Here is my early, early Heisman Watch list for 2010 (again, it’s my list of guys who have the best chance to actually win, not a list of how they will finish in the voting). Some of these players are true darkhorses who nonetheless project well in the race due to who they play for and their career trajectory.
We’ll whittle this down as we get closer to next season:
(in no particular order!)
Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State–Rodgers is coming off a 1,377 yard, 21 touchdown, 74-reception season (with one game to go). Has built up name recognition and his team has earned respect nationally, which should help his Heisman candidacy.
Jacory Harris, Miami–Struggled with interceptions as a sophomore but could make a big jump as a junior. All the fundamentals–schedule, playing for a rising traditional power, name recognition–are in place for a Heisman run if he performs well.
Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State–Mega talent who will be a prime Heisman contender if he can put it all together. Will Jim Tressel let him do his thing?
LaMichael James, Oregon–Pac-10′s freshman single-season rushing record holder (1,476 yards) plays in an exciting offense that piles up more yards on the ground than a car rented with an Orbitz promotion code, so look for an even bigger year as a sophomore. Ducks will be highly rated and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to make a case. Will miss first game due to suspension.
DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma–Murray has battled injuries but he’ll have one more year all to himself as Chris Brown has graduated. The potential is there for a big season.
Kellen Moore, Boise State–The nation’s pass efficiency leader had an amazing 39 touchdown passes and just three picks in 2009. Just a junior, his Heisman quest might be a three-year project.
Case Keenum, Houston–He’ll break the all-time NCAA passing mark set by Timmy Chang and that alone will keep him in the Heisman conversation.
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas–The SEC’s top quarterback threw 29 touchdown passes and just 7 picks as just a sophomore in 2009. Imagine what he’ll do in year two leading Bobby Petrino’s high-octane offense! He’s a potential first-pick in the draft who will mount a serious Heisman run in 2010.
Zach Collaros, Cincinnati–He showed that he could get it done while filling in for Tony Pike. He threw for 1,434 yards with 10 touchdowns and just two picks with a rating of 195 as a sophomore. He also rushed for 344 yards. He should flower with a full year under center.
Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M–Johnson had a great junior year with 28 touchdowns and just six picks. He also rushed for 455 yards. Like Mallett, he’s a future top NFL pick who could challenge for the Heisman if he can lead his team to new heights.
Evan Royster, Penn State–Had a solid junior year, rushing for 1,104 yards following a 1,276-yard sophomore effort. Could be primed for a big senior season as Penn State returns most of its line.
John Clay, Wisonsin–He had 1,396 yards and 16 TDs as a sophomore and he’ll also have a mostly intact line back. Badger backs get yards and he might be the next to challenge for the 2,000-yard mark.
Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech–He had a huge freshman year, rushing for 1,538 yards and 19 touchdowns. If he can top that mark and then some in 2010–and the Hokies win the ACC–he’ll be a prime contender.
Josh Nesbitt, Georgia Tech–He rushed for 991 yards and 18 touchdowns and threw for 1,689 yards and 10 touchdowns. Forget about Dwyer, he’s the guy that makes Tech go.
Wait! Where’s Mark Ingram? Hold on there, Tide fans. It’s not that I don’t think he can’t get some Heisman support–he probably will–it’s just that I don’t think he can win it again. Why? Well, it’s my belief that there will never be another two-time Heisman winner. Dont worry, Jason White, Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford all pretty much got the same treatment from me after winning the Heisman and returning the following season.