Top 25 Heisman Trophy Candidates

Joe Burrow’s Heisman Trophy run came seemingly out of nowhere. The Tigers won a national championship thanks largely to his development, but his departure to the NFL means it’s someone else’s turn to raise the trophy. The award has become more of a quarterback award, and it’s looking as if that will be the case again this year. There are talented running backs and wide receivers, but they most likely won’t produce enough to steal the award. A defensive player doesn’t exactly have a fighting chance at winning the Heisman. With how much the game has tilted in the offense’s favor, it’s nearly impossible. Unless said player can score touchdowns defensively or find a way to do it on offense or special teams, it’s a losing battle. There are plenty of viable candidates to win the trophy this year, and we take a look at some of the best who will be in the running.

This is one part of my College Football Preview, check out the rest here.

An outside shot

25. LB Micah Parsons, Penn State

Parsons is a tackling machine who’s going to be drafted high in next year’s NFL Draft. Winning the Heisman Trophy won’t be in his future, but that hasn’t stopped the Nittany Lions coaching staff from shaking things up. Parsons was listed as a kick returner on Penn State’s spring depth chart.

24. CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU

There are rumors about Stingley playing receiver, which would be his only chance at making a run. Fortunately, the Tigers have Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall returning at that position, so they can keep their star sophomore doing what he does best.

23. QB Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma

If you watched the Netflix show QB1, you have an idea of who Spencer Rattler is as a person and a quarterback. A super talented kid with a great arm figures to be the next Sooners quarterback, but we’ve yet to see him taking meaningful snaps.

22. WR Tutu Atwell, Louisville

It might be tough for Atwell to get enough touches for a Heisman run with Javian Hawkins and Hassan Hall in the backfield, but the Cardinals will use their fastest weapon in any way possible. From running the ball to sending him deep, Louisville has a number of ways to get their star the ball.

21. RB/WR Demetric Felton, UCLA

Chip Kelly will line Felton up everywhere on the field, and touches won’t be a concern in this offense. The only thing holding him back will be his team. Kelly finds himself underachieving so far, and a mediocre team effectively ends any chance at the biggest postseason award for Felton.

20. QB Jayden Daniels, Arizona State

Daniels burst onto the scene as a freshman last year, and his big arm caught our attention. The Sun Devils are a trendy pick to compete with USC in the Pac-12 South, and their young quarterback will play a big role. If Arizona State wins the division, it’s because Daniels is slinging it all over the field.

19. RB Max Borghi, Washington State

Nick Rolovich’s offense comes to Wazzu, and that system seems to fit Borghi’s skillset better. With so much production lost offensively, the Cougars running back should get even more touches than last year. Whether that’s in the backfield or in the passing game, he can do it all.

18. RB Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis

Gainwell’s so versatile for Memphis that the coaching staff lines him up at wide receiver. Not just motioning him out of the backfield either. They’ll have him line up wide and on the line of scrimmage to go run a route, and he’s proven that he can thrive in those situations. Memphis being in the AAC limits how much noise he can make nationall, but another big year would get everyone’s attention quickly.

17. QB Kellen Mond, Texas A&M

Have we seen Mond’s ceiling? It doesn’t feel like he has another step, but he has one more year to prove us wrong. With 70 career touchdowns, he’s shown that he can put up the numbers, but we don’t know if he can put up Heisman Trophy numbers. If he does, the Aggies are national championship contenders. If he stays the same, they’re likely headed for another middle of the road finish.

16. WR Rondale Moore, Purdue

The Boilermakers lack of reliable playmakers means that Rondale Moore will get the ball a ton in 2020. If he’s back to 100% this year, Purdue has the most explosive playmaker in the Big Ten, and his return elevates the offense to a level they didn’t see for most of last year.

15. QB Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State

Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace get most of the attention in the Cowboys offense, but Sanders is the X-Factor that determines if they make a playoff run. He was average as a passer (16 touchdowns to 11 interceptions), but showed serious speed running the ball that made defenses uneasy. If he improves as a passer, Oklahoma State’s in business.

14. WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

Waddle’s the kind of player you create in a video game. Elite speed. Dynamic playmaker. You name it, Waddle fits the description. He’ll battle on his own team for touches, but he’s proven to be an electric returner that gives him more chances to touch the football. With Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III gone, he’ll take a step up as a receiver.

13. QB D’Eriq King, Miami

An explosive dual threat, Kind left Houston after struggling through the first four games. His new home with Miami could be the change to actually puts him in the Heisman Trophy conversation. The Canes struggles up front have been well-documented, but King gives them some relief with his ability to escape the pocket. He accounted for 50 touchdowns in 2018, one of only three players to do it that year in all of college football.

12. QB Bo Nix, Auburn

This might be too hopeful, but many are high on Nix’s future. He must develop as a passer, as jump balls to Seth Williams will only get him so far, but he’s shown he can take off and run. With Chad Morris taking over the offense, Nix seems like he’ll take a step forward this year. One that could launch the Tigers into the playoff conversation.

11. QB Mac Jones, Alabama

Jones isn’t the most talented quarterback in college football, but he has enough to thrive in an offense with an abundance of playmakers. Najee Harris, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are the weapons he’ll utilize this year, and sometimes all he’ll need to do is get the ball in their hands and watch them work. His poise in big moments will help him when (or if) his Heisman moment arrives.

Top 10 Heisman Contenders

10. RB Najee Harris, Alabama

One final year of the 6’2″, 230 pound monster at running back. Harris has evolve his game over the past few years, and a Heisman would be a great way to finish his career. In 2019, he produced over 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns in the shadow of many playmakers, but it’s his turn to step in the spotlight.

9. QB Ian Book, Notre Dame

Yes, Notre Dame needs new playmakers to emerge, but they have the quarterback to get them the ball. Throw in five returning starters up front, and Book should feel comfortable in the pocket. The Irish are set to make another run at the playoff, and their senior quarterback will guide them there. There’s not a more poised player in college football, and that will come into play when Notre Dame faces stiff competition like Clemson this year.

8. QB Kedon Slovis, USC

He sent J.T. Daniels packing, and now the job his. In the final 12 games of last season, he threw for over 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns. As a freshman. If he’s thriving that much in his first year as the starter, imagine what he’ll do for an encore. With Tyler Vaughns and Amon-Ra St. Brown returning at receiver, it seems almost impossible for Slovis not to improve.

7. QB Jamie Newman, Georgia

Jamie Newman comes to a more talented program, but does that automatically mean he’ll be better? He transitions from throwing to Sage Surratt to finding George Pickens downfield, a luxury that not many quarterbacks get to see at one school let alone two. Newman’s running abilities give Georgia something they haven’t seen for years, so that could switch things up offensively.

6. QB Sam Howell, North Carolina

Both the Tar Heels and Howell shocked us last year. As a freshman, he threw for over 3,600 yards and 38 touchdowns. North Carolina’s offense is locked and loaded for 2020, and that talent will help their sensational sophomore get to New York this year. Heisman Trophy winner Sam Howell has a nice ring to it.

5. RB Travis Etienne, Clemson

Justyn Ross’ injury could mean that more responsibilities go to Etienne. Whether that’s more carries or catches, he’s proven that he can embrace any task sent his way. Etienne used to be just a fast runner, but he’s rounded out his game well to make himself a threat in any aspect of the game. The Tigers are looking to avenge their national championship game loss to LSU, and that could come behind the legs of their star running back.

4. RB Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State

Hubbard surprised fans by returning for another year of college, and most of us could not be more excited. After a 2,094 yard, 21-touchdown season, many believe Hubbard can come home with the Heisman Trophy this season. Oklahoma State’s offense needs to open up running lanes by being efficient passing, but Hubbard proved that he can handle the pressure without it. Are the Pokes a playoff team? They have the running back in an explosive offense to do it.

3. QB Sam Ehlinger, Texas

Texas might not ever be back if they can’t make the playoff this year. Even winning the Big 12 would be a good sign. The Longhorns quarterback took big steps as a passer, but he needs to find new weapons downfield. That’s on top of his running. He’s already produced over 10,000 yards and 93 touchdowns, and he can go out on top with a Heisman Trophy season. That kind of year would put Texas in the Big 12 championship game and gives them a chance to make the College Football Playoff.

2. QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

Like Etienne, Lawrence shoulders more responsibility with Justyn Ross out for the year. It’s not that Lawrence hasn’t faced any adversity thus far, but losing his top receiver puts more pressure on him to prove that he can elevate new faces in the Clemson offense. Oh and doing that on top of finding four new offensive linemen and still get Clemson back to the playoff. With that pressure comes opportunities, and Lawrence already proved that he can run when he’s in trouble. Will he put up the stats to be a finalist? We know the Tigers will be contenders, but there are suddenly some questions that Lawrence and the rest of the offense need to answer.

1. QB Justin Fields, Ohio State

A motivated Buckeyes team is one that will be on a mission to redeem themselves after last year. Fields threw a game-ending interception against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal last year, and you can be he’s had it on his mind all offseason. Ohio State’s locked and loaded for another explosive offense, and their quarterback is the star of the group. A national championship and a Heisman Trophy are on the table, and that could be enough to even launch Fields over Lawrence in the NFL Draft next year.

Joe Broback
Joe Broback

Joe Broback is a college football contributor for Sports and Fitness Digest.

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