Future Heisman Candidates from the Recruiting Class of 2011

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It’s time to look at the recruiting class of 2011 and single out the players who stand the best chance of being future Heisman candidates.

Making this list is not as simple as checking off some 5-star players from the recruiting sites.

First off, I narrowed my list to quarterbacks, running backs and multi-purpose athletes. No matter what anyone says, you can forget about tight ends, linebackers or linemen winning the trophy.

Second, I looked at the abilities of the players in question. I asked: Do their skills translate to the next level? How quickly will they make an impact? Do they have the physical measurables and the intangibles needed to succeed? 

Third, I ask how well do they fit into the system in which they will be playing?  Does their future system produce the numbers needed to win a Heisman?

This year’s Heisman Trophy winner was first tabbed as a potential candidate on this very site, way back in February of 2007, so let’s see what’s in store for this year’s class.  I expect at least one of these players to make a strong run at the Heisman within the next two to three years:

(in alphabetical order)

Brandon Allen, Arkansas–A top-flight quarterback from Fayetteville, Allen should fit nicely in Bobby Petrino’s offensive system.  He’s got a strong arm, with somewhat of an irregular delivery, but he’s accurate and should end up being a very efficient passer.  At 6-1, he’s more in the mold of a Stephon LeFors than a Ryan Mallett.


Mike Blakely, Florida–I first noted Blakely early in the season when I saw his team take on Plant High.  I thought he was the best running back in a game that also included touted recruit James Wilder for Plant.  Blakely is an explosive runner who can cut on a dime.  He’s got tremendous vision, great forward lean and superb balance.  He’s not a true burner, but he’ll have enough speed to get downtown on most occasions.  In short, he’s a natural running back, which is something Florida hasn’t had in a while.


Malcolm Brown, Texas–Brown probably has the most raw talent of any back in this class.  He’s a big, bruising runner with good speed for his size.  He’s just the element Texas has been missing in recent years and he should start from Day One.  With his downhill style, he is best suited for an I-formation attack and that’s what Texas will be running during his career.  At worst, he’s probably another Cedric Benson.  At best, he could be another Ricky Williams.

Andrew Buie, West Virginia–Combine Dana Holgorsen’s wide open offense with a speedster running back like Buie and you have a potential under-the-radar star in the making at West Virginia.  Buie should be highly productive running, catching and returning kicks and punts for the Mountaineers.

Check his highlights here.

Tra Carson, Oregon–It seems like every year, the recruiting services underrate a Texas skill position player headed out West.  This year, that guy could be Carson, a power back with surprising speed. I think he’ll flourish in Chip Kelly’s offense and become the next star Duck running back.

Jeff Driskel, Florida–It’s almost a cliche to say this by now, but Driskel really might be the closest thing to a clone of Tim Tebow physically.  I think he might actually be a better athlete overall, with more fast-twitch ability, and he’s got a better throwing motion and stronger arm to boot.  I do believe he’s best suited to the style of offense run by Urban Meyer–so we may never get to know just how good he could’ve been running and throwing–but he should do well in any system. 

Kiehl Frazier, Auburn–This is the next great Tiger quarterback.  He’s not a physical phenom in the mold of Cam Newton, but he’ll be a three-year starter for Auburn and by his junior year should be one of the best quarterbacks in the country.  He’s equally good running or passing and he’s a tremendous leader.  What more do you want in a quarterback?  He’ll put up some fantastic numbers for Gus Malzahn and, because of having more time in the system, should be the all-time Auburn passing leader before he’s through.

Aaron Green, Nebraska–Green is ahead of the game as he already has an innate ability to makes the first tackler miss.  He’s a decisive runner who explodes to daylight and who sets up runners with the ease of a crafty veteran.  He’s got magic and creativity and a good amount of breakaway speed.  He sort of has a Reggie Bush-like style to him.  Once he gets a little stronger, he should be a big star for the Cornhuskers.

Kevin Hogan, Stanford–Amazingly, Stanford has become a vogue destination for Heisman-level players of late.  While it remains to be seen if David Shaw can keep the Harbaugh magic alive, you have to like his chance of doing so with recruits like Hogan in the bag.  He’s another quarterback in the mold of Andrew Luck–strong armed, accurate, athletic and tall.  He might be the heir apparent to Luck when it’s all said and done.

Check out his highlights here.

Braxton Miller, Ohio State–Miller is a more refined–but smaller–version of Terrelle Pryor.  Since the Ohio State offense basically consists of letting its quarterback run around willy nilly making plays, Miller should fit in just fine.  He’s a great scrambler and runner, but he’s got an arm more akin to Troy Smith’s than Pryor’s.  He’ll play a lot from the getgo, especially with Pryor being suspended, and probably end up a three year starter and a future star.

Jerrard Randall, Oregon–Randall’s relatively low profile is another example of how recruiting services fail to properly take into consideration how well a player fits into a school’s system.  The prospect of Randall playing quarterback in Oregon’s spread should be quite unnerving to the rest of the Pac-12.  This is a guy who is a clear upgrade physically over Darron Thomas and should help ensure that the Ducks stay in the nation’s elite for years to come.

Bubba Starling, Nebraska–It is a good possibility that Starling enters the Major League Baseball draft and makes millions since he is considered an top prospect in that sport.  But if he goes to Nebraska, we are talking about an elite athlete playing quarterback in a spread system.  He’s got the size, arm strength and physical tools to be a major star and an eventual high NFL draft pick. 

James Wilder, Florida State–Wilder is a specimen with fine bloodlines who should make an instant impact for the Seminoles at either tailback or linebacker.  If he chooses to play tailback, he’ll be an upright power runner with great feet, superlative strength and above-average speed.  He is a punishing runner who attacks and physically overwhelms defenders.  He’s not the most natural or instinctive runner, but he’s a fine athlete who should work it out and get better with every carry.

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Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of Heismanpundit.com, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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9 Responses to Future Heisman Candidates from the Recruiting Class of 2011

  1. AUman76 January 27, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

    Frazier will be interesting to watch if Gus hangs around a few years. He’s gonna be surrounded by more skilled players than any other QB in this class. He’s also gonna have one helluva OL in front of him. He’ll have the best chance to excell on day one. Take a look at Auburn’s recruits. We sign for need and have gotten commits from 90% of the kids we wanted. The OL class is the best in the nation and has an outside shoot to get even better. Reload mean anything to you HP?

  2. ANti AU January 28, 2011 at 8:47 am #

    How can you possibly say that Auburn has the best OL class in the nation. 3 4 star 1 3 star. That makes them having a very good class but not the best. Look around, NE has 4 4-star OL commits and 1 3star who is supposed to only be a sophomore. Auburn will sink back to mediocre in the SEC in 2 years. He got lucky getting a once in a lifetime QB that
    MADE that offense!
    Malzahn will be exposed for the fraud of an OC he truly is. 2+ Auburn losses next year!

  3. Andrew January 28, 2011 at 9:01 am #

    Not only were Tra Carson and LaMichael James high school teammates.but Carson just beat LMJ’s high school rushing record.

  4. AUman76 January 28, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    anti..what the heck are you talkin about? One 3* sophomore? Since when do HS sophomores jump their last two years of HS and sign letters of intent? The # of *’s depends on the site you look at. ESPN is full of sh!t and Rivals is a bammer run company and as usual has bammer #1. Scout is the best of the big three recruiting sites when it comes to being the least bias.
    Auburn ain’t gonin nowhere so get use to it. bammer thought they were top dog forever but how long did that ride last? They thought lil nicky was gonna mop up the floor with AU but hasn’t happened. Matter of fact lil nicky has a losin record against Auburn. That ain’t a gonna change either. He was suppose to out coach and out recruit AU but nope that ain’t happenin either. Since the bahr died Auburn has ruled the State of Alabama. 7 of the last 9 Iron Bowls have left bammers feelin Dark Navy Blue. But you keep hopin cause it’s all people like you have while we got’s the Crystal Ball! WDE!

  5. Travis January 30, 2011 at 7:31 am #

    Without Newton, Auburn will be lucky to have a 10 win season next year. Outside of Alabama and LSU, I really don’t see the SEC having a shot at the national title next season.
    In the east, either Florida or South Carolina will come out on top. Although USC will need a QB to replace Garcia, which will be a bigger challenge than USC fans will like to admit. UT and UGA need another year or two to get back, and UK and Vandy are consistent bottom dwellers.

    My prediction is LSU vs. UF in the SEC Championship game.

  6. AUman76 January 30, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    Travis, I understand why you think Auburn will struggle a bit in 2011. It’s the OL that concerns us AU fans. If they returning players that saw some time are helped by the new kids we will be fine. That’s a big if but we have talent that has yet to be seen or tested. I’m not sayin we’ll repeat but bammer ain’t a gonna win on the Plains so that makes your LSU pick look a lil better. Florida? Nah…they have a long ways to go before they are back to what they were. Boom and company will do better than UrrrrVAIN Myth but he left the program worse than he found it.
    UGA has the talent to win but something is a miss there. USCe looks to be the best bet again in the East but will still lose at least two games, they are South Carolina after all.

  7. Travis February 2, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

    I hate saying LSU will be there, but time and time again they are there at the end of the season.
    I am a UF fan, but that’s not why I picked them. I picked them cause the rest of the East is down. UGA is a year away. |While USC is good, I just don’t think they can do it again. It’s always a tough pick for me since I am a UF fan who is a USC alum.

  8. Dave February 8, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    Auburn has a brutal schedule next year, with Florida rotating into Kentucky’s spot.

    At: Clemson, SC, Arkansas, LSU, Georgia
    Home: MSU, Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama (plus 3 rent-a-wins)

    3 rent-a-wins + 1 road win + Ole Miss or MSU (but not both) = 5-7


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