Carl Nassib: Heisman Finalist?

Story posted December 3, 2015 in Sports, CommRadio by Jonathan Gross

As the regulr season comes to an end, discussions about post-season accolades are starting to heat up. The Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious award given out, goes to the nation’s best player in the eyes of chosen sports journalists, previous winners, and fans. On Dec. 14, award finalists will anxiously sit in New York’s PlayStation Theater, waiting to make history. For most of the 2015 campaign, LSU running back Leonard Fournette seemed to be the clear-cut favorite. After two dismal performances against Alabama and Arkansas, Fournette watched his stock dropped. Now, Crimson Tide back Derrick Henry appears to be the front-runner. Below is my formula for Heisman success. If a player satisfies the equation, they should be considered to win.

Statistics+Storyline+Media Hype=Heisman Trophy

A Heisman Trophy has only been held by one Nittany Lion ever, John Cappelletti way back in 1973. Nonetheless, after a record-setting season, Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib deserves to join Derrick Henry and company in the Big Apple.

Statistics: Despite missing the final two regular season games, Nassib’s numbers are incredible. On the season, he leads the country in sacks (15.5), tackles for loss (19.5), and forced fumbles (6). No. 95 also accounted for 46 tackles, an interception, and a pass deflection. In comparison, former Nebraska defensive Ndamukong Suh amassed 85 tackles and an interception, but only 12 sacks and one tackle for loss. Suh is the most recent Heisman finalist (2009) who played defensive line, when he came in fourth place after voting. Nassib also has more sacks and forced fumbles than former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney did in 2012. Despite not being a finalist, he finished sixth in voting. Certainly, the numbers are there for the Nittany Lion defensive end.

Storyline: Everyone loves an underdog story, and Carl Nassib provides that. He is a former preferred walk-on, who did not start a single game in high school. As a sophomore and junior, Nassib saw minimal playing time. After Deion Barnes left early for the NFL Draft and CJ Olaniyan graduated, Penn State was in need of two defensive ends. Highly-recruited Garrett Sickels filled one of the voids while Carl, the younger brother of New York Giant quarterback Ryan Nassib, stepped into the other void. Who, outside of maybe the program and his family, would have thought that a former high school backup would lead the nation in multiple key defensive statistics? Not to mention, the Malvern Prep graduate set the Penn State single-season sack record, certainly not a small feat. Along with his numbers, Nassib’s story provides inspiration and a seemingly sure-fire path to New York City.

Media Hype: Here is where the Carl Nassib for Heisman campaign falls off the tracks. While perhaps unfair, media attention does play a key role in voting. There are a few reasons why Nassib is lacking in this category. Most importantly, his team is outside of the national spotlight. Sitting at 7-5 with no big-time wins, Penn State is hardly on anyone’s mind. Traditionally, Heisman finalists are on elite teams. Another reason is a lack of name recognition. Coming into the season, few outside of Happy Valley knew of Nassib. He wasn’t highly recruited; did not have an impressive season last year, and did not generate much offseason buzz like his teammate Anthony Zettel. Lastly, the star defensive end was marred by Penn State’s performance and injury in his team’s two most-watched games against Ohio State and Michigan. Despite a 1.5 sack/3.5 tackle for loss performance against the Buckeyes, it was overshadowed by the Nittany Lions’ blowout defeat. Against the Wolverines, Nassib played only a few snaps early on before succumbing to an injury.

While it is unlikely that Carl Nassib will be selected as a Heisman finalist, he would be worthy of the honor if picked. Perhaps Nittany Nation could swarm social media with #CarlNassib4Heisman in a last-ditch attempt to help out their star player. The 6-foot-7, 272-pound defensive end should not be too upset about a potential snub, however. Even without the Heisman, he is expected to take home a handful of other prestigious postseason awards.

Jonathan Gross is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism and international politics. Contact him at jwg5468@psu.edu