By (Tyler Waldrep)

The first fumble Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen returned for a touchdown earned him some snickers in the locker room as he struggled to run the last portion of the 75-yard distance that stood between him and the end zone.

“But they did say I looked a little better this touchdown,” Allen said.

Perhaps that’s because he only had to run 30 yards this time around or perhaps his teammates want to stay on his good side after watching Allen perform his best Man of Steel impression while sacking Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight.

His teammates aren’t the only ones taking notice. Allen’s game against the Aggies vaulted him into the Heisman conversation. ESPN and CBS Sports panels currently have the lineman fifth in the race with Michigan’s Jabril Peppers the only defender ahead of him. The Associated Press currently has Allen fourth on its list of guys to watch.

No singular outlet will decide which player hoists the award over his head next, but Heisman voters are spread around the country, and these lists could potentially narrow the field for voters at some point.

Michigan’s Charles Woodson was the first, and last, primarily defensive football player to win the award. So does Allen have any shot to become the second?

Since 2009, three defensive players have finished as Heisman finalists. Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in 2009 (fourth place), LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu in 2011 (fifth place) and Notre Dame linebacker in 2012 (second place).

Note: all stats recorded after the Heisman Trophy ceremony have been subtracted so each player’s stat line reflects the information available to Heisman voters.

Name Tackles
Solo-Total TFL-Yards Sacks-Yards QBHSuh50-8223-9212-7726Mathieu53-706.5-441.5-103Te’o52-1035.5-191.5-134Allen (nine games)19-387.5-557-5511Allen (12 games)25-5110-739-7315

Suh provides the best comparison for Allen, but all three finalists finished with 50 solo tackles and at least 70 total. While it it would not be shocking to see Allen outperform his projected tackle numbers, it is incredibly unlikely that he does so to the extent that he comes close to reaching the numbers set by Suh and the others. Allen might finish the year playing at a high level, but his position -with this team- likely limits the amount of tackles he will record this year. It also seems likely that some voters will fail to account for the reason behind the discrepancy or perhaps it won’t matter at all to them.

However, Allen is more likely to pass or even exceed Suh with regards to sacks, and that might be the most important stat for a pass rusher like Allen. His current projection has him falling short, but I suspect he has one more multi-sack game left in the tank. Of course Allen’s numbers would only improve if Alabama qualifies for the SEC Championship Game.

Note: all stats recorded after the Heisman Trophy ceremony have been subtracted so each player’s stat line reflects the information available to Heisman voters.

Name PBU INT-Yards Fumbles
FF-FR-Yards Touchdowns Blocked kicksSuh101-01-0-003Mathieu72-166-5-394 (2 PR, 2 FR)0Te’o47-350-2-800Allen (nine games)20-00-2-1052 (FR)1Allen (12 games)30-00-2-1052 (FR)1

Sacks might keep Allen in the conversation, but he wouldn’t have a chance of finishing in the top three without his two touchdowns. Historically speaking, Heisman Trophy voters seem to judge a player by what he can do with the football in his hands.

Suh and Te’o didn’t need such plays to earn Heisman votes (for different reasons), but neither of them won the award. Suh, for all the plays he made, only earned votes (first, second, or third) from 41.9 percent of the voters. Te’o did significantly better (on 81.4 percent of ballots), but I think he benefited from a compelling story. Mathieu did the worst of them all (only on 21.1 percent of ballots), but I think he managed to put together a late push by appealing to voters with his big-play ability that resulted in four touchdowns. He returned two punts for 62 and 92 yards in the last two weeks.

It still sounds like a long shot, but Allen might be appeal to voters who preferred Suh and those who might favor someone like Mathieu. At a minimum, that should be enough to place earn Allen a spot as one of the finalists.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports