October 17, 2007

Harrell's been lights out so far

There's a full-scale battle for the Heisman Trophy going on out there. And by out there I mean the Texas Tech University campus.

If the Red Raiders continue their winning ways-and this week's game at Missouri will tell us a great deal on that score-it is entirely possible that Tech will have two of the nation's Heisman front-runners on its roster.

Just as Southern Cal had Matt Leinert and Reggie Bush who both won the Heisman Trophy, so Texas Tech has Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree, who could.

Prior to Tech's annihilation of Texas A&M, the lion's share of the national spotlight was directed at Crabtree. And for good reason. Crabtree is hands down the best freshman in college football, he is having the best freshman season of any wide receiver in NCAA history, and is on pace to shatter most of college football's receiving records, again, as a freshman.

Bursting onto the national stage in that manner will grab people's attention in a big way.

But it is slowly dawning upon one and all that the man responsible for getting the ball to Crabtree is a pretty fair football player in his own right. Harrell is that man, and with a gutsy and spectacular performance against A&M on national television, his Heisman stock has skyrocketed.

Indeed, in one fell swoop he may have caught up with and overhauled Crabtree. Then again, if King Crab scores three touchdowns and has 200 total receiving yards in a victory over Mizzou, he will probably rocket past Harrell once more. And that is the way it could be for the remainder of the season. If the Red Raiders keep winning.

And numerous victories could be Harrell's hole card in the Heisman race. Quarterback, after all, is by general consensus the most important position on the football field. And that means that good quarterback play is the primary key to winning.

Many teams can compensate for the loss of a key receiver or running back, but the loss of a star quarterback usually spells disaster. The Red Raiders have a slew of offensive weapons, but without Harrell to distribute the ball to them, the Tech offense would lose a great deal of its potency.

Mike Leach, no less, asserts that Harrell is the magneto for the entire team.

"Incrementally, he [Harrell] has developed as a quarterback in his skills as far as being a leader and utilizing the team. He is the point guy for the entire team, and I think his play has elevated the play of the other guys too."

Emotion and maturity will doubtless play key roles in any Heisman run Harrell makes. In the Missouri contest of a year ago, Harrell threw a pair of interceptions that were returned for touchdowns, was pulled for a series, and heard boos when reinserted into the lineup. He then quickly threw a touchdown pass, and in his frustration and his rage, loosed a torrent of verbal abuse at the home folks.

A somewhat similar scenario occurred in Saturday's triumph over the Aggies. A&M lineman Von Miller blasted Harrell with a cheap shot well after the whistle and was not flagged for the obvious foul. An enraged Harrell then marched the Red Raiders for a quick touchdown and graphically serenaded the Aggie marching band.

Harrell's emotions are clearly a key to what makes him tick. They stoke the competitive fires that make him a great player and a formidable leader. If not tempered by wisdom, maturity and experience, however, they could distract him from the job at hand against the likes of Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma.

The experience is coming with every snap and every game. If the maturity and wisdom come in train, then Harrell could soon be sitting atop the college football world.

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