Luther Burden wants to win the Heisman at Mizzou. Here's how he can do it

Columbia Daily Tribune
So, you want to be a Heisman winner, Luther?
Of the personal goals he set, Luther Burden, the former five-star prospect who made electrifying plays for Missouri football as a freshman last season, is shooting beyond the moon and will aim directly for the sun.
"I wanna win the Heisman, basically," Burden said Sunday. "That's all. I wanna show people I'm the best in the country."
That's all, indeed.
To be clear, the Heisman Trophy has historically been a trophy for a quarterback or running back to win. Of the 86 past winners, 37 have been quarterbacks and 39 have been running backs, including Reggie Bush's vacated trophy from 2005.
When asked what it would take for him to earn the Heisman, he passed on the question. For now.
"Shoot, that's a good question," Burden said. "Can you come back to that?"
It is a good question, and the simple answer is to score touchdowns. But, that's easier said than done against SEC defenses. History is also not on his side.
Only four receivers have won the Heisman, according to the trophy's official website: Michigan's Desmond Howard, Notre Dame's Tim Brown, Nebraska's Johnny Rodgers and Alabama's DeVonta Smith. Plus, a Missouri Tiger has never won the award.
Smith was the most recent receiver to win the Heisman, in 2020. Following what he did would be a great blueprint for Burden.
That year, the same year Alabama rolled to a 15-0 record and a national championship, Smith caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 25 total touchdowns. Only Tide teammate Najee Harris had more touchdowns with 30, and that led the nation.
Looking back at the others who won illustrates why it's so challenging for Burden to win the award. In 1991, Howard scored 23 touchdowns, 19 of which were receiving scores and two on special teams. When Brown won the award in 1987, he scored a rather pedestrian six touchdowns. Three of those were punt return touchdowns, though.
Rodgers won the Heisman as a receiver but had more rushing touchdowns than receiving scores. He still scored 19 total touchdowns.
Aside from Tim Brown, the common denominator is to score around 20 touchdowns as a receiver, rusher and returner. Burden's already on the right path in that regard.
In his first season, he showed he could be a guy who could score just by simply touching the football. He had 45 catches for 375 yards and six touchdowns in 10 starts.
He also scored two rushing touchdowns and added a special teams score with a punt return touchdown against Abilene Christian. He has the ability to score in plenty of ways.
At SEC Media Days, MU head coach Eli Drinkwitz mentioned how the slot receiver gets the most amount of targets in the Tigers' offense, and it's also easier to get the ball in the slot receiver's hands with different motions and plays. That was the case last season with Dominic Lovett. Drinkwitz wants that to be case this year with Burden.
"We want Luther Burden to be uniquely Luther in the slot position," Drinkwitz said at the SEC Media Days podium. "A bigger body, a guy who is going to have more free access, different route combinations that he's going to use within (new offensive coordinator Kirby Moore's) offense."
With this being Moore's first season, Burden said he's ready to step into the slot and wrangle a new position. He knows it's a great move for him, especially since he'll have more space to create.
Moore, a former wide receiver, can be creative with him, too.
"I feel like I could be way more creative," Burden said. "We have a new offensive coordinator who obviously did well at other places. I feel like I know he knows what he's doing and he's going to put me in the right position."
Still, Burden will need to produce at a level higher than any MU receiver has before. He'll also need to buck the trend of receivers being consistently left out of the Heisman conversation.
Before Smith won in 2020, the last time a receiver was a Heisman finalist was in 2016, when Oklahoma's Dede Westbrook finished fourth after an 80-catch, 1,524-yard and 17-touchdown season. In fact, there have been only five receivers to earn a Heisman finalist nod since 2012: Smith, Westbrook, Alabama's Amari Cooper, West Virginia's Tavon Austin and USC's Marquise Lee.
But, that doesn't matter to Burden. It's hard not to believe he'll be in a position to make his argument to be a Heisman finalist at some point considering how he nearly scored double-digit touchdowns in his freshman season.
He knows progression is coming.
"Last year, I was just getting my feet wet," Burden said. "This year, I feel like it's definitely on the rise."

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