Oct 6, 2012; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators running back Mike Gillislee (23) runs for a touchdown against the LSU Tigers during the third quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
By Travis Duncan
Gator Envy writer
Why not get in early on the Mike Gillislee for Heisman campaign?
As the SEC's leading rusher in yards per game (109.6), and a perfect 5-0 start for the Florida Gators, the senior rusher is quietly creeping into the Heisman discussion.
What does it take for a running back to win the Heisman anyhow?
In the last 20 years, five running backs have been voted the Heisman winner, while 13 times it was a quarterback who won.
Alabama's Mark Ingram was the last running back to win the award, doing so in 2009.
He rushed for 1,542 yards in 12 regular season games plus the SEC title game, averaging 118.1 yards per game with 18 total touchdowns, 15 of which were on the ground. And most importantly, Ingram led the Tide to a perfect 13-0 record and then to a win in the National Title game.
Prior to Ingram, Wisconsin's Ron Dayne was the last running back to win the Heisman, doing so in 1999. He was not an early favorite to win the trophy that season but by December he was a run-away choice.
Dayne exemplifies the fact that a running back must finish strong to find himself at the Heisman Trust in December. Dayne averaged 203.5 yards over the final four games of the 1999 season and finished with 1,834 yards and 19 TDs total. He broke the NCAA's career rushing yards record that season, helped the Badgers get to a 9-2 record and on to the Rose Bowl.
So stats are important, and so are a slew of Sports Center worthy dazzling runs. Also your team but have a near perfect season (Gillislee likely would not get an invite to New York on a two-loss team).
Gillislee's running style is not dazzling but it is productive and timely. He has solid numbers (7 TDs 557 yards in 5 games) including his noteworthy, nationally televised, 146-yard two touchdown performance against an LSU frontline defense ranked 9th in FBS against the rush.
The competition is as follows: West Virginia senior quarterback Geno Smith, followed by Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, Collin Klein of Kansas State, A.J. McCarron of Alabama, and Notre Dame senior linebacker Manti Te'o each rank ahead of the Gator running back in a ranking by Corey McCartney of Sports Illustrated. But Gillislee does come in at No. 6 on the list.
McCartney points out that Gillislee will get a chance to pad his resume Saturday night against Vandy's 80th-ranked run defense. However it may be an opportunity for backups Mack Brown and Matt Jones to get carries.
Gators head coach Will Muschamp was asked about Gillislee's Heisman candidacy this week, and he replied, "We're in the fifth game of the year, next question."
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