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Usually I say to take The Field when it comes to preseason Heisman candidates, but after this year broke the mold, it's time to step up and make an actual pick again, even with Marcus Mariota just now getting used to being known as Heisman Winner Marcus Mariota.
Yeah, so last year I suggested that Blake Bell, Sean Mannion and (gulp) Devin Gardner were among the favorites for the 2014 Heisman – my No. 1 way-too-early candidate was Marcus Mariota, and my No. 2 was Melvin Gordon, so … ha.
Since we already know that UCLA QB Brett Hundley is gone, Gordon already declared and Mariota is a lock to leave, the ten candidates below are assuming the top pro prospects – including Jameis Winston – are going to be in The League next season at this time.
So here we go. Of course there will be several young players who'll step up, and of course at least half of the players listed below won't be anywhere close to New York early next December, but here's the top ten going into the offseason - for now.
Note: classes are for 2015.
10. QB Kyle Allen, Soph. Texas A&M
He'll win the 2015 Heisman because… one of the superstar recruits of 2014, he didn’t set the world on fire after taking over for Kenny Hill in the middle of the year, but he got his feet wet, got a bit of experience, and looked the part like the next great Kevin Sumlin quarterback throwing for 1,028 yards and 12 touchdowns with six interceptions in a limited role. The talent is there, and he might take a big leap in his second season.
He won't win because … he’s not Johnny Manziel. It took a special, transcendent college football talent to win the Heisman a few years ago, and while Allen will have the weapons, the coaching staff, and the opportunities, his team still resides in the SEC West. Alabama, LSU and the rest of the division aren’t exactly easy outs.
9. RB Corey Clement, Jr. Wisconsin
He'll win the 2015 Heisman because… NEXT. In the latest line of great Wisconsin running backs, Montee Ball tagged off to Melvin Gordon, and Melvin Gordon tags off to Clement, a 5-11, 217-pound power back with speed, filling in and running for 844 yards and nine touchdowns – averaging 6.39 yards per carry – while showing off nice receiving ability catching 12 passes for 108 yards and a score. Presumed new head coach Paul Chryst gave the ball to James Conner over and over again, making him a statistical star. Clement’s numbers will blow up.
He won't win because … he’s not Ball or Gordon. Clement is a big-time talent, but he’s not quite the same star-in-the-making as those two were. Ball was a historic scorer, and Gordon blew past the 2,000-yard mark, and neither one came up with the Heisman. It’s asking way, way, way too much for Clement to put up stats like those two.
8. QB Malik Zaire, Soph. Notre Dame or Everett Golson, Sr. Notre Dame
He'll win the 2015 Heisman because… the Notre Dame quarterback is always going to be in the equation, or at least he’ll get his chance to take the Heisman win a huge season. Zaire was the talk of the 2014 offseason as a true freshman, and while he didn’t get his chances until late in the regular season, and he was just okay, everything is there to be Brian Kelly’s best quarterback yet – if it’s not Golson taking the job back.
He won't win because … there are a ton of assumptions being made. First, will Zaire beat out Golson? Can Golson cut down on the picks and mistakes? Will Kelly still be the head coach and not in the NFL? Golson wasn’t in the race when he came up with a magical 2012, and a two quarterback system – if there is one – will kill the Heisman campaign.
7. QB Joshua Dobbs, Jr. Tennessee
He'll win the 2015 Heisman because… if Tennessee really is on the verge of turning things back around under Butch Jones, and if the pieces really are coming into place, then it’s possible that Dobbs is the catalyst to make it all go. Fantastic after taking over in the middle of the season, he ran well, threw great, and showed that he’s the present as well as the future. He’s a true Face of the Program guy you want as your leader.
He won't win because … it’s a reach. Tennessee is still building and still might need even more time. Dobbs set the SEC world on fire after coming in and looking great, but the defenses will be ready for him now. There were too many picks, and he took some shots, but the potential is there to be a factor.
6. QB Cody Kessler, Sr. USC
He'll win the 2015 Heisman because… he was red hot to close out the season hitting 80% of his throws with six scores in the win over Notre Dame, and finished the regular season connecting on 71% of his passes with 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions spread out over the course of the campaign. He had as quietly-great a season as a USC quarterback can possibly come up with. The NFL might grab Nelson Agholor early, but there’s only one senior among the 13 players who caught passes this year.
He won't win because … the bar is going to be set impossibly high this offseason once everyone realizes that Marcus Mariota wasn’t the only great quarterback in the Pac-12, and Brett Hundley might not have been the best college quarterback in Los Angeles. It’s going to be hard for Kessler to come up with appreciably better statistics.
5. RB Samaje Perine, Soph. Oklahoma
He'll win the 2015 Heisman because… the numbers could be astronomical. The 427 yards against Kansas might have been the right guy against the right defense on the right day, but that showed a glimpse of just how good he can be. Bob Stoops is never afraid of using – or overusing – his running backs, and he’ll happily give his main man the ball as long as he lasts. After running for 1,579 yards and 21 scores, 2,000 yards might be there for the taking.
He won't win because … he’s a running back, and the numbers aren’t going to be enough if the wins aren’t attached to them – can Oklahoma be better overall? Can he hold up? He already went down late in the year with an ankle injury, and he’s going to wear down if he gets the ball 20+ times a game every game. If Adrian Peterson couldn’t win a Heisman in the Sooner backfield …
4. RB Nick Chubb, Soph. Georgia
He'll win the 2015 Heisman because… it's not a bad thing when the Next Man Up averages close to seven yards per carry with 1,281 yards and 12 touchdowns. While everyone was fretting over the loss of Todd Gurley, and for good reason, Chubb put up Heisman-like numbers in the middle of the season with 100 yards or more in each of the last seven games with 202 coming against Arkansas. Now the running game is all his.
He won't win because … the Heisman hype might be on from the start with Gurley gone and the numbers too fantastic to ignore. It’s Georgia, so the talent is going to be there overall, but there’s some revamping to do on the O line and veteran quarterback Hutson Mason is gone to take the pressure off
3. QB Trevone Boykin, Sr. TCU
He'll win the 2015 Heisman because… if he could make that sort of a jump from one year to the next under the new assistant coaches and style, what will he do now that he knows what he’s doing after throwing for 3,714 yards and 30 touchdowns with seven picks, and running for 642 yards and eight touchdowns. From purely an MVP standpoint, he deserved far more credit in the 2014 Heisman race. With only two seniors among the 18 players who caught passes, look out.
He won't win because … the Big 12 is going to be far better – it has to be. Boykin was efficient, effective and very, very dangerous, but he also was helped by a weak conference that should improve with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas looking stronger in 2015. To be in the race, Boykin needs to put TCU back in the playoff chase – that might be asking too much for a repeat.
2. QB Dak Prescott, Sr. Mississippi State
He'll win the 2015 Heisman because… 2014 wasn’t a one-shot deal. Prescott really was that good, throwing for close to 3,000 yards with 24 touchdowns and ten interceptions, and rushing for 939 yards and 13 touchdowns. He’ll be involved in several high-profile games and will get several chances to shine. Now he knows what he’s doing with a few years of experience – he should come out roaring.
He won't win because … how much wear-and-tear can he possible take? He seemed a bit beaten up by the end of the season, and that’s not going to stop if he carries the ball close to 200 times again. Mississippi State will still be good, but this was the right year with so much experience – the team won’t be quite as strong in 2015.
1. QB J.T. Barrett, Soph. Ohio State or QB Braxton Miller, Sr. Ohio State or QB Cardale Jones, Jr. Ohio State
He'll win the 2015 Heisman because… at some point, the rest of the planet will wake up and realize that Ohio State quarterbacks under Urban Meyer deserve more consideration in the Heisman discussion. It’s ridiculous that Braxton Miller wasn’t seriously in the hunt in 2013, and J.T. Barrett would’ve and should’ve warranted at least a No. 3 spot in the 2014 voting – and he probably would’ve received it had he stayed healthy and won the Big Ten championship. Ohio State will be in everyone’s preseason top three – and possibly No. 1 – and the spotlight will be on the quarterback from the start. Including Cardale Jones, Ohio State quarterbacks combined to complete 64% of their passes for 3,209 yards and 39 touchdowns with ten picks, and ran for 1,154 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He won't win because … .Ohio State quarterbacks haven’t been in the Heisman chase over the last few years, and now no one knows who’ll be the starter. Who’ll transfer? What will the pecking order be? Will Barrett be healthy? Can the Buckeyes win all the big games to get the quarterback in the discussion? Can any of the options stay in one piece? There might be lots of question marks, but the answer come September 5th against North Carolina should be a good one.
The 2015 Heisman Race First Look
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