The 2013 college football season is in the books now following Florida State's win over Auburn Monday night in the BCS Championship. That makes today the best time to start preparing for the 2014 campaign, and what better way to than to look at potential Heisman Trophy candidates?
Any list right now is tenuous at best since we haven't seen a final list of underclassmen who will declare for the 2014 NFL Draft, but we do know many of the names that will be back and contend for honors. Naturally, we have to consider some of the top quarterbacks first since 31 of the 76 winners have come from that position, including the last four and seven of the last eight.
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Can Winston Repeat His 2013 Honors?
Jameis Winston garnered more than 79% of the possible points in last year's voting, the most since Cam Newton in 2010, and the Florida State signal caller has to be the favorite going in. We saw 2012 winner Johnny Manziel fail in his attempt to become only the second player to win consecutive Heisman's, and the pressure will be square on Winston to succeed. He survived his brush with controversy and needs to stay out of that spotlight to repeat, something Manziel couldn't do early in the '13 season.
Baylor's Bryce Petty has my attention, and I have the senior pivot No. 1 on my chart right now. That he wasn't a finalist for 2013 honors after throwing for 4,200 yards with a 32:3 TD-to-interception ratio only goes to show just how deep the race was.
My QB column has Ohio State's Braxton Miller just ahead of Marcus Mariota of Oregon. Both teams are going to be national title contenders, and very well could be the starting QB's in next year's BCS Championship.
Two that intrigue me are Nick Marshall of Auburn and UCLA's Brett Hundley. We know both can run, but they'll have to up their passing stats to get strong consideration. Of the two, I like Hundley the best in part because of the way Jim Mora and the Bruins closed 2013.
Will A Running Back Break QB Streak?
There was a time that running backs ruled the Heisman voting, winning 11 straight in the 70s and 80s. But that is no longer the case, and I refer back to the notion that Hundley and Marshall need to improve their passing numbers as part of the reason. With so much of the college game being an aerial show now, and shuffling deep backfields instead of relying on one guy the norm, tailbacks have taken the backseat stats-wise.
We will once again see a bunch of great RBs in 2014, but it's likely going to take an 1,600+ yard season along with 20+ TDs for any to win the Heisman Trophy. Georgia's Todd Gurley certainly has the talent to do that, and assuming good health, he could be a true feature back.
Oregon's Byron Marshall and Alabama's TJ Yeldon might also fill the feature back slot and reach those lofty numbers, again assuming they stay healthy. Mike Davis of South Carolina and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon are also on the list, but it will take a big PR campaign plus those lofty stats for either to even sniff a chair at the awards show in New York next December.
How About A 2-Way Star Taking Home The Hardware?
No discussion would be complete for the 2014 Heisman Trophy class without mentioning Myles Jack. The 2-way star at UCLA burst on the scene in November with a 120 yards rushing in his first game as a running back -- on just 6 carries -- and four rushing touchdowns in his second game at the position. That was along with ranking fifth on the team in tackles from his linebacker spot, picking up a sack and two interceptions to boot.
I love the guy, but consider backing him with your college football picks nothing more than a novelty wager at this time.
More quarterbacks who could work their way into the picture include Taylor Kelly of Arizona State, Penn State's Christian Hackenburg, Connor Cook of Michigan State and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott. Of that group, Cook would be my favorite to get consideration.
It would take a lot for a wide receiver to do enough to impress the voters, but two who could are Amari Cooper of Alabama and Missouri's Dorial Green-Beckham.
Among the remaining running backs I like are Southern Cal's Javorious Allen and Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey. Allen is expected to return to the Trojans for his junior season, while Carey is a bit of a long shot to come back to the Wildcats. And if you want a real long shot to think about, how about LSU's incoming freshman Leonard Fournette? We've seen two redshirt frosh take the honors the past two years, so a true freshman could finally win the trophy...that is if Fournette can displace Jeremy Hill in the Tigers' backfield.