LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. _ For a second consecutive year, a quarterback from a Texas college finished the regular season as the frontrunner in the Scripps Howard News Service weekly Heisman Trophy poll.
But ESPN college football analyst David Pollack said Wednesday that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, this year’s Heisman leader, benefitted from a weak field of contenders and would not have emerged as a finalist in New York if he’d had to compete with Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, the 2011 honoree, and other Heisman contenders from the 2011 season.
“It’s not what it was a year ago. It is what it is,” Pollack said, summing up the Heisman race during a news conference to promote tonight’s telecast of The Home Depot College Football Awards Show (6:30 p.m., ESPN). “Johnny Manziel would not have been at the Heisman Trophy (presentation) over Andrew Luck last year. Over RG3 last year. He wouldn’t. Does that mean he won’t win it? Does that mean he’s not deserving of the Heisman? I don’t think it means that at all.”
His point, said Pollack, is that college football fans were “spoiled” last year by a collection of finalists that included Griffin, Luck and running back Trent Richardson _ all successful NFL rookies this season. All three, in Pollack’s estimation, overshadow the three finalists headed Saturday to New York to determine the 2012 Heisman recipient: Manziel, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.
Manziel received seven of 10 available first-place votes in Wednesday’s final installment of the Scripps poll, which has identified the Heisman winner in 21 of 25 years, including last season. A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, an Arlington High School graduate, disagreed with Pollack’s assessment about Manziel being a frontrunner in a down season.
“That guy’s got about two years of Heisman highlights in one season,” Joeckel said. “He’s just an incredible player. He deserves it.”
Manziel shook off the negative feedback.
“You just have to look at it and move on and just be able to handle criticism,” Manziel said.