Hutchinson for Heisman? UM's Gattis makes case, which falls on deaf ears with oddsmakers

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis gets an up-close view of edge-rusher Aidan Hutchinson every day in practice and in the building.

Gattis so values what Hutchinson has brought to the team this season, beyond his 10 sacks and nine QB hurries, he has taken to leading an informal Heisman Trophy push for the senior and two-time captain. The trophy, awarded to the best player in college football, typically goes to an offensive player. Michigan’s last Heisman winner, Charles Woodson in 1997, was the first predominately defensive player to win.

“I think he should be in the discussion for the Heisman,” Gattis said Wednesday, when asked how difficult it is going up against Hutchinson in practice. “Regardless of numbers, when you talk about someone that’s impacted a team greater than anyone else, he single-handedly has impacted this team and led us to be 9-1.”

Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson.

Michigan is No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings and is preparing to play at Maryland on Saturday before returning home for the regular-season finale against Ohio State.  

Hutchinson is coming off a three-sack game at Penn State last weekend and his 10 sacks are tied with teammate David Ojabo. Hutchinson’s father, Chris, is second on program’s single-season sack list with 11 (1992), and the record is 12 (David Bowens, 1996 and LaMarr Woodley, 2006).

Hutchinson is projected to be a top NFL Draft pick and is listed at No. 5 on ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper’s most recent Big Board. He had surgery last season after breaking his ankle against Indiana.

“What Aidan brings to this team, he’s the reason, I won’t say it’s one person specifically, but Aidan could of left last year. He could of entered the draft,” Gattis said. “We became a different team last year, not to reflect back on it, when we lost Aidan. It was kinda like seeing your superheroes go down. A lot of people can blame one thing or another, but that was a big impact on our team along with the confidence of our team.

“Having Aidan come back, to watch him commit himself to an offseason workout, to never doubt, to never question, he was one of the first guys to announce he was coming back to really kinda drive a lot of guys to end up coming back whether to play for a sixth year or having a guy like Josh Ross and Andrew Vastardis come back as leaders.”

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Hutchinson is one of four finalists for the Lombardi Award, given to the top offensive or defensive lineman, or linebacker. Woodley in 2006 is Michigan’s most recent winner.

Gattis said Hutchinson changes the way opposing coordinators prepare for and play against Michigan. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Hutchinson also has two pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

“In practice, we hate it because the type of disruption that he shows in games is the same way in practice,” Gattis said. “There’s no tackle that can block him, there’s no tight end that can block him. He impacts the game in so many more ways than what statistics show. He’s very disruptive obviously as a pass rusher, he affects the game in the run game, but if you’re an opposing offensive coordinator, he changes your whole game plan on how you choose to attack a defense by having a guy that has that much threat to really affect a play. He’s a guy that’s a true difference maker.”

Oddsmakers aren't on board with Gattis. BetMGM lists 29 players with odds to win the Heisman, and Hutchinson isn't of them. Michigan QB Cade McNamara is, listed 16th, at +15000. Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III is third, at +350. Michigan State has never had a Heisman winner.

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Twitter: @chengelis