The SEC saw its preseason Heisman Trophy favorite continue to take a big step back in Week 2. But it may have another who might just be pulling a Charles Woodson.
Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche was in at fullback in the third quarter Saturday against Fresno State, took the handoff on third-and-goal and plowed ahead.
It was the junior's second touchdown in two weeks -- a wrinkle that could be what turns the All-American from an emotional Heisman contender into a legitimate one.
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Defenders in this race have largely been like those seemingly hopeless candidates on reality shows that are kept around for ratings. Sure, from time to time, you've got a Hugh Green, a Manti Te'o or a New York (that's a "Flavor of Love" callback) that make a legitimate run at the win.
But by and large they fall off. Blame voters for putting too much focus on quarterbacks and running backs, but college football -- especially in this era -- is a modern game.
Woodson gets credit for being the first defensive player to hoist the Heisman. The reality, though, is that he won in 1997 over Peyton Manning for being a jack-of-all-trades, returning punts and getting involved in the return game to go along with his cornerback duties.
Iowa defensive lineman Alex Karras (1957), Pitt DL Green (1980) and Notre Dame linebacker Te'o (2012) all finished second in their races, but outside of that, Nebraska DL Rich Glover, who was third in 1972, is the only other strictly defensive player in the top three.
Get involved on offense and it can be that game-changer that takes a player and keeps him from chasing Karras, Green and Te'o. It can stop him from being the champion of those who rail against the votership for locking in on glamour positions.
It can have a contender gunning for Woodson.
In the season opener against UT Martin, the 296-pound Nkemdiche took a toss from Chad Kelly and raced 31 yards down the field for his first career touchdown. That another TD came a week later vs. Fresno State says there could be something there, that coach Hugh Freeze is going to give him a role -- albeit a small one -- in the Rebels' offense.
Woodson wasn't a major factor in the Wolverines' offense, being on the field for about 10 plays a game. And he touched the ball 14 times as a wide receiver, with 246 yards and three scores.
Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson was Las Vegas' best option for the SEC to win another Heisman, but after throwing his fifth interception in a 27-20 overtime win over Jacksonville State, his chances are waning despite the Tigers' 2-0 record.
Nkemdiche is going to be among the nation's best defensive players, but that isn't enough to win. The fact of the matter is, unless he's getting offensive touches as the level of difficulty increases (see next Saturday in Tuscaloosa against No. 2 Alabama) he could fade quickly.
But after two games, Freeze and Nkemdiche have laid the groundwork suggesting that this is more than just an anomaly, and they most certainly have piqued our interest.
Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney