From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about our Unreasonable Expectations. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our Unreasonable Expectations here.
Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
Today’s Question: Which Ohio State non-QB will be a Heisman finalist?
Jami’s Take: Marvin Harrison Jr.
While normal football fans turn their attention from the recent NFL Draft back to the upcoming college football, Matt and I (both decidedly not normal), are ready to fast forward through the entire upcoming season and straight to the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
While several Buckeyes have been named finalists in recent memory (including quarterback C.J. Stroud who was a finalist in both 2021 and 2022, quarterback Justin Fields in 2019, and quarterback Dwayne Haskins in 2018 — are you sensing a theme?), no Buckeye has won the Trophy since quarterback Troy Smith won in 2006.
This year, that could very realistically change — but if the trophy for the top player in college football returns to Columbus, it is unlikely a quarterback’s name will be on it given that we don’t have a clear standout option at starter.
Since the year 2020, the Heisman committee has only awarded the Heisman Trophy to four non-quarterbacks. This happened most recently in 2020 when Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith became only the fourth wide receiver to win the Heisman.
Still, the award has felt increasingly QB-heavy as the role has changed, and there have arguably been many position players overlooked in favor of less-deserving quarterbacks (truly do not get me started on how strongly I feel that Michigan running back Blake Corum deserved to be a finalist exponentially more than Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, who wasn’t even the best player on his own offense, let alone in the entire NCAA).
If we can get past the slightly unrealistic expectation that the committee will choose some non-quarterback finalists this year, then Marvin Harrison, Jr. could be bringing some hardware to Columbus.
Marv was pulled from the Peach Bowl game against Georgia after suffering a concussion from a controversial third-quarter hit, but we have no reason to believe there are any lasting ramifications for his health or playing ability.
This is good news for Buckeye fans because we’re going to need last season’s top receiver to continue putting up massive numbers. Last year, Marv had 1,263 yards and 14 touchdowns on 77 receptions, and he’s already part of the conversation around the 2024 NFL Draft even before playing a single down of football this year.
When you consider Marv’s numbers, it’s actually not all that unreasonable to think he will be part of next year’s Heisman conversation. In fact, just yesterday, former OSU coach Urban Meyer named Harrison his favorite for the award, even comparing him to Buckeye legend Cris Carter (widely regarded as one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play the game).
The problem is that to win the Heisman, you need to have some luck on your side. You have to be a standout individually, posting up historic numbers that can’t be ignored. But you also need to have a little help from the guys around you to elevate your play.
Marv had that with Stroud, to be sure. Together, the duo was a little bit like lightning in a bottle: Magical and hard to replicate. Having Stroud under center allowed Marv to settle into a groove of greatness. He was a leader, but not THE leader. He knew there would be an element of reliability and consistency from his quarterback.
This kind of connection between QB and WR is critical if we’re going to see a wide receiver take home this award.
This year, it will be up to (most likely) Kyle McCord or Devin Brown to make magic with Marv, and neither of them has the same It-Factor that Stroud did. They’re great quarterbacks, and this is not intended to be a knock on them. But they’re not No. 2-overall-in-the-Draft great.
This is the largest barrier to a Harrison Heisman.
But consider the possibility that this also works in Marv’s favor. Last year, Harrison was good enough to be included in Heisman conversations, but ultimately Stroud had the edge and it was Stroud who found himself in New York.
This season though, it would be all but unheard of for McCord or Brown to be part of Heisman conversations. This gives Marv the edge. If his quarterback connects with him and lets him shine, chances are he will put up stellar numbers. The quarterback just needs to put him in the position to make himself look good. He’ll take care of the rest.
“Get the ball to Marv” is not a bad game plan, to be honest, and I trust Ryan Day to make sure the ball winds up in his hands. If the Buckeyes can accomplish that much, methinks we might have another Heisman coming to Columbus.
Matt’s Take: J.T. Tuimoloau
This take is not especially unreasonable when it comes to the talent of the player, but perhaps a bit more so because of the position he plays. J.T. Tuimoloau is unquestionably one of the most talented athletes on the team and in the country, so it shouldn’t be surprising if he ends up in New York in early December.
But, if J.T. plays to his potential this fall, not only should he be a Heisman finalist, but he might even have a shot to shock the world and win the award. While that is almost certainly unreasonable to expect from a defensive lineman, we saw what he is capable of in his eye-popping performance against Penn State last season. I wouldn’t advocate for putting any money on him replicating his six-tackle (including three for loss), two-sack, one-forced fumble, one-fumble recovery, one-tipped pass (which resulted in a Zach Harrison interception), two-interception, one-touchdown performance on a weekly basis, but anything even approaching this level of destruction would make for an incredible season.
I know that it is tough to imagine a defensive player making the Heisman finalist list, but it wasn’t that long ago when the Buckeyes sent a defensive end to New York. In 2019, both quarterback Justin Fields and edge rusher Chase Young were invited to the ceremony, finishing third and fourth respectively, and I think there’s a possibility that Ohio State sends two again this year.
The defensive line appears to be as talented as it has been in recent memory with Jack Sawyer finally back to his normal position of defensive end and the likes of Mike Hall Jr., Tyleik Williams, and Ty Hamilton in the middle — not to mention the recent transfer addition of Tywone Malone. The depth at both line positions is a little more suspect, but the top talent across the line is spectacular, which should make it a bit easier for Tuimoloau to get his.
So, I will go ahead and predict that J.T. will wind up in New York (full disclosure, I did last year as well). But don’t be surprised if both Jami and I are right, or if Kyle McCord sneaks in as well.
Who has the right answer to today’s question?
This poll is closed
Jami: Marvin Harrison Jr.
Matt: J.T. Tuimoloau