An early look at Heisman Trophy contenders
Another crop of talented quarterbacks including the reigning Heisman Trophy winner leads a group of players as possible contenders for college football’s most-coveted individual award.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The Buzz: Barkley earned Big Ten Player of the Year honors last season when he led the league in yards from scrimmage (1,898) and touchdowns from scrimmage (22) while finishing second in the conference in rushing yards (1,496). Running backs traditionally haven’t fared well in the Heisman race with just three winners since 2000 and none from the Big Ten since Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne in 1999.
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
The Buzz: Barrett is no stranger to the Heisman Trophy race, having finished fifth in voting during his freshman season in 2014. But since then, Barrett’s been conspicuously absent after struggling with his game over the past two season. But that could change with the addition of new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, whose offenses produce the type of numbers needed to win the award.
Jake Browning, QB, Washington
The Buzz: Browning’s set the bar pretty high for himself after a spectacular 2016 season in which he finished sixth in voting for the Heisman after passing for 3,430 yards with a school-record 43 touchdowns. His performance earned him Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year honors and made him one of the early contenders for college football’s top individual prize.
Sam Darnold, QB, USC
The Buzz: Darnold has been the darling of sports bookmakers in Las Vegas with the USC quarterback earning the favorite tag in early Heisman odds after a season in which he passed for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions while leading the Trojans to a Rose Bowl victory over Penn State. Darnold looks to join a list of USC quarterbacks to win the award like Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer.
Deondre Francois, QB, FSU
The Buzz: Francois put together an impressive year, one in which the Seminoles quarterback finished with 3,350 yards passing and 20 total touchdowns while leading his team to the Orange Bowl. Statistically speaking, quarterbacks who’ve won the award recently have average 4,000 yards of total offense but another big season and a run at the College Football Playoff could be huge.
Quinton Flowers, QB, USF
The Buzz: BYU’s Ty Detmer was the last player not from a so-called Power 5 school to claim the Heisman Trophy back in 1990. So for Flowers to become a factor in the race would require a tremendous season statistically, better than last season when he set school-records for total offense (4,342) and total touchdowns (42), as well as a strong run by USF towards a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
The Buzz: This would be the third season in a row in which an LSU running back was a preseason favorite in the Heisman race. Guice led the SEC in rushing last season with 1,387 yards and an incredible 7.58 yards per carry average. He’s looking to become the third consecutive SEC running back to win the award joining Alabama’s Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
The Buzz: Jackson is looking join Ohio State’s Archie Griffin (1974-75) as the only two-time winner of the Heisman Trophy. It will be hard for Jackson to top his performance last season after the sophomore accounted for more than 5,100 yards of total offense with 51 total touchdowns. He returns to a team that returns just four starters on offense.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The Buzz: Mayfield has finished in the top five in the Heisman Trophy voting twice, finishing fourth in 2015 and third in 2016. In those two seasons, the Oklahoma quarterback has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 7,665 yards and 76 touchdowns with just 15 interceptions while leading the Sooners to a 22-4 record including an appearance in the College Football Playoff.
Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama
The Buzz: Scarbrough got stronger as the season went on, finishing with 454 yards and six touchdowns over Alabama’s four final games of the 2016 season including the Tide’s 35-31 loss to Clemson in the national championship game. He would join Alabama players like Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram, who have won the award since 2000.