (DB-1983), Hugh Green (DE-1980), Ross Browner (DE-1977), Mike Reid (DT-1969), Leroy Keyes (RB/CB-1968/1969), Ted Hendricks (DE-1968), Dick Butkus (C/LB-1964), Lee Roy Jordan(LB-1962), Bill Burrell (G/LB-1959), Alex Karras (DT-1957), Jerry Tubbs (C/LB-1956), Kurt Burris (C/LB-1954), Donn Moomaw (LB-1952), and Alex Wojciechowicz (C/LB-1937). 7 of the 18 played on both sides of the ball.

Of those only 1 defensive player - Charles Woodson in 1997 - has won the trophy. When comparing Berry to Woodson defensively, Berry is definitely in the neighborhood:

Charles Woodson 1997
vs. Eric Berry 2008
8 Interceptions 7
7 INT Return Yards 265
0 INT TDs 2
27 Solo tackles 72
5 Tackles for Loss 8.5
1 Sacks 3
9 Passes Defensed
0 Forced Fumbles 0
0 Fumble Recoveries 1

However, the set backs for Berry rise on the offensive side of the ball and special teams. In his Heisman campaign, Woodson caught 12 passes for 238 and 2 TDs, ran for 21 yards and a TD, and returned 36 punts for 301 yards and a TD. Woodson was a complete threat.

In 2008, Berry had 72 total yards without any touchdowns on offense and special teams. Berry's stats are not a clear representation of his ability; they only give a small glimpse into what this man is capable of.

What upsets me most is that Berry has the ability to play on the offensive side of the ball and that he is an explosive runner. He was in the discussion for the Tennessee starting quarterback, so he has the mind to play on the offensive side of the ball. But, if the team wants to leave him as a safety (the mental antagonist of the QB further defending his viability), then Berry should be utilized as a return man. Eric Berry accumulated 265 yards and 2 TDs in 2008 on interception return, and 222 yards and 1 TD in 2007 on interception returns.

Eric Berry is a talented defender. The problem with him winning the Heisman, let alone competing for it, is that his defensive stats do not pull him away from other players that had similar numbers. Plenty of players had 5 interceptions and 50 tackles in 2008. Narrow your search a bit and Berry was among ten players to have at least 6 interceptions and 50 tackles. Of those ten players, only two others recorded sacks. Evidently, he was an elite defensive player, but he was not one of incredible distinction.

Unless Lane Kiffin gives Berry several looks on offense or names him the team's return-man - thus allowing him to utilize his complete skill set - then until that point Eric Berry will not be a serious Heisman candidate.

Thanks to for Heisman Trophy Voting History and Classic17 for a statistical breakdown of Charles Woodson and Eric Berry.

1 comment:

  1. I defintely have to take Woodson. He has a Heisman, and soon will add Defensive Player of the Year to his collection.