In the past, there wasn't as much excitement surrounding the Heisman race, but in the last several years, some record-setting performances have earned the award. Between Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Johnny Football and Famous Jameis, the Heisman has gotten more hype - and rightfully so.
As we enter the 2014 college football season, the obvious front-runner looks to be the guy who won last year - FSU’s Jameis Winston. What was so impressive about the young man from FSU is that it’s hard to point out what he did best last season. Winston threw for over 4,000 yards, he threw 40 TD passes, completed almost 67 percent of his passes, and won the national title - that’s damn impressive! I think Winston is the clear favorite to win it again, as we could have out first repeat winner since the Buckeye’s Archie Griffin accomplished that feat in 1974 and 1975.
As we move closer to the start of a historic season, here are several players I think have a shot to be in the mix to win the 2014 Heisman Trophy.
Braxton Miller (QB Ohio State) will have the numbers, and his team will have enough wins for him to be a serious contender. Miller not only is a threat with his arm, but he should be able to rush for more than 1,000 yards again this season. Plus, Miller has lost only two games in two seasons. Miller will be a serious contender this year.
Oregon QB Marcus Mariota's numbers will be as good as anyone, but there seems to be a bit of hate when it comes to the Oregon program. With back-to-back losses to Stanford, and poor outings in each of those games, Mariota was completely taken out of the race after those two games in 2012 and again in 2013. I’m not saying that the Ducks have to win all of their games for Mariota to win the trophy, but for a guy that passed for over 3,600 yards, rushed for another 715 and totaled 40 TD’s, he has to at least lose with better numbers than he has the last two seasons.
Trevor Knight is a player that has exploded into the race for basically one performance. Granted, the 348 yards and four TD’s that Knight tossed in the Oklahoma Sooners 45-31 blowout win over Alabama was damn good. Knight should be able to pad his stats this season, and the Sooners should be in the top 5 all season long. If OU lands in one of the four playoff spots, look for Knight to be in NY for the Heisman ceremony. That’s not bad for a guy that threw only five TD’s and four picks before he scorched the Tide!
Bulldogs RB Todd Gurley has fans in Georgia saying the young man is the second coming of Herschel Walker. Gurley rushed for 989 yards and hauled in 441 yards in receptions. His 16 total TD’s was quite impressive, considering that he missed three games last season. Gurley could be overlooked due to the fact that fellow UGA RB Keith Marshall will get plenty of touches this season too.
I think that Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon could be a factor in the Heisman race this season. Gordon quietly averaged 7.8 yards per rush last season, while piling up 1,609 yards on 206 rushing attempts. Although his Badgers lost to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl, Gordon gashed an SEC defense to the tune of 143 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per touch. If Gordon lights it up on national TV against another SEC team in the season opener against LSU, that could be a big push for him to start the season.
You have to toss Tide RB T.J. Yeldon into the mix . Sure, Alabama has three quality backs with Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake in the Tide backfield, but Yeldon is the ringleader. Leading the SEC in rushing (123.5 yards per game) in 2013 is super big, and with a new face at QB, Yeldon could be another Tide RB that factors into the race this season.
Another to keep an eye on is UCLA QB Brett Hundley, and for a dark horse I’ll go way out on a limb and give a look-see to Ole Miss WR Laquan Treadwell. Hundley is a legit candidate after throwing for nearly 7,000 yards and 53 TD’s the last two seasons, and the Bruins could be the class of the Pac-12 this season. Treadwell is truly a long shot, but I like him a lot! Wide Receivers don’t usually factor into the race as a serious contender unless they do some special things on special teams. Treadwell will have to get his attention from his play at WR. The big target was third in the SEC last season averaging seven receptions per game. The true freshman lived up to the hype last season and if the Rebels can get off to a hot start and Treadwell does well against Alabama in the Rebels fifth game of the season, hey he might be mentioned.
I caution you that if you go back and look at three players that went on to win the Heisman, no one knew who they were before the season. Those players were, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston. In other words, another unknown could easily win the trophy again this year!