But I do think that from time to time a freshman can make a huge impact on the race and find a way to finish in the top five–and maybe even get to New York.
Which of this year’s freshmen are the most likely to jump into the upper echelon of candidates? With two games under our belt, here are the ones who I see as having the best shot. The chances of these youngsters actually getting to New York are remote, but if fate should decree it to happen, it’ll most likely be one of these guys:
1. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina–Lattimore is fresh off a 37 carry, 182-yard performance against Georgia, so he is just now registering on the radar. He’s a bruising power back with great balance, endurance and forward lean. He should keep the yards coming against Furman and then there are games against No. 16 Auburn and No. 1 Alabama. By the time those games are done, we’ll know if he’s just another good freshman back, or something really special. Of all the guys on this list, he’s got–by far–the best chance of getting some Heisman attention.
2. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska–He’s made quite a splash in the first two games, rushing for 284 yards and averaging a nation-leading 13.5 yards per carry while scoring five touchdowns. He’s also held his own as a passer, completing 66 percent of his passes for 242 yards. He’s not exactly Denard Robinson, but he’s doing pretty well. If he can keep producing like this when the Cornhuskers start hitting the meat of their schedule, then he could make a run.
3. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia–HP has been a fan of Murray since his days at Tampa’s Plant High. I think he’ll end up being the best quarterback of the Mark Richt/Mark Richt’s Replacement Era. He’s got a strong arm, good mobility and excellent football instincts. He has the talent around him to start putting up big numbers if Richt ever decides to put the offense in his hands. So far, he’s completing 66 percent and his pass efficiency rating is ahead of better-known guys like John Brantley and Stephen Garcia.
4. Michael Dyer, RB, Auburn–Dyer, not Lattimore, was my preseason pick to be the nation’s top freshman running back. I think he’s well on his way to making that case. Through two games, he’s got 143 yards and a touchdown and is averaging 6.2 yards pre carry. He’s going to start to get more carries due to Mario Fannin’s injury and I think that as he becomes more comfortable in the Auburn offense, he’ll start to rip off some big yards. Keep an eye out on him…
5. Keenan Allen, WR, California–Allen has been lights out for the Bears thus far. In the national receiver rankings, he’s the only freshman in the top 55. He has 10 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns, four rushes for another 44 yards and a score and two kickoff returns for 35 yards. He’s clearly a special talent, so it’s not a stretch to expect him to keep doing some special things. If he starts to pick it up in the return game, he might gain some traction.
6. Lamar Miller, RB, Miami–You probably remember Miller as the Hurricane who returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Ohio State. He’s also a talented running back who can beat you in a lot of ways with his 10.40-in-the-100m speed. Through two games, he’s got 73 rushing yards, 16 receiving yards, 15 punt return yards and 134 kick return yards. I wouldn’t be surprised if he started to assert himself as Miami’s No. 1 back at some point, which means he could end up with some good production by season’s end.
7. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State–Bell is a power back with some speed who became the first Spartan freshman running back to rush for over 100 yards in his first game. He’s got 20 carries for 190 yards and three touchdowns through the first two weeks and his big highlight was a 75-yard non-scoring run against Western Michigan. Michigan State observers have been buzzing about Bell all summer, so maybe he’ll catch fire.
8. Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State–The last SDSU back to make an impact in the Heisman race was named Faulk. Hillman is no Faulk, but he’s off to a good start, rushing for 215 yards and five touchdowns in the first two games. If he continues to be a scoring machine and brings back memories of those halcyon days with Faulk, he might have a shot.