Michigan’s star running back, Mike Hart, has distanced himself from the pack at this point in the Heisman race. Fans are erecting websites for this man, as they feel he is the clear front-runner. An appropriately-titled post on a popular Michigan blog describes the way Michigan fans feel about their #20.
Hart leads the nation in rushing, at 154 yards per game, and he is the only I-A player who has thus far eclipsed 1000 yards.
Hart has never been a speedster, and many thought this would hurt him in his Heisman candidacy, due to his inability to break the “highlight reel” runs. However, Mike has completed many runs which could qualify, including his 54-yard touchdown run against Appalachian State, putting the Wolverines ahead with 4:36 left in the game, and his acrobatic rolling touchdown against Purdue, which buried the Boilermakers by the first quarter.
Many critics would state that Hart was of no help to his team during losses to Appalachian State and Oregon. However, as evidenced above, Michigan’s loss to Appalachian State was despite a superhuman effort from Hart, and he could have done little more than his 23 rushes for 188 yards and 3 touchdowns. Against Oregon, Hart was injured, yet still managed to carry the team on his back, rushing 25 times for 127 yards despite the complete lack of a Michigan passing game, and the the fact that Michigan was playing from behind all game. Even in the two Michigan losses, Hart carried the team on his back. One man can only take a flawed team so far.
Hart’s fellow contenders also play on teams with losses. Darren McFadden’s Arkansas team lost to Auburn in part because of his ineffectiveness, as he rushed 17 times for 43 yards (2.5 ypc). Andre Woodson was sacked 4 times (for 50 yards!) and threw a pick in Kentucky’s loss to South Carolina, in addition to the two bad laterals he threw that ended up as USC touchdowns. My intent is not to drag down Hart’s competition, but rather to demonstrate that no individual has a open-and-shut case for the Heisman.
As far as Hart’s status for Saturday’s game against Illinois? At this point, not even Mike’s mother knows how healthy he’ll be come Saturday night, but all indications are he will play – even if he’s at less than 100%. Co-captain Jake Long has complete faith that Hart will hit the field in Champaign on Saturday, going as far as to state “There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll play.” If he has proven nothing else in his four years as a Wolverine, it is that #20 is a warrior, and if he is physically capable of walking out onto the field, he will give his all to deliver a victory to the University of Michigan.
In fact, if loyalty to one’s team was a criterion in the Heisman voting, Hart would be without competition for the award. In the summer, when former Michigan Quarterback Jim Harbaugh spoke ill of his alma mater, Hart didn’t hesitate to fire back, asserting, “He’s not a Michigan man. I wish he’d never played here.” Hart’s loyalty to his team doesn’t stop with such defense of the program, he even went above and beyond guaranteeing victory of Notre Dame, despite the team coming off back to back losses to App. State and Oregon.
Hart is certainly the most deserving Heisman candidate at this point. Expect a highlight video in this space sometime in the next week or so.
All photos © 2007 Tim Sullivan
Posted under Personnel