By: Brian McDonald (@sackedbybmac)
Texas Longhorns junior running back D’Onta Foreman—from nearby Texas City—ran for 2,028 yards in just 11 games this season (had 15 rushing touchdowns), but despite his great season, he wasn’t named a finalist for the prestigious Heisman Trophy.
So why didn’t Foreman, who decided to forego his senior season and turn pro recently, make the top five and get a trip to New York?
His numbers without a doubt make him worthy, but the Heisman in large part is a team award, so it’s not surprising that even a great back like Foreman had his season largely ignored by the voters since his team went 5-7.
Foreman is hard to bring down as a runner once he builds up momentum, but a lack of momentum coming into this season also hurt his chances to win the Heisman. Foreman had less than 800 career rushing yards over his freshman and sophomore seasons, so he was only really known to Texas fans and name recognition among national voters was likely a problem.
It got me wondering though, Foreman ranks 22nd all-time on the single-season rushing yards list in college football history; how does someone with that resume get left out?
So, of the 21 players who rank ahead of him, how many of those players didn’t even make the top five of the voting?
- 9 of the 21 won the Heisman.
- 12 of the 21 finished in the top 3.
- 16 of the 21 finished in the top 5.
The only running backs ahead of him on that list who didn’t make the top five besides Foreman were from a non-power 5 school (Kevin Smith – Central Florida, Matt Forte – Tulane, Donald Brown – Connecticut), a freshman during a time when freshman didn’t win (Ron Dayne in 1996), and Tevin Coleman from Indiana (No one pays attention to Indiana).
So, I would make the case that an upper classmen running back from a major brand program & a major conference, rushing for 2,000+ yards, and being left out of the top five for the Heisman is a first.
Here’s a breakdown of how the 21 running backs ahead of Foreman on the single-season rushing list finished in the Heisman voting, in order of the most rushing yards ever for a single season:
- Barry Sanders (2,628 yards in 1988) – Won the Heisman
- Melvin Gordon (2,587 yards in 2014) – Finished 2nd
- Kevin Smith (2,567 yards in 2007) – Finished 8th
- Marcus Allen (2,427 in 1981) – Won the Heisman
- Derrick Henry (2,219 in 2015) – Won the Heisman
- Troy Davis (2,185 in 1996) – Finished 2nd
- Andre Williams (2,177 in 2013) – Finished 4th
- LaDainian Tomlinson (2,158 in 2000) – Finished 4th
- Tony Dorsett (2,150 in 1976) – Won the Heisman
- Mike Rozier (2,148 in 1983) – Won the Heisman
- Matt Forte (2,127 in 2007) – Outside the top 10
- Ricky Williams (2,124 in 1998) – Won the Heisman
- Ron Dayne (2,109 in 1996) – Outside the top 10
- Larry Johnson (2,087 in 2002) – Finished 3rd
- Donald Brown (2,083 in 2008) – Outside the top 10
- Lorenzo White (2,066 in 1985) – Finished 4th
- Damien Anderson (2,063 in 2000) – Finished 5th
- Rashaan Salaam (2,055 in 1994) – Won the Heisman
- Charles White (2,050 in 1979) – Won the Heisman
- Tevin Coleman (2,036 in 2014) – Finished 7th
- Ron Dayne (2,034 in 1999) – Won the Heisman
- D’Onta Foreman (2,028 in 2016) – Outside of the top 5
Lastly, a top five Heisman candidate should have had a special or historic season. Every candidate who made the top five was great this year, but only Lamar Jackson of Louisville (who should win and deserves to win) and Foreman had historic seasons above and beyond the norm.
No problem with quarterbacks DeShaun Watson or Baker Mayfield being in the top five, though I’d argue their seasons haven’t been as historic, but Foreman should absolutely be in the top five ahead of Oklahoma wide receiver DeDe Westbrook.
Westbrook this year ranks 21st in receptions, and shares the same knock against him as Foreman that he played in a bad defensive conference. His season also ranks outside the top 100 for most single-season receptions, outside the top 60 in most single-season receiving yards, and outside the top 40 in single season receiving touchdowns.
He’s had a great season, but not as historic as Foreman who led all FBS players in rushing yards in 2016, which was good enough to rank 22nd for single-season rushing yards.
The Longhorns 5-7 record is hard to look past, but keep in mind he was playing with a true freshman quarterback, receivers who had issues with drops, an inconsistent offensive line, and against opponents who focused their entire game plan around stopping him.
It’s not like Foreman was a quarterback who put up garbage time stats after falling behind, he was the only thing that kept them competitive. Foreman should be a finalist for overcoming the team around him, instead of being penalized for those limiting factors.