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Hefferon: Looking into the crystal ball (Aug. 28)

By Jack Hefferon | Wednesday, August 28, 2013


I hate prediction columns.

Long utilized by columnists everywhere, a column full of bold guesses is an easy antidote for an impending deadline, and is the perfect crime of opinion writing. In the short term, an outlandish prediction brings attention to the “tortured genius” involved (something “geniuses” like Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless have mastered). The hype lasts through time but the details are usually forgotten, clearing the writer of most accountability. 

The only person left to care about the forecast is the forecaster himself, who can then dig successful predictions out of the pile and show how prophetic he truly is. Even when the prediction is wrong, the mistake can still be spun into more attention and hype.

But, writing this column as a 20-year, 364-day and roughly 20-hour-year-old, I hope you’ll allow me to indulge. Here are some things I think will happen this upcoming football season:

Jadeveon Clowney wins the Heisman

South Carolina defensive end Clowney weighs 275 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in about 4.5 seconds, but I think there’s even more momentum here than that. The Heisman Trophy has been handed out since 1935, but a solely defensive player has never won the award. The constant gripe that only offensive skill players win the Heisman often has been spoken, yet never acted upon. But the grumblings have grown with every passing year, and the time seems right for an elite defender to break through. Manti Te’o’s senior season may have been an enigma but it was another step in this process, and afterward the bruisers on the other side of the ball are closer than ever to some glory. 

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller will put up big numbers as the Buckeyes steamroll over the Big Ten. But if Clowney can surpass the 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss he had last season, the Heisman Trophy won’t need a ball anymore.

Johnny Football plays … for now

Speaking of the Heisman, let’s talk about its most recent winner – Texas A&M quarterback Jonathan Manziel. While you’re reading this, Johnny Football’s future is in jeopardy. Manziel met with NCAA investigators for six hours earlier this week in connection to allegations that he signed autographs for money, and his status for the Aggies’ season opener this weekend is in doubt.

There seems to be evidence that Manziel did sign memorabilia for cash, but no one with that knowledge seems to be volunteering it to the NCAA. By the time Johnny is an afterthought in the NFL, the NCAA will put the pieces together and strip Manziel of his Heisman. But in the meantime, the Johnny Football show will roll on.

Honey Badger bounces back

Twenty-one months ago, Tyrann Mathieu was a household name – or at least, a household nickname. During his time in LSU’s secondary, the Honey Badger tore up college football with his hard-hitting style, and his electric punt returns added extra syllables to cuss words across the South.

However, Mathieu was dismissed from the team in 2012 and ran into trouble with marijuana charges on multiple occasions. But after sitting out last season, Mathieu was selected by the Arizona Cardinals with a third-round pick and has impressed former critics this preseason. He may not be an All-Pro, but look for some SportsCenter Top 10-worthy plays out of the Honey Badger.

RGIII is never the same

Often when an athlete suffers a severe knee injury, the worry is that they won’t have the confidence and trust to move with the same explosiveness they used to. You could call this Boobie Miles syndrome, after the running back of “Friday Night Lights” (the book and the movie) fame.

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III may have the opposite problem. After blowing out his knee in last year’s playoffs Griffin continued to play, hobbling around until he reinjured it further. 

Now, Griffin is claiming his knee is back at 100 percent, and he’s ready to be the same elusive phenom he was last season. But with the athleticism of NFL defenses, even the smallest nick can be the difference between getting out of bounds and taking a beating. Griffin may bring back the swagger in Washington when he returns this fall, but he’ll be back on the injury list within a few years.

Contact Jack Hefferon at wheffero@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.