Earlier this week I gave five reasons why Baker Mayfield has a real shot at the Heisman trophy. Now, for his counterpart for this weeks game; here are five reasons Greg Ward Jr. has a shot to win the Heisman.
1. Duel Threat
In his first season as Houston’s solidified starter, Greg Ward Jr. shined. Whether it was through the air or on the ground, Ward dominated opponents from start to finish throughout the entire year. He finished the season with 2,827 yards through the air and 1,114 on the ground and led all quarterbacks with 21 rushing touchdowns and ended up with 38 total touchdowns. Though arguments could be made for others, Ward showed that he has what it takes to be the best duel threat quarterback in the nation. If Ward is able to stay healthy throughout the season, he has the talent and skill to be able to raise the bar even higher this year.
While the AAC has started to improve the past few years, there’s no doubt its still one of the weaker conferences in the NCAA. Aside from Memphis and Navy, the Cougars AAC schedule looks like it should be fairly manageable for the reigning conference champions. Other than Oklahoma, their only other notable non-conference game comes in November when they suit up against Louisville at home. While this favorable schedule can help him, it could also hurt Ward’s chances in the long run. If Ward is unable to put up the stats and highlight reel plays that are expected from him against this competition, he will have no shot at being named a finalist for the Heisman; however, if he is able to take advantage of the weak schedule, Ward’s numbers and popularity could skyrocket.
3. His Head Coach
His lack of starting consistency isn’t the only reason Ward’s total yardage went up by more than 1,300 yards from 2014 to 2015. In 2015 new head coach Tom Herman, coming from Ohio State where he was the offensive coordinator of the 2015 national champion Buckeyes, not only brought an explosive offense with him, but also a new mentality. From day one, Herman was able to plant and grow the confidence and winning mentality that the Cougars needed to take the next step towards a successful program. While he inspires the whole Cougar program, Herman’s continued enthusiasm and confidence in his star quarterback specifically is crucial for Ward’s continued success.
4. His Confidence on the Big Stage
Last year, Greg Ward Jr. was able to dominate no matter how big the stage was. In every high profile game, whether it was the blowout against Navy, the conference championship against Temple or the Peach Bowl against Florida State, Ward was able to stick to his game and lead his team to the win. While I agree that a star quarterback should be expected to play well on the big stage, Ward hadn’t experienced a high stake game since 2012 when he was the quarterback at John Tyler. If Ward can continue to impress in high profile games, starting against Oklahoma, his shot at being a Heisman finalist will soar.
5. He’s a Natural
While he’s obviously a talented duel threat quarterback, what really impresses most about Greg Ward Jr. is how easy he makes it seem. His football IQ and natural athletic ability make him one of the most exciting players to watch in all of college football. Over the course of his Cougar career he has also played wide receiver and even returned kicks, something that not many star quarterbacks can put on their resume. His knowledge of the game and of the Houston system takes both his and his team’s game to another level entirely. He may not have the talent around him, the high profile school or a highly prestigious conference, but Greg Ward Jr. has the “it” factor that if utilized, just might be able to put him in the conversation for college football’s most prestigious award.