If Heisman Trophy voters and the media responsible for driving the award’s direction do their job, Jonathan Allen will be a serious candidate.
There’s no guarantee the two groups, which are more like one group, will learn from past mistakes. Pushing a defensive lineman for the top individual award requires imagination hive-minds collectively lack.
But after dominating in a rout of sixth-ranked Texas A&M, en route to Football Writers Association of America Bronko Nagurski Player of the Week, Jonathan Allen may be building enough momentum at the right time to rumble all the way to New York.
Defending national champion Alabama’s rather clearly established itself as the team to beat through two months of the 2016 season. As a deserving No. 1, the Crimson Tide deserve a Heisman Trophy candidate, right?
That prevailing sentiment’s translated into buzz for freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, whose mobility has transformed the very identity of the Alabama offense. But instantly slotting the quarterback of the No. 1 team into the Heisman discussion is a lazy and sometimes flat-out wrong.
A.J. McCarron shouldn’t have been a Heisman finalist in 2013, for example. C.J. Mosley? Absolutely. But McCarron’s inclusion among a six-finalist field, and shocking runner-up in the balloting, were a combination Lifetime Achievement Award, recognition of Alabama’s team success, and utter lack of creativity from voters conditioned to voting only for quarterbacks and running backs.
A vote for Hurts would not be as egregious, given the revolutionary dynamic he’s added to an offense that was once as traditional as they come. He’s scored 20 total touchdowns — 11 passing and nine on the ground — and he’s totaled more than 2,100 yards.
Let’s make no mistake, though: Alabama under Nick Saban is and always has been a program that builds from its defense. The Heisman as an avatar for team success must apply to the Tide’s defensive side.
Jonathan Allen isn’t Heisman-worthy on that premise alone, and suggesting so is to sell him short. He’s scored two touchdowns, which is just one fewer than fellow “defensive” Heisman candidate Jabrill Peppers.
The difference between the Alabama end and the Michigan cornerback? Allen is a defense-only player. Peppers has one touchdown on special teams and two on offense. The latter were scored in a 78-0 drubbing of Rutgers.
Alabama sees two similarly overmatched opponents in the final stretch of the regular season: sputtering Mississippi State, and the customary penultimate weekend paycheck team, Chattanooga. Were Lane Kiffin to feel especially frisky, he could line up Allen in a “Refrigerator” Perry-esque, goal-line package to get Heisman voters’ attention.
Not that Allen needs carries to fill a highlight reel. His Superman sack of Trevor Knight on Saturday will have a place on promo packages akin to Jadeveon Clowney’s de-helmeting hit on Vincent Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl.
That’s just one, albeit the most aesthetically impressive of six Jonathan Allen sacks on the season. That number will climb in the Tide’s final stretch. And with every notch added to his stat sheet in contributing to the nation’s best defense, Allen’s Heisman profile should grow accordingly.