This site posted a Heisman hopeful list earlier and since a lot of things have changed since then, this is the latest Heisman Watch. This should change weekly once the season gets going.
1. Ezekiel Elliott – Ohio State: As a sophomore in 2014, Elliott had a breakthrough season as did his Ohio State Buckeyes. Finishing strong, Elliott ran for 1,878 yards and 18 Touchdowns. Highlights of his season came against Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship Game when he ran for 220 and 2 Touchdowns. Plus in the Alabama game in the playoffs he ran for 230 yards and 2 Touchdowns highlighted by an 85 yard Touchdown run where he just blew away a fast Alabama defense. Then, in the championship game he ran for 246 yards and 4 Touchdowns. Several ‘experts’ and publications have named Elliott as a front runner for the Heisman.
2. Trevone Boykin – TCU: After a mediocre earlier career, Boykin suddenly shocked the world with a superb season in 2014. Boykin led the TCU Horn Frogs to a 12-1 season with 3,901 yards and 33 Touchdowns. An explosive athlete that also has played some Wide Receiver, Boykin ran for 707 yards and 8 Touchdowns. Boykin finished 4th in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2014 and could finish much higher if not on top in 2015. Davey O’Brien was the one and only TCU Heisman Trophy winner and that was back in 1938. Trevone Boykin could be the next.
3. JT Barrett or Cardale Jones – Ohio State: The winner of the Quarterback battle between Barrett and Jones has not been announced by Urban Meyer and Ohio State. Barrett was a surprise starter in 2014 due to the injury to starting Quarterback Braxton Miller and had a spectacular season. He threw for 2,834 yards and 34 Touchdowns. He also ran for 938 yards and 11 Touchdowns. His numbers wold have been much better if not for the injury against Michigan in the last regular season game. Cardale Jones was forced into the starting role in the Big 10 Championship Game and he responded like a pro. Jones threw for 257 yards and 3 Touchdowns in a blowout against Wisconsin. Then, he threw for 243 yards against Alabama and 242 yards against Oregon. Like Barrett, Jones is also deadly with his feet and ran for 296 yards in limited playing time. The winner of this battle should be a prime candidate, however, the Quarterback and Running Back stars for the Buckeyes might split the vote allowing another candidate to walk away with the Trophy. Another factor could be that the Buckeyes have had 7 previous Heisman winners tying them with Notre Dame and USC for the most.
4. Cody Kessler – USC: The big thing in favor of Kessler is USC and their previous 7 Heisman winners. Kessler threw for just under 4000 yards a season ago and 39 Touchdowns. But, Heisman voters are a fickle bunch and Kessler’s only shot is if the Trojans have a huge year and win at least the Pac 12 South. USC lost it’s top Wide Receiver in Nelson Agholer, but they return sensational
sophomore Juju Smith and Adoree Jackson should come over from the defense and play both ways. Both are incredible talents and play makers. Kessler is easily the best Trojan Quarterback since Matt Leinart in 2005 and don’t hand me that Bobby Sanchez or Matt Barkley nonsense. Kessler is a long shot, but he does have a shot.
5. Connor Cook – Michigan State: Cook’s standing continues to rise especially after last season’s come from behind win over Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. Cook had helped the Spartans to a 24-3 record in the past 2 seasons which is as good as anyone in the country other than Florida State. In 2014, Cook completed 212 passes out of 365 attempts which was good for 3,214 yards and 24 Touchdowns. NFL scouts have taken notice of Connor Cook and hopefully, Heisman Trophy voters will as well.
6. Nick Chubb – Georgia: Chubb was maybe the biggest surprise player of 2014 because he was not the most highly rated of the Georgia Running Back recruits and nobody expected a suspension or the injury to All World Running Back Todd Gurley. But, Chubb rescued the day and ran for 1,547 yards and 15 Touchdowns. Chubb also caught 18 passes and another 2 Touchdowns. Chubb might give up some carries to Sony Michele and Keith Marshall, but expect him to do at least as well as 2014, or
just crush it in 2015. The former high school sprinter combines great speed and quickness with power at around 230 pounds. Gurley was the best Running Back at Georgia since Herschel Walker, but Nick Chubb might be right there, too.
7. Leonard Fournette – LSU: The #1 recruit in the country coming out of high school a year ago, the true freshman was hyped as the first true freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy. He got off to a slow start and the media quickly forgot about him. But, he rebounded and finished strong and cracked the thousand yard barrier. Going into his sophomore season, Fournette is now the main Running Back instead of playing behind 2 juniors as he did a year ago. Like Georgia, the LSU Tiger coaching staff likes to play a lot of backs to keep them fresh. Fournette will share carries in 2015 with Darrel Williams and true freshman Derrius Grice and maybe another true freshman Nick Brossette. Even with maybe 4 guys getting carries, expect Fournette to crush the thousand yard barrier again.
8. Derrick Henry – Alabama: The Yulee, Florida product split carries with fellow Running Back
T.J. Yeldon the past 2 seasons. Henry is the most productive high school Running Back that has ever played the game while playing in Florida breaking a record that had stood for decades. You can read about that here if interested: Sugarland Express Henry is a big Running Back at 6-3, 245 and has excellent speed. I would expect Henry to run for at least 1,500 yards this season and then declare for the NFL Draft. Henry has been a good college player, but it’s easy to consider him a disappointment since he ran for so many yards in high school and because of his size and speed ratio. But, he has another season to redeem himself.
9. Samaje Perine – Oklahoma: Besides Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette and Oregon’s Royce
Freeman, Samaje Perine was one of the top freshmen in the country at Running Back in 2014. Not only did he rush for 1,713 yards, he also broke Melvin Gordon’s week old single game rushing record with 427 yards and 4 Touchdowns. The 5-11, 245 power back from Pflugerville, Texas has excellent balance and power and pretty good speed for a big man. The negative side for Perine’s chances for a Heisman is Bob Stoops decision to change their offense for 2015.
10. Dak Prescott – Mississippi State: The Mississippi State Quarterback, Prescott, was one of the Heisman favorites early on last season, but a loss to Alabama and then Ole Miss seemed to destroy his chances. In my opinion, that was a little strange because Prescott threw for an impressive 3,449 yards and 27 Touchdowns and he ran for 986 yards and another 14 Touchdowns. He finished 8th in the Heisman voting, but his numbers suggest he should have possibly finished quite a bit higher. Prescott is 6-2, 230 and fairly similar to Tim Tebow physically except he has a better arm and he might be a slightly better runner. He elected to return to Mississippi State for his senior season.
11. Justin Thomas – Georgia Tech: Playing Quarterback in Georgia Tech’s Flexbone gives Thomas little chance to win a Heisman. But, in spite of that, he is still one of the top players in the country. Thomas is an awesome option Quarterback and ran for 1,086 yards and 8 Touchdowns and threw for 1,719 yards and 18 Touchdowns. Thomas led his team to the ACC Coastal Championship and a game against Florida State where they lost 35 to 37. Georgia Tech beat Mississippi State 49 to 34 in the Orange Bowl in a game that was not as close as the score indicates. Thomas probably has little
chance of winning the Heisman, but he is one of the top players.
12. James Conner – Pittsburgh: Conner is a huge old school type of Fullback playing Tailback. I wrote about Conner last season here: Old School. The 6-2, 250 Conner powered his way to 1,765 yards and 26 Touchdowns in 2014. The Panthers lost their coach to Wisconsin, but the new coach is Pat Narduzzi the former Defensive Coordinator at Michigan State. He should be a fan of running the football and it should be a good season for James Conner. Will it be enough to win a Heisman? Probably not.
13. Deshaun Watson – Clemson: This enormously talented Quarterback struggled with injuries his freshman season at Clemson. In limited playing time, he threw for 1,466 yards and 14 Touchdowns. He only ran for 200 yards, but scored 5 Touchdowns on the ground. Expectations have risen at Clemson and it should be a great season if Watson can stay healthy.
Jared Goff – California
Brad Kaaya – Miami
Scooby Wright – Arizona
Christian Hackenburg – Penn State
Jeremy Johnson – Auburn
Maty Mauk – Missouri