As promised, EA Sports has asked us to talk about Heisman winners in relation to their new feature that allows you to put any Heisman winner on any team. This will be a two-post topic, the first dealing with which player we would want on our own team, and the second being which player we believe was snubbed for the award other than Drew Brees, which we all know should have won in 2000.
The first one is a little more difficult. Purdue has never had a Heisman winner and only a small handful of players were ever good enough to be named finalists. I decided to go a slightly different way and see what Heisman trophy winner would help Purdue the most at the position. In that regard, I went with 2003 winner Jason White of the Oklahoma Sooners.
Yes, I know this seems like a very arbitrary selection, but hear me out. As much as I revere the legend of Brees, I firmly believe that 2003 was Joe Tiller's best and most complete team. The defense was an absolute beast full of NFL talent. A record nine players from that team were drafted with defensive studs like Stu Schweigert, Gilbert Gardner, Landon Johnson, Shaun Phillips, Niko Koutouvides, Craig Terrill, and Jacques Reeves coming of age. Bernard Pollard and Ray Edwards played extensively as freshmen on that team. Future Pro-bowl center Nick Hardwick anchored a stout offensive line. John Standeford and Taylor Stubblefield were sure-handed receivers Jerod Void and Brandon Jones were excellent in the backfield.
This team was loaded, yet even with a future NFL quarterback, the offense was somewhat limited. That is why I would go with White over Kyle Orton. White was a unanimous All-American with 40 touchdowns against eight interceptions. He would fit right in, too, after double ACL surgeries. He won the Heisman in a close vote over Larry Fitzgerald, whom I would pick over White, because Fitzgerald with Stubby and Standeford and Orton throwing to them would be unstoppable.
How does the season play out with White instead of Orton? Purdue was 9-4 that season, dropping a tight game in the opener to a very good Bowling Green team, overtime games at Ohio State and in the bowl game to Georgia, and getting blown out at Michigan. In reality, Purdue was a handful of plays from being 12-1 on the year, which would have been the best in school history. As it was, Purdue beat ranked teams in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Wake Forest, the last two on the road. They also beat "name" programs Penn State and Notre Dame with ease and smoked Arizona 59-7.
Orton was good, but served as more of a caretaker at quarterback, throwing for 2,885 yards and 15 TDs against seven interceptions. Void did much of the offensive lifting with 13 touchdowns and 952 yards rushing. If you plug in White, who wouldn't have to run much if at all, the offense suddenly hums. Standeford and Stubblefield caught most of the passes that year, but Anthony Chambers was a speedy threat and the tall Kyle Ingraham could be utilized.
With White Purdue doesn't struggle as much as it did to move the ball in the opener against Bowling Green. White also goes into Ohio State and wins. I don't what difference he makes at Michigan, but at 11-1 Purdue is in an at large BCS bowl. They likely go to the Fiesta Bowl and beat Kansas State again, just for fun. There is even a chance Purdue shares the split title with LSU and USC.
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