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Posted on Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 9:26 p.m.

Stanford running back Toby Gerhart gets my Heisman Trophy vote

By Dave Birkett

I cast my vote for the Heisman Trophy this afternoon, and Stanford running back Toby Gerhart was No. 1 on my list.

In what should be one of the closest ballots in recent years, I gave Gerhart the edge over Alabama running back Mark Ingram and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow because he had the best, most consistently productive season.


Stanford running back Toby Gerhart (7) is surrounded by fans after Stanford defeated Notre Dame 45-38 earlier this season. (Photo: Associated Press)

Gerhart led the nation with 311 carries, 1,736 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns, and he helped catapult a Stanford team coming off a losing season to an 8-4 record.

Beyond that, Gerhart shined in the Cardinal’s biggest games. He ran for 223 yards and 3 touchdowns in an October win over Oregon, 178 yards and 3 scores in a win at USC, and 205 yards and 3 TDs in a win against Notre Dame. Even in defeat, Gerhart was generally the best player on the field. In a 34-28 loss to Cal, he scored all 4 Stanford touchdowns.

Mark Ingram has a better supporting cast and made the most of his national stage Saturday, something Tebow and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy did not. But Ingram, who finished with 1,542 yards and 15 touchdowns, didn’t have quite as good a season as Gerhart (even taking into account early-season games against Florida International and North Texas when Ingram barely played).

Still, Ingram was the clear No. 2 in my mind.

I agonized over a couple worthy choices for third place, but in the end settled on Tebow over McCoy. Tebow is the most unique player in college football and he kept Florida’s offense dangerous despite the loss of Percy Harvin.

McCoy had a very good season as well, but he struggled in his 3 biggest games of the year, throwing for just 482 yards and 4 interceptions in wins over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Nebraska.

3 others I considered: DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska - The best player on the field in Saturday’s Big 12 championship game.

WR Mardy Gillard, Cincinnati - Bearcats’ most dangerous weapon; great in the return game, too.

QB Kellen Moore, Boise State - Threw for 3,325 yards and 39 TDs with 3 interceptions.

Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.



Tue, Dec 8, 2009 : 1:59 p.m.

It gets on my nerves a little when a coach makes his main priority one of his players getting the Heisman. I saw a little too much of that going on at Stanford in the last month. My vote would be placed for Ndamukong Suh. What a force to be reckoned with. He would look good in a Lions uniform, but I can't wish that pain on any young kid.


Tue, Dec 8, 2009 : 10:51 a.m.

Charles Woodson was (is) a much better athlete than any of the finalists this year.


Tue, Dec 8, 2009 : 10:46 a.m.

Gerhart had some nice stats but what really separates him athletically from everyone else? Just because he can juke out a 240-lb linebacker and execute the dive right flawlessly doesn't mean he's Heisman material.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 4:21 p.m.

Dwightschute: When I think of throwback, I think of players like Jim Brown who was a big physical back, Gale Sayers and Walton Patton, even Barry Sanders. Jim Brown did not get hurt a lot and when he did, he played anyway. Brandon Minor is in no way a throwback, he's too little and everytime you turn around he's getting hurt. Most of these backs are too little anyway to be considered physical, plus they get hurt too much. It's unfortunate that you chose the racial angle to promote Toby Gerhart. I didn't see him play that much so I'm not sure just how good he is.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 4:17 p.m.

I agree with Zulu on the qbs lately being one dimensional, but I'll take it a step further. Alot of these qbs who get the hype are throwing a 2 yd pass and then the wr breaks out for a 65 yd td and the analysts are glowing over a great throw. McCoy may make the occassional downfield throw for a td, but too often he is throwing the dinks and dunks. Was so glad to see Tebow crying on Saturday and for generally getting crushed by alabama. As for the Heisman, I would like to Suh, Gerhart, or Ingram get it. NO qb deserves it this year. Heck I'd even vote for one of the freshman rbs James from Oregon or Dion Lewis from Pitt before Id vote for Tebow or Mccoy


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 1:45 p.m.

That was my point, Dave. Gerhart's running style is no different than Ingram's or Beanie Wells' or any other of the dozen studs who performed well in college. But because he's white, he's a throwback.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 1 p.m.

Brandon Minor is a throwback style runner too. Powerful and punishing and fun to watch. However, he got injured far to easily and is not quite the runner that Toby Gerhart is. Brandon also suffered from being in an offense that didnt utilize his skill set. Had he played under Coach Harbaugh's scheme and stayed healthy, then Brandon would have had a much better career. As it is, the other throwback style player Toby should win the Heisman. He deserves it.

Dave Birkett

Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 12:01 p.m.

That's a good column to bring the discussion, Dwight. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people who when they see a white running back probably think he's too slow or he's not as good as his black counterpart, even if it's subconsciously. With the term "throwback," some may read into it and see race, some may think of it as it relates to style, i.e. a plower who fits better in a pro-style offense than a spread. That was my first inclination. Gerhart's style isn't all that different than Minor's or Ingram's or a lot of physical backs. The biggest thing about what Taylor wrote, to me, is how USC wanted Gerhart as a fullback/linebacker and now he's in the running for the Heisman. When kids pick their college or when guys get drafted in the NFL, it's more about fit than anything. In the right system, Gerhart's a great running back. In a different system, he's a fullback or a defensive player. There's lots of different ways to win or be successful in football or whatever walk of life. The most important thing is finding the one that fits you best.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 11:30 a.m.

Denial is not the issue - - our perspective is.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 11:08 a.m.

A2D2, in light of the uncalled for 'throwback' comment, unfortunately it does remain as a issue whether you'd like to deny it or not.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 11 a.m.

What would everyone be saying if Gerhart was green? How about purple? What is he was polka dotted? My favorite color is blue----what if he was blue?. Sad to think that in 2009 in AnnArbor, MI. that this conversation - in the eyes of one commentor - would be reduced to the color of a young man's skin, not the content of his heart, or his accomplishments.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 10:59 a.m.

And to anyone who would give their vote to Colt McCoy, shame on you for your shortsightedness. In his three games against top-40 pass defenses this season (Colorado, Oklahoma and Nebraska), McCoy has thrown for an average of 192 yards, with no touchdowns and five interceptions. That is not Heisman material by a mile.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 10:47 a.m.

Gerhart is a throwback to old school football? Nobody would be saying that if Gerhart were black. In fact, if Gerhart was black, he'd be the runaway winner this year. Did you say that about Brandon Minor's running style this year? No. Nobody nationally has had the gall to write except Phil Taylor at SI. Taylor is black, in interest of full disclosure.


Mon, Dec 7, 2009 : 8:32 a.m.

I say its time to bring the Heisman back to a running back. Most of these QBs are one dimensional in that their greatest asset is the ability to throw the ball. If it was not for their outstanding receivers and running backs, these QBs would be just another player on the field. If their was one QB this season that I would cast a Heisman vote for it would that QB from Oregon. He can throw, he can run plus he's a nifty ball handler. I've always questioned Tim Tebow being such a dominant player. Two years ago, M exposed his weakness and Alabama exposed his limitations.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:23 p.m.

+1 you have to love the Spirit in which Toby Gerhart plays football! He is a throwback to another era.... He is also well coached by a true Michigan Man. Toby 4 Heisman.


Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 11:09 p.m.

YEAH! Gerhardt is sweet! McCoy might deserve a little mor consideration but I think you made a great choice by voting for Gerhardt.