These darkhorses play for programs that possess the ability to produce Heisman candidates, but it would take especially strong statistical years for them to be seen as contenders. It’s an unlikely scenario for most of them for one reason or another, but if any of them happen to do so–look out.
1. Matt Barkley, USC–Barkley carries a lot of name recognition and plays for a program in the spotlight, but it’s still early in his and the USC offenses’s development. Even a successful season might not pay dividends in the race since, fair or not, voters might be reluctant to give USC another Heisman so soon after another was tainted.
2. Dayne Crist, Notre Dame–By all accounts, Crist has talent and the system he is in produces big numbers, but he’s coming off injury and it might be asking a bit much for him to go crazy in his first year as a starter. Heisman voters love Notre Dame quarterbacks, though, and his success would be a nice story.
3. DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma–Bob Stoops claims he has the ability to have an Adrian Peterson-like season, but injuries have slowed down Murray’s production over the course of his career. As a result, I don’t think he’s quite the same player he was. But he’s still good enough to put up numbers in the Sooner system, so you never know.
4. Tate Forcier, Michigan–If Forcier were to have a huge year, you know it would include a dazzling, heart-stopping highlight reel to go with it. But he may not even get all the snaps at quarterback and he has proven to be a bit fragile.
5. Roy Helu, Nebraska–Quietly put up 1,147 yards last year. If he were to add another 600 yards to that total, he’d be in the mix. But does anyone think he’s the guy to wake up the echoes of the Cornhusker I-back tradition?
6. Evan Royster, Penn State–Royster is a solid runner who has produced back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. However, he doesn’t score a lot of touchdowns and doesn’t break long runs. He would have to make a huge jump in production and skill to be a candidate.
7. Jermaine Thomas, Florida State–Thomas has shown some good flashes his first two years and appears to be on the verge of a breakout season, but with Christian Ponder the clear leader of this offense it’s unlikely he’d produce the numbers he’d need to contend.
8. Tre Newton, Texas–I liked what I saw of Newton during his redshirt freshman season and he has the ability to become the next star Texas tailback. But he’s probably a year away from being a factor and, anyway, Garrett Gilbert is more likely to emerge as a candidate this year.
9. Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech–Memories of Michael Vick dominating for the Hokies haven’t completely faded. Taylor exciting mix of pass and run could evoke that glorious past, but it’s more than likely that Ryan Williams is the most viable Hokie for Heisman.
10. Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State–Going into last season, Hunter was an All-American coming off a 1,500-yard plus sophomore campaign and was seen as a viable Heisman candidate. But he battled ankle injuries all year and didn’t do much as a junior. He’s got one last shot to make a run at the Heisman, but I think he’ll be lucky to sniff 1,000 yards.