The Heisman is the most prestigious award in college football. It goes to the best player, not necessarily the best quarterback or running back. With that said, here are the top 25 candidates for this year’s award.
The 2020 heisman is the most likely Heisman candidate for each team in the AP rankings.
12:00:05 p.m. ET
The Associated Press’ Top 25 college football poll has been released. It’s no surprise that Alabama, the defending national champion and home of the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, gets the ball first.
Who, though, might succeed DeVonta Smith in hoisting the sport’s most illustrious trophy? Let’s take a look at the most probable Heisman contender for each of the AP’s preseason rankings teams.
Some of these names are, admittedly, long shots. However, no one expected Johnny Manziel, Lamar Jackson, or even Smith to be major candidates this time of year, and yet they all won the Heisman Trophy.
Normally, first-year starters struggle to gain enough name recognition to be considered Heisman candidates early in the season, but that is not the case with Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. With good cause, he’s become one of the faces of athletes who benefit off their name, image, and resemblance. The former five-star recruit is an explosive playmaker who can operate both inside and outside the pocket. While a DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle return would have been great, Young will have enough to work with, whether it’s wide receiver John Metchie or tight end Jahleel Billingsley. Alex Scarborough’s remark
Oklahoma quarterbacks are always a Heisman danger, and Vegas odds have Spencer Rattler as the favorite to win the award in his second season as a starter. He overcame early-season turnovers to throw for 3,031 yards and 28 touchdowns last season, and he topped the nation in touchdown throws of 25 yards or more. With the additions of Arkansas transfer Mike Woods, who averaged 19.3 yards per reception last season, and freshman Mario Williams, the Sooners have given him even more deep threats this season. Dave Wilson is an author.
D.J. Uiagalelei, the new Clemson quarterback, has just two career starts on his résumé. However, Uiagalelei’s two starts featured a thrilling second-half comeback victory against BC and a standout effort in a loss to Notre Dame, in which he threw for more yards than any opponent in Fighting Irish history. Uiagalelei now owns the offense, and he’s surrounded by a strong receiving corps that should provide him with plenty of chances to put up big numbers. Tajh Boyd, Deshaun Watson, and Trevor Lawrence all missed out on the Heisman Trophy despite excellent stat lines. Uiagalelei could be the Clemson quarterback who eventually breaks through. David M. Hale (David M. Hale)
Garrett Wilson, who is nipping at Chris Olave’s heels, might have been the pick, but Olave, who will be in his last season with the Buckeyes, gets the nod. Last season, Olave led the club in receiving yards with 729 and touchdowns with seven. The offense will be breaking in a new quarterback, but Olave is a dependable receiver who should be one of the conference’s most productive players. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
If JT Daniels can keep Georgia’s offense flowing like it did at the end of 2020, and it lives up to expectations and wins out, he’ll be in a strong chance to win the Heisman Trophy. Daniels completed 67.2 percent of his throws for 1,231 yards, 10 touchdowns, and two interceptions in four games last season. If he can keep up that pace for the whole season, he’ll be a strong contender for the Heisman Trophy. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
The Aggies relied on a strong offensive line to go 9-1 last season, topping the SEC in yards per run and time of possession. Even when opponents were able to get a hold of him, Isaiah Spiller was difficult to stop, averaging 651 yards after contact, which was good for sixth best in the US. In a victory against No. 4 Florida, he had 27 carries for 174 yards and two touchdowns, one of his six 100-yard games. The Aggies are replacing four starters on the offensive line this season, but they like their alternatives, and Spiller will be a crucial player if they want to make a run in the College Football Playoff. Wilson’s words
Breece Hall finished in the top ten in Heisman voting last season, and with Iowa State returning the majority of its most successful squad ever from 2020, he may make a big leap in 2021. Hall rushed for 1,572 yards and 21 touchdowns on 279 attempts. Najee Harris was the only other running back to finish in the top 10 in Heisman voting, thus despite the Heisman still being mostly a quarterback’s honor in the contemporary game, you have to like his chances. Lyles –
Desmond Ridder improved during the 2020 season as Cincinnati went unbeaten to the Peach Bowl before falling to a Georgia squad that had found its stride with J.T. Daniels. Ridder threw for 2,296 yards, 19 touchdowns, and six interceptions on 66.2 percent of his throws. Cincinnati has two huge early nonconference road games against Indiana and Notre Dame, which may assist Ridder’s case if he can guide the Bearcats to victories with outstanding performances. Lyles –
Kyle Hamilton isn’t on the list since Charles Woodson was the only defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy. Last season, Kyren Williams recorded 1,125 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, which ranked him seventh among FBS running backs. Notre Dame has a new quarterback in Jack Coan, who transferred from Wisconsin, and the Irish will depend on Williams to help him adjust to his new surroundings. This may imply more chances and another successful season. VanHaaren (VanHaaren)
At North Carolina, you don’t have to go far to find a strong Heisman contender, as junior Sam Howell has established himself as probably the greatest quarterback in the nation over the last two seasons. He runs an explosive offense (UNC averaged almost 42 points per game last season), and as a sophomore, he proved he can be a danger with his legs (five running touchdowns) to go along with one of college football’s largest arms. Howell needs 40 throwing touchdowns to break the ACC career record, and it may be enough to earn him Heisman votes. -Hales
11. Oregon Ducks: Defensive End Kayvon Thibodeaux is a young man from Louisiana.
Kayvon Thibodeaux will not win the Heisman Trophy. Even as a game-changing pass rusher, it would be such a huge departure from precedent to allow for that. He is, though, the kind of guy who might end up as a finalist in New York, as a former No. 1 overall recruit and possible No. 1 overall NFL draft selection. Thibodeaux will most likely be the face of the Ducks’ postseason effort if they make it. Kyle Bonagura (Kyle Bonagura)
Last season, quarterback Graham Mertz got off to a fast start, but he struggled the rest of the year. On 60 attempts, Jalen Berger rushed for 316 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman. Garrett Groshek, who had 67 carries, and Nakia Watson, who had 53 carries, were sharing the workload. Groshek and Watson are no longer with the team, therefore Berger has a chance to improve on last year’s statistics and take over as the starting running back. VanHaaren (VanHaaren)
Last year, the Gators had two Heisman contenders in Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts, but both are no longer with the team. With such a youthful offense returning this season, quarterback Emory Jones, who has waited three years for this chance, is the most obvious option. He’s not like Trask in that he’s a genuine dual threat quarterback. But Jones, who has mainly seen situational work on quarterback runs, is capable of more. Coach Dan Mullen has complimented his arm strength on many occasions. Mullen also carefully targeted and signed Jones for the offense he wants to run. Expect a new look from the Florida offense, as well as the possibility of Jones breaking out. Andrea Adelson’s remark
D’Eriq King, the quarterback, is the obvious option. It would have been simple to place King on any preseason Heisman list when he chose to return for another season. However, he injured his right knee in a bowl game versus Oklahoma State a week later. King has spent the past seven months working hard to recover from his injuries and is expected to play against Alabama in the season opener. King seems to be on track for a big year, building on his first year with the Hurricanes in 2020, when he passed for 2,686 yards, 23 touchdowns, and five interceptions while also running for 538 yards and four touchdowns. — Sheldon Adelson
Kedon Slovis ticks all the criteria for a Heisman Trophy contender: quarterback, big brand, large market, individual name recognition, and pass-heavy offense. Slovis’ prospects hinge on his ability to win, and his performance will have a major influence on it. It’s difficult to envision a scenario in which USC wins the Pac-12 and Slovis isn’t a top-10 vote-getter at the very least. Bonagura’s
DB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU Tigers, 16.
Max Johnson, the quarterback, has a lot of potential. Kayshon Boutte, a wide receiver, feels the same way. But go beyond the box and imagine Derek Stingley Jr. in this scenario. For the last two years, he’s been perhaps the best cornerback in college football. With Eli Ricks on his opposite side, opposition quarterbacks won’t be able to just quit throwing to him this season. Even if they do, Stingley has an ace up his sleeve in the form of his ability to return punts. Furthermore, there has been speculation that he may play both ways as receiver in the future, like he did in high school. While this hasn’t occurred yet, it may catapult Stingley to new heights. Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Last season, Indiana had one of the greatest stories in college football, thanks in part to Michael Penix Jr.’s performance. Penix threw for 1,645 yards, 14 touchdowns, and four interceptions before injuring his ACL. To compete, he’ll need to improve his completion percentage from 2020 (56.4%), but if he can remain healthy and Indiana replicates much of its success from last season, Penix can compete with his abilities. Lyles –
Tyler Goodson will have every chance to flourish at Iowa now that Mekhi Sargent has left for the NFL. Last season, he led the club in running yards with 762 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. He has Tyler Linderbaum blocking for him, and quarterback Spencer Petras is back, so Goodson could have an even better season in 2021 than he had in 2020. VanHaaren (VanHaaren)
At wide receiver, Jahan Dotson has been a standout for Penn State and has come up huge in crunch time. Last season, he had 884 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in nine games. Mike Yurcich, Dotson’s new offensive coordinator, will bring an air assault to the Nittany Lions. In his last season, the revamped system should provide Dotson with even more chances to make spectacular plays and put up huge statistics. VanHaaren (VanHaaren)
Let’s assume for a minute that an offensive lineman can win the Heisman Trophy, since it’s too early to talk about Huskies quarterback Dylan Morris. If that changes, he’ll most likely owe it to Jaxson Kirkland. The colossal left tackle is one of the greatest in college football and is expected to join the NFL following this season. Bonagura’s
View highlights from Texas running back Bijan Robinson, who is expected to have a great second season with the Longhorns.
Bijan Robinson shined as a freshman, averaging a school-record 8.2 yards per rush… yet he only received 86 carries, much to the chagrin of Texas fans. Robinson has taken center stage since Steve Sarkisian’s arrival. Sarkisian has said that he expects his running back to be ready to handle the burden this season, and Sarkisian’s success in finding new ways to get the ball to his backs, particularly in the receiving game, will make Robinson a Heisman contender. Last season, he rushed for 355 yards on 19 attempts for an average of 18.7 yards per carry in victories against Kansas State and Colorado in the Alamo Bowl. Wilson’s words
To begin a Heisman campaign for rising Coastal Carolina, it will need many more games like last season’s prime-time victory against BYU. But if anybody can accomplish it, it’s quarterback Grayson McCall, who wowed the college football world last season by earning Sun Belt Player of the Year and Sun Belt Freshman of the Year after tossing 26 touchdowns and three interceptions in 11 games. He also ran for 569 yards and seven touchdowns. Maybe Coastal can make a run at New York if he makes another New Year’s Six bid. Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Don’t be shocked if quarterback Levi Lewis becomes the face of the school and a long shot Heisman candidate if the Ragin’ Cajuns make a run at the College Football Playoff — which isn’t out of the question if they can defeat Texas in the season opener. He’s one of the few super seniors who took advantage of the additional year of eligibility provided by COVID-19. He’s now third in throwing yards and second in passing touchdowns in program history. But, more than his stats, he’s a dynamic player who can score with his feet as well as his arm. Scarborough, North Yorkshire
QB Charlie Brewer of the Utah Utes is ranked 24th in the country.
In recent years, the Heisman Trophy has become a honor for transfer quarterbacks. So, despite the fact that Charlie Brewer has failed to knock over Cameron Rising for the starting position, he still seems to be Utah’s best chance after coming from Baylor, where he started for four years. Brewer just needs 300 throwing yards to achieve 10,000 yards during his collegiate career. Bonagura’s
Last season was expected to be quarterback Jayden Daniels’ big break in the NFL. Daniels was positioned to lead the Sun Devils to a strong season after starting as a true freshman in 2019, only for COVID-19 to wreck havoc on their season, especially when compared to the rest of the Pac-12. This year, almost everyone is returning, and if the NCAA probe doesn’t detract from the team’s on-field success, Daniels may become a household figure. Bonagura’s
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