After Stanford’s Andrew Luck had a sub-par game in the Cardinal’s 53-30 loss to Oregon this past weekend, the popular train of thought among national pundits was to declare the Heisman Trophy race wide open with less than a month remaining in the college football regular season. So on Tuesday, Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer jumped at an opportunity to stump for his own candidate, junior David Wilson, when asked if the tailback should be invited to New York as a Heisman finalist next month.
“I certainly think he belongs in the mix,” Beamer said of Wilson, who currently leads the country with 1,360 rushing yards. “Hopefully a lot of people will, too, before this thing is all over, and I think once you get in the mix, your name is out there next year, too.”
But Beamer has some selfish reasons for wanting Wilson to be mentioned among the rest of the Heisman finalists. The coach talked Tuesday of how most of the other candidates are seniors, and he believes getting noticed now will only increase Wilson’s chances of winning the award next year.
And because the speedy tailback is eligible to declare for the NFL draft after this season, Beamer’s hope is that the lure of a Heisman Trophy will persuade him to return to Blacksburg as a senior next year.
“To me, it’d be a factor. I mean, how many people have a legitimate shot to win the Heisman,” said Beamer, who added that he had yet to speak with Wilson or his family about the tailback’s looming draft decision. “Hopefully he gets it done this year. This season isn’t over. We’ve got some important ballgames. He’s going to be on national TV this Thursday. He’s got some important games still out. Hopefully he can get right in there and can win it this year.”
Wilson, as we discussed in this space on Monday, is on pace to shatter a couple major school records, including Ryan Williams’s single-season rushing mark of 1,655 yards set back in 2009. After the speedy junior tailback gained a career-high 175 yards at Georgia Tech this past Thursday, Virginia Tech’s sports information department began sending mass e-mails to national reporters with Wilson’s statistics and his name has started to generate some more buzz nationally among Heisman voters.
In recent days, ESPN.com, CBS Sports and the National Football Post have listed Wilson as an outside contender for the award, although he’s been unable to garner a mention from Sports Illustrated and Heisman Pundit, among others. ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, meanwhile, had Wilson as one of his top three Heisman candidates on the network’s Sunday night BCS countdown show.
Heading into Thursday night’s home finale at Lane Stadium, Wilson is on pace to gain 1,904 yards if the Hokies make it to the ACC championship game and therefore play 14 games this season.
He said Sunday he needs to score more to really be considered for the award – Wilson has eight touchdowns through 10 games – but talked reverently about how two of his childhood idols, Barry Sanders and Bo Jackson, were Heisman winners during their college careers.
“I definitely think about it because a lot of my heroes have won that award,” Wilson said. “Just to be mentioned in that category, it’s an honor. But I don’t think about it like, ‘Let me go out this week and prove I should win the Heisman.’ I just go out and play and have fun and try to be the best player I can be.”