Five Players Who Might Be Ready To Make A Move In The 2011 Heisman Race

When analyzing the Heisman race, you have to take into account the various ebbs and flows of the season.

For instance, September tends to feature a bevy of potential candidates, many of whom thrive thanks to the typically light early-season schedule. Only later, when conference play kicks in and the schedule toughens up, do we see the true value of the candidate in the race.

This, by the way, is why I created the term “September Heisman” back in 2006. It reflects the early trendy pick in the Heisman race. Next time you see that term bandied about, remember where it came from.

We’ll award this year’s September Heisman later next week, but for now, I want to focus on four players who aren’t being mentioned too much right now who still might make a run at the Heisman.

Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama — Richardson hasn’t set the world on fire in the early going, but he’s still doing well, averaging 105 yards per game against mostly weak competition. Alabama is doing the right thing with him and saving him for the slog of the SEC schedule. One thing I like about his potential in this race is that he has already scored eight touchdowns with (most likely) 10 games to go before the Heisman vote. Even if he averages 1.5 touchdowns per game the rest of the way, that comes out to 23 touchdowns on the year, which is the kind of number that Heisman voters will find impressive. All he has to do now is amp up his rushing totals in conference play. He certainly will have a number of high-profile games to make his case. Matchups with Arkansas, Florida, LSU and Auburn will all be closely watched.

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia — Smith is off to a hot start but hasn’t really caught the attention of the voters just yet. Honestly, there are so many good players to choose from right now, someone quite worthy is bound to get left off a 3-player ballot. What I like about Smith is that he has a good base of stats to build off of–1,008 passing yards, 7 TDs in his first 3 games–and I think he’ll only get better as he progresses in Dana Holgorsen’s offense. LSU is in town this week and it could be a launching point for Smith’s candidacy. Even if he plays well in a tough loss, he could draw a lot of attention and make a late run to NYC later.

Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State — I think Hillman is a long, long shot to actually win the Heisman, but I think he’s got a decent chance to make it into the top five of the race if he can have a brilliant game against Michigan and TCU in the next two Saturdays. He’s second nationally in rushing, averaging 165 yards per game. He has also scored 8 touchdowns, so he’s on pace for excellent numbers. And down the road, there is a matchup with Boise State, which will allow him to make a late case for his candidacy. It also helps that the Aztecs look like they are on their way to one of their best seasons in a while.

Lamar Miller, RB, Miami — His 184-yard game against Ohio State didn’t get much play, but it should have. Miller is an elite talent who should pile up some impressive numbers this season. He’s got games against Virginia Tech and Florida State on the schedule to make his case. The only curve ball in his campaign is his team. Will the Canes be any good? They’ll have to go on a roll, losing no more than one more game the rest of the way for Miller to be seriously considered. It helps that he has a good chance at breaking some Miami single-season rushing records before he is through.

Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson — I was a bit reluctant to include him on this list as it may just be a bit early to be putting him on this level, but you have to be impressed by his play in the first three games. He has 911 yards, 10 TDs and just one pick so far. What I like about him is that he’s got a ton of weapons to throw to and he’s doing it all in the same offense that won the Heisman for Cam Newton last year. We’ve had some guys come out of nowhere of late and maybe Boyd is that guy this year. This week’s game against FSU will tell us if he is a contender or a pretender.

There are some players who people might think should be on this list, but I don’t include them for the following reasons:

Chris Rainey — I believe he will revert back to the mean a bit. He’s going to share carries with Jeff Demps and I wonder if he’ll have enough opportunities to shine to the extent he will need to in order to be seriously considered for the Heisman.

Michael Dyer — He’s going to have a great season, no doubt about it. But Auburn is going to struggle at times and I think it’ll be tough to make a run at the Heisman when your team has some losses under its belt. Next year is his time.

LaMichael James — I think voters are a bit miffed by his team’s egg-laying against top-flight competition. Getting 204 yards against Southwest Missouri State isn’t going to cut it. He’ll have to have a stupendous season at this point to make a serious run.

Matt Barkley — He’s looking good so far this year, but I don’t think his numbers will hold up as much once USC gets into the meat of its schedule. The Trojans would need to win 10 or 11 games for him to be taken into consideration and I don’t think that’s going to happen.

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About Heismanpundit

Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of, 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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7 Responses to Five Players Who Might Be Ready To Make A Move In The 2011 Heisman Race

  1. Grizzly Gator September 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    I think that the Alabama vs. Florida game on Oct. 1st will be the will he/won’t he be considered for the Heisman moment for Richardson and Rainey. It’ll be a nationally televised game featuring two undefeated top 15 teams (UF might even be in the top 10).

    Also, if, and that’s a big if, Richardson/Rainey can put up good numbers against LSU’s defense, then he should be considered for a spot in New York.

  2. Nate September 27, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Time to update your list and correct your assessment of LaMichael James. His performance against Arizona was phenomenal. He’s a legit candidate and will be at years’ end as well.

    • Heismanpundit September 27, 2011 at 10:58 am #

      Voters are yawning at 288 yards against Arizona because they remember what he looked like against LSU and Auburn. When LaMichael puts up 200 yards on a good defense, he’ll be back in the good graces of Heisman voters. Until then, he’s just a guy putting up yards on bad teams.

      • Nate September 27, 2011 at 11:57 am #

        This might be of interest to you to put things into perspective:

        “Ingram in 2009 rushed for 1,658 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. Along the way he gained all of 30 yards on 16 carries during a 26-21 win at Auburn and had four other games of under 100 yards rushing. James has just nine for his career. ”

        This is from the following article:

      • Nate September 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

        I do agree, Arizona is bad on D this year but those #s are still impressive. On the road no-less. Most yards ever by any Duck which is saying something. That includes Johnathan Stewart. Well, James will get a chance at redemption on Nov. 12th against Stanford who currently has the best rushing defense in the nation; yes better than LSU’s. Not to mention, their next game is against Cal who is 13th. With good games against those teams, he has be in the running.

    • Joe September 27, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

      I agree LaMichael didn’t shine against LSU but, he still had a game high 132 all purpose yards, of those he had 6 receptions for 61 yards and a TD. Also i hate to burst your bubble but Oregon beat themselves that game with bad mistakes that weren’t forced by LSU (like Barner’s fumble) they weren’t crushed by LSU.

  3. November 12, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

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