PCP: Can Ball live up to the Heisman hype?

first_imgBall will always play in shadow of incredible 2011 statsBall has the speed, power and vision to be one of the elite runners in the nation this season, but he simply set too high a bar last season to live up to this year’s preseason Heisman hype.It’s not that No. 28 can’t handle the pressure. It’s that matching the 1,923 yards on the ground and still unbelievable 39 touchdowns from 2011 is a nearly impossible feat. And he didn’t get off to a promising start with his 120 yards on 32 carries (3.8-yard average) against an FCS defense (even if it was a decent one) in Northern Iowa.With historic numbers last season – by far the best of any running back in college football – his fourth-place finish last year may be the closest he comes to bringing home the Heisman Trophy. He will certainly put up impressive numbers this season and have plenty of highlight reel runs, but Ball would need everything to go perfectly in his final season in a Wisconsin uniform to improve on his remarkable junior campaign.Further damaging his chances of living up to the sizable hype is an offensive line that failed to open the big holes for one of the most talented backfields in the nation in the season-opener. Ball can’t spin off defenders and bulldoze over undersized defensive backs if the run creators in front of him can’t create enough space for him to get beyond the line of scrimmage.Only time will tell if Travis Frederick and Ricky Wagner can lead a line comparable to that of last year, a unit led by Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler, two early-round NFL draft picks.So, will MoneyBall have a great season, the best of any tailback in the Big Ten? Yes. But I don’t think he will find himself giving an acceptance speech at New York’s Downtown Athletic Club this December.The lone hope is that they hand him the “career Heisman,” for his achievements over the last two years rather than a single season. But that late in the season, Barkley-mania will have already overtaken the nation.Although it will be a challenge, Ball will have solid Heisman campaign in 2012There’s no doubt about it, it’s going to be a challenge for Monte? Ball to repeat the stat line and success of 2011. But if the Northern Iowa game cast doubts about Ball’s potential to repeat his historic junior year, just remember a few key facts.One, the offensive line is replacing three starters from a year ago. There’s going to be a period in this nonconference schedule where this new starting group finds its chemistry together. However, this shouldn’t be a cause for concern. Wisconsin’s hog-mollies will find their groove sooner rather than later and open holes for Ball big enough for the Route 80 bus to fit through.Two, the Badgers will still have a solid pass game to keep opponents from stacking the box against the run game. While offensive coordinator Matt Canada played conservatively against the Panthers – something most play-callers do in the nonconference season so conference opponents are limited in their scouting – new quarterback Danny O’Brien made the most of his passing opportunities, going 19-23 for 219 yards and two touchdowns. One of the two touchdowns was a 53-yard strike, as O’Brien showcased his ability to beat opponents deep.Three, Monte? Ball is still Monte? Ball. It isn’t difficult to notice the Badgers’ tailback looks physically stronger than a season ago (Ball added over seven pounds of muscle in the offseason), and that will pay dividends in a long season of run-heavy football. Saturday, Ball constantly produced yards out of nothing, as he experienced first contact behind the line of scrimmage multiple times. Once the offense finds its rhythm and the holes open up, there are plenty of reasons to believe Ball will put up similar total yards to a season ago. And while the touchdowns may not come in bunches, Ball will still find himself with a solid chance to win the Heisman in 2012.After all, Ball knows that his draft stock in the NFL is affected by his performance this season. And that’s powerful motivation.last_img

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