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Smith won Heisman, but Quinn may be No. 1
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Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn sets to throw a pass against Navy in Baltimore on Oct. 28. Though he finished third in the Heisman balloting, many experts say Quinn will be the top pick in April’s NFL Draft.
    NEW YORK — The Heisman Trophy night belonged to Troy Smith. Brady Quinn’s big day will come in April at the NFL draft.
    Seniors Smith and Quinn have one more game left in their stellar college careers.
    Smith leads No. 1 Ohio State into the national championship game on Jan. 8 against Florida, where he’ll try to wrap up his career with the ultimate prize. Quinn and Notre Dame are off to the Sugar Bowl to face LSU on Jan. 3.
    Then it’s time to start thinking about getting paid. At the next level, that Heisman Trophy on Smith’s resume doesn’t mean much — Eric Crouch, Danny Wuerffel and Gino Torretta can attest to that.
    Smith was the overwhelming choice of Heisman voters — a record 86.7 percent of them put him first on their ballots. Arkansas running back Darren McFadden was the distant runner-up and Quinn came in third, one spot up from his 2005 Heisman showing.
    Quinn, however, appears to be most wanted by the NFL. He’s among the early favorites to be the first player drafted.
    Size and system are Quinn’s advantages. He’s 6-foot-4 and under coach Charlie Weis, Quinn has been running essentially the same offense Tom Brady and the New England Patriots used to win three Super Bowls.
    In two seasons under Weis, Quinn has thrown for 7,197 yards and 67 touchdowns with seven interceptions and a completion rate of 64 percent. Plus, there’s no question about his character and ability to handle the spotlight — no small thing for an NFL quarterback
    ‘‘Anybody that’s able to start at Notre Dame and handle that pressure is very impressive,’’ said Gil Brandt, an analyst for, who was Dallas’ vice president of player personnel from 1960-89.
    Smith is listed at 6-1, which is less than ideal for the pros, and perhaps that’s even a bit generous. The most important part of Smith’s pro workouts might be when he faces the tape measure.
    ‘‘He’s about the same height as Drew Brees and Michael Vick, and Brees is playing about the best of any quarterback in the NFL right now,’’ Brandt said.
    Another thing that could work against Smith is that he’s done much of his best work out of the shotgun.
    But Smith no longer can be labeled a running quarterback. Sure, he’s still elusive and fast, but he only tucks and runs when all else fails these days.
    Smith ran 136 times for 611 yards in 2005. This season, he’s run 62 times for 233 yards. He’s comfortable in the pocket and accurate with his throws, completing 67 percent in ’06 for 2,507 yards with 30 TD passes and only five interceptions.
    ‘‘The guy has a tremendously strong arm,’’ Brandt said. ‘‘He’s also very mature. The guy’s 22 going on 25.’’
    As Smith and Quinn head to the NFL, McFadden will return to college as the 2007 Heisman front-runner.
    ‘‘It was really just a great opportunity for me to be here with two seniors,’’ said McFadden, the super sophomore who ran for 1,558 yards. He also had a 70-yard touchdown reception, a 92-yard kick return for a score and was 6-for-8 passing with three TD throws.
    Smith became the sixth quarterback in the last seven seasons to win the Heisman. USC tailback Reggie Bush broke up the quarterback run last season, and ’07 is sizing up to be a big year for running backs.
    West Virginia’s Steve Slaton (fourth in the Heisman voting), Rutgers’ Ray Rice (seventh) and Boise State’s Ian Johnson (eighth) all are sophomores like McFadden.
    Michigan tailback Michael Hart, a junior, finished fifth and also could be back next season.
    Of course, McFadden’s strong showing as a sophomore is no guarantee of a Heisman in his future.
    Oklahoma tailback Adrian Peterson was the Heisman runner-up as a freshman in 2004. Return trips to New York City seemed to be a given, but injuries derailed those trips.