West Virginia Kansas St Football

West Virginia wide receiver David Sills (13) will be among the favorites for Big 12 honors when they're announced in the coming days.

The views from here:

It’s that time of year.

Or rather that second time of the year.

While many of us vote in general elections on the first Tuesday after November 1, some of us also vote a second time — on the Heisman Trophy, All-Big 12 teams, etc.

This week I started combing through all the data and, as regular followers know, I enjoy sharing. As regular followers also know, I usually don’t feed at the trough of ESPN. I take pride in forming my own opinions.

I believe, for instance, I was the only person to vote for Odell Beckham. I’ve given Jadeveon Clowney my No. 1 vote. Heck, I once placed Ryan Shazier, a dominant player at Ohio State, on my ballot.

Anyway, I’ve taken an early look and have come to realize the Big 12 has three of the handful that deserve serious consideration. (I’ll wait until after Saturday’s championships to vote.)

First, understand I don’t see a dominant defensive player this season, unless you dig San Jose State linebacker Frank Ginda. Also, while names like quarterbacks Josh Rosen of UCLA and Sam Darnold of USC might be higher NFL draft picks, they haven’t been the best 2017 college players. Which is what we’re eyeing.

What’s interesting is my No. 1 Heisman vote will probably come down to Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield (which, I know, I know, is the man ESPN is pushing) and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. Both had tremendous seasons. While Mayfield is No. 1 nationally in passing efficiency (and showmanship), Rudolph is No. 1 in points responsible for. In total offense, Rudolph is No. 2, while Mayfield is No. 3. Does winning at the highest level push Mayfield over the top? Maybe. Probably.

If you’re a total offense lover, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson is still your guy. I really like San Diego State running back Rashad Penny, who is leading the nation in all-purpose yardage and scoring.

Overall, you can’t go wrong by voting for any of the top three all-purpose guys: Penny, Penn State’s Saquon Barkley or Stanford’s Bryce Love. Oh, and the most underrated candidate, over there jumping up and down trying to get our attention, is Oklahoma State receiver James Washington. All he’s doing is leading the nation in receiving yards a game.

I hear you. What about WVU’s David Sills, who still leads the nation in receiving touchdowns with 18? The nearest competitor, after all, remains four back.

My belief is Sills has been perfectly honored as one of the finalists for the Biletnikoff Award. (WVU, by the way, sent out a release that Sills will attend the ESPN College Football Awards Show in Atlanta, which will air Dec. 7.)

It will be interesting to see if Sills returns to Morgantown or applies for the NFL draft. The belief from here is he could use another year of seasoning. Yet if QB Will Grier chooses to leave, maybe Sills does as well.

The latest I’m hearing on Grier is he’s leaning on returning to WVU, but leaving his options open. Remember, Grier has a wife and child and posted exceptional numbers when healthy this season.

There are, however, many top QB prospects entering the draft. The question: Is there sufficient demand for more QBs?

Keep in mind, WVU can offer an insurance policy to Grier if he does return.

In addition to my Heisman research, I scoured data for my Associated Press All-Big 12 vote and found many interesting tidbits.

First, Grier should undoubtedly be the Newcomer of the Year, which he was in preseason league voting. Oh, and Sills? While there are many nice receivers in the Big 12, know he scored almost as many points this regular season at Oklahoma kicker Austin Seibert (109 to 108). Think about that.

The other WVU receivers, by the way, while talented, will probably get lost in the voting because they split the bulk of the team’s receptions three ways.

A surprising vote, however, is heading the way of Mountaineer Marcus Simms. That’s because voters are supposed to vote for an “all-purpose player.” And guess who leads the Big 12 in all-purpose yards? Simms, who had 630 receiving yards, 106 punt return yards and 692 kick return yards. He averaged 129.7 per game. And he certainly was a threat.

Among the other Mountaineers I’m voting for is linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton. He’s currently No. 6 nationally in solo tackles a game, averaging 6.1. Who knew?

While the Big 12 was sharply criticized for its showing in last season’s NFL draft, it should rebound nicely in 2018. Just consider this list of potential first-round draft picks: Oklahoma’s Mayfield, tackle Orlando Brown and tight end Mark Andrews; Texas tackle Connor Williams, linebacker Malik Jefferson and safety DeShon Elliott; and Oklahoma State’s Washington and Rudolph.

Elliott, by the way, was my pick as league defensive player of the year. Had a tremendous season.

And finally…

Has anyone else considered the twist of fate that has ex-WVU quarterback Geno Smith taking over for longtime New York Giants star Eli Manning this Sunday?

Remember that back in 2000, in Nashville’s Music City Bowl, Manning had his coming out party against West Virginia in Don Nehlen’s coaching swan song.

Ole Miss — coached, by the way, by David Cutcliffe, who just turned down Tennessee to stay at Duke — was losing 49-16 when Manning, a freshman, was thrown into the game. He led the Rebels to 22 unanswered points and almost spoiled Nehlen’s last game. The Mountaineers, though, survived 49-38.

It was Nehlen’s coaching end. It was Manning’s start. And now, in Manning’s probable Giants’ end, it’s Smith and his West Virginia ties taking over.

That ol’ circle of life …

Mitch Vingle can be reached at 304-348-4827 or mitchvingle@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter@MitchVingle.