Collin Klein's Heisman hopes, and perhaps NFL Draft stock shone brightest in West Virginia in late October. Klein went 19-for-21 passing for 323 yards and three touchdowns, adding 41 yards and four (!) touchdowns on the ground. It was easy to vault him to the top of Heisman projections with early-season favorite Geno Smith passing for just 143 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in that same game. You know, the guy projected to go No. 1 in SB Nation's latest mock draft.
Klein's stock, meanwhile, has fallen precipitously. He slipped to a still-respectable third place in Heisman voting, but threw seven interceptions to just four touchdowns over the final four games of his college career. According to reports, he is struggling mightily in East-West Shrine Game practices. Stephen Holder of the Tampa Bay Times described Klein's throwing motion as "very strange." Note: He didn't say too slow, too elongated or too short. It's unclear just where one begins to fix "strange."
Klein will have to try distance himself from his most recognizable doppelganger, Tim Tebow. The resemblance is uncanny, from their size (both are north of 6'3, 230 pounds) and lumbering gaits, right down to the wonky mechanics. Tebow's flame-out with the New York Jets this season may make teams hesitant to take a flier on Klein before the latest stages of April's draft.
The good news for Klein is that the read-option is taking a hold in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers' drive to the NFC Championship Game (and maybe beyond) with Colin Kaepernick under center should ensure that Klein will have a spot somewhere in the NFL next season. Kaepernick was a second round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and was able to develop on the bench for a season and a half before being promoted ahead of Alex Smith. Last week, he accounted for 263 yards passing, 181 yards rushing and four total touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers.
Klein doesn't Kaepernick's elite speed or zippy arm, but the Tebow comparisons do highlight just how rare of an athlete Klein really is. Combining size, speed and leadership (Klein won 21 games over two seasons as the Wildcats' starter) has always been the NFL's most basic and reliable recipe for success. And who knows, a transition to tight end may even be in the cards. Unfortunately for Klein, he will overcome doubt from every angle if he is to ever be a starting quarterback again.