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Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon should not be a Heisman contender

September 9, 2011  |  By Benjamin Miraski

Oklahoma State beat up Arizona 37-14 on Thursday evening, and you can almost guarantee one thing that will happen.

Justin Blackmon will move up in ESPN's Heisman Watch rankings.

In Week 1, Blackmon had just eight catches, but continued his streak of 100-yard games. That was enough to garner him four votes in the poll.

He is sure to score better after 12 catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns against a Pac-12 team, even if Arizona has now given up almost 600 yards passing in two games.

While the Watch poll is meaningless except for discussion purposes, the discussion becomes a problem. Blackmon gets listed. He gets listed high. So we are subjected to more Blackmon highlights. We will see more Blackmon touchdowns. We will see more Blackmon.

But Justin Blackmon shouldn't be a Heisman candidate in the first place.

The look of shock can be wiped off everyone's faces. Even if a guy can make a fabulous spin move, it doesn't automatically elevate him to Heisman status.


There are reasons only two wide receivers have won the Heisman Trophy.

Most importantly, someone needs to throw you the ball. It is almost silly that while Blackmon earned his four votes in the Heisman Watch, the guy throwing him the ball, who presumably has other targets and contributes more to the game, had just one.

Sure Brandon Weeden tossed two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns in the opening game. But without Brandon Weeden, there is no Justin Blackmon.

The two are an inseparable pair. Blackmon doesn't get his two touchdowns on Thursday night with perfect fade passes over the defensive back. The ball was placed perfectly for the 6-1 receiver to catch it.

That most DBs in college are under 6-feet tall helps. But that doesn't take away from the ability to target the receiver properly. Blackmon did nothing on the two catches except make sure his feet stayed in bounds.

He didn't need a fantastic jump. He didn't need to make a move on the DB (the Arizona players did a fine enough job on their own of falling over).

He just needed to put his hands up.

It is unfortunate that there are not better stats out there for college football. Yards after catch numbers are just not readily available.

A Google search did pull up that Blackmon was able to gain a little over 10 yards after the catch when the ball was thrown to him at, or behind the line of scrimmage in 2010. It sounds impressive, but consider that he would presumably have more blockers with him on plays such as that.

And that number was no better than what Ryan Broyles put up at Oklahoma last season.

Going into the bowl game (against Arizona), Blackmon had 12 catches of more than 20 yards that went for touchdowns. Unfortunately, that stat wasn't broken down into how far the ball traveled in the air, and how far Blackmon carried it.

But the stat says more about Blackmon's ability to get open, rather than his ability to make plays with the ball. And while it does indicate that Blackmon is a hard man to cover, it doesn't make him the best player in college football. It just makes him better than almost every defensive back on the field.

Break down Blackmon's numbers further, and the discussion becomes even sillier. You can look at his average yards per catch last season of 16.05. It looks impressive; it also lead the FBS.

But if you look at the individual games, the average is inflated by a couple of long plays.

Take the Alamo Bowl. Blackmon had nine catches for 117 yards, for an average of 13 yards per catch. Yet 71 of those yards came on one play. The other eight catches averaged out to just 5.75 yards per catch.

The one play is eye-popping, but the rest of the game is just pedestrian.

That isn't to say that Blackmon doesn't have fantastic singular performances. Against Texas Tech, he had 10 catches for 207 yards, and most of the plays were for more than 20 yards, including his 62-yard touchdown catch.

That is a good day. But you can repeat the exercise of taking away his one play per game, and see how the numbers suddenly don't look so great.

And that doesn't mean he isn't the best receiver in college football. Blackmon's speed and hands make him a must-see. They make teams have to game plan specifically to stop him.

If there were a stat like WAR in baseball, we would see that Blackmon's WAR would be off the charts. He would lead all the wide receivers in the category.

But just as you wouldn't just copy down the league leaders in WAR for an MVP ballot, you would copy down the leaders in a mythical WAR for the Heisman ballot.

Wide receivers don't impact the game as much as a quarterback, or running back who touches the ball 30 times a game. They can't because they just don't see the ball as much.

Blackmon will get his share of touches, and will make a fantastic play (or two). But he will never be as important to the team as the guy who throws him the ball. He will never be the best player in college football, because he is dependent on someone making him great.

And that is why Blackmon shouldn't be in the top five in next week's Heisman Watch. A spin move and two fade catches doesn't suddenly earn you a trip to New York City.

   

Posted September 9, 2011 1:31 PM

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