Heismanpundit’s Pre-Spring 2012 Heisman Watch

We now know who’s leaving early for the NFL, so it’s time to cobble together our list of the players who currently have the best shot of winning the 2012 Heisman Trophy.

Too early? Too bad. We’ve got another seven-and-a-half months to go until the season starts and we know you all can’t get by on recruiting and spring football alone.

This is just the first rollout of a series of lists. We’ll have revisions after spring ball and then a final Watch List heading into the season.

1. Matt Barkley, USC – Barkley returns for his senior year as the front runner for the 2012 Heisman. He’s got perhaps the best receiving corps in the history of college football catching his passes, so you know his numbers will be stellar. However, he must beat the expectations game or voters could eventually turn on him like they did Andrew Luck.

2. Denard Robinson, Michigan – Four of the last six Heisman winners have been dual-threat quarterbacks and it is this style that has the most potential to wow the voters. The story with Robinson will be how he turned around a storied program. If the Wolverines challenge for national honors, he’ll be a strong Heisman candidate.

3. Montee Ball, Wisconsin – Ball is the leading returning vote getter from last season, when he took fourth in the Heisman balloting. Because of this, it is very tempting to just make him the front runner, but one has to take into account the tremendous standard he set for himself last season by scoring 39 touchdowns. He’s bound to have a drop off of sorts and just how much he drops off will determine his eventual standing in the race.

4. Geno Smith, West Virginia – Smith passed for 4,385 yards and 31 touchdowns in his first season in Dana Holgorsen’s system. If he improves his numbers again this year and his team has improved success to go along with it, then he’ll be in the Heisman mix.

5. De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon – Thomas might’ve benefitted from the best postseason spring-board of this whole bunch, as he rushed for 155 yards on two carries against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Thomas has the ability to win the Heisman based on the excitement factor alone. Voters love multi-purpose athletes.

6. Landry Jones, Oklahoma – Jones is the opposite of Oregon’s Thomas when it comes to the excitement factor, but he’s a senior quarterback on a traditional power and he’s got the potential to put up huge numbers yet again.

7. Tajh Boyd, Clemson – Boyd was a revelation as a sophomore, throwing for over 3,800 yards with 33 touchdown passes as a first-year starter while leading the Tigers to the ACC title. He’s got the second-best receiving corps in the country to throw to and a fine offensive general in Chad Morris calling the plays, so he should have another big season.

8. Sammy Watkins, Clemson – If Thomas is the most exciting player in the country, Watkins isn’t far behind. The nation’s best receiver piles up yards receiving, rushing and returning kicks. If any wide out challenges for the Heisman in ’12, it’s him.

9. Knile Davis, Arkansas – Davis was the premier back in the SEC in 2010 before breaking an ankle and missing all of last season. If he returns fully healthy, he should have another productive campaign and get some Heisman mention.

10. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina – Lattimore is a bruising runner with a lot of name recognition, but he’s been slowed by injuries. If he can stay healthy for a full season–and that’s a BIG if–he could make a serious Heisman run.

11. Collin Klein, Kansas State – Klein’s improvement from his sophomore to junior year was remarkable as he rushed for 27 touchdowns in 2011. If he can lead K-State to yet another successful season, he’ll get some Heisman love.

12. Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michigan – Toussaint had a strong finish to his sophomore season and might be primed for a breakout year in 2012.

13. Braxton Miller, Ohio State – The last time Urban Meyer coached a true sophomore quarterback with these kinds of skills, that true sophomore won the Heisman Trophy.

14. Tavon Austin, West Virginia – Another all-purpose dynamo with the ability to beat opposing teams any number of ways. He had a fantastic Orange Bowl and will enter 2012 as one of the more dangerous offensive weapons in the country.

15. Aaron Murray, Georgia – It’s really hard to win a Heisman playing in Mark Richt’s system, but Murray was able to crank out 35 touchdown passes as a sophomore. If that’s a precursor to bigger and better things, look out.

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About Heismanpundit

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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30 Responses to Heismanpundit’s Pre-Spring 2012 Heisman Watch

  1. Chris January 17, 2012 at 3:20 am #

    Stanford won’t be relevant in the National aspect, but watch out for Stepfan Taylor.

  2. Stephen January 17, 2012 at 5:20 am #

    No Tyrann Mathieu?

  3. HP January 17, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    This is a list of guys who might actually win. Mathieu has no chance to win it, being a defensive player.

    • Brad Zukerman January 30, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

      He’s already proven he can get some votes. If he continues to improve, whats to say he can’t pull a Charles Woodson?

  4. Jonah Sails January 17, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    No Keith Price? WHat are you smoking? Get with the program buddy

  5. Heismanpundit January 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    Washington will have to win at least 9 or 10 games for Price to be relevant. Don’t see that happening.

  6. KKB January 17, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

    There are a number of teams on here I don’t see winning 9 or 10 games….why would Price’s situation be any different?

  7. Heismanpundit January 17, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    Most of these teams have a good shot at it. Washington really doesn’t.

    • KKB January 17, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

      Fair enough……thanks Heismanpundit.

    • Brad Zukerman January 30, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

      As a duck, I want to agree with you, but I just cant. Washington is shaping up to be the third best team in the pac 12. Stanford will fall hard, cal may be great, but its hard to tell. Washington has been steadily on the rise, and with the addition of Lupoi and the recruits hes helping snag, I can easily see them winning close to 10 games. They will lose to oregon and USC, but can undoubtedly win every other game.

      • Heismanpundit January 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

        Washington plays USC, Oregon and LSU in the first seven games. They will be, at best, 4-3 at that point. History points to at least one more stumble, which means the Huskies finish 8-4…at best.

  8. Beau5141 January 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    Why no Robert Woods from USC?

    • Heismanpundit January 17, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

      Because every TD caught by Woods is a TD thrown by Barkley. He won’t be able to separate as a Heisman candidate.

  9. Kyle January 17, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

    Not an Alabama fan here but after watching the National Championship game I think AJ McCarron will be a really good QB. Why is he not on here?

    • Heismanpundit January 18, 2012 at 1:44 am #

      Because he plays in an offense where it is practically impossible to put up the kind of numbers that impresses Heisman voters.

  10. John January 19, 2012 at 9:43 am #

    Watch out for Casey Pachall, he gets all of his receivers, RB, and line should improve. Definitely a dark horse, but a name to watch.

  11. Nandez January 19, 2012 at 9:46 am #

    Great to see to West Virginia players on the board. I really see Geno Smith being able to put up better numbers next season and gaining more confidence in his coaching staff. Just like you said, he has a shot at the Heisman depending on the rest of the teams ability to stay consistent in the win column.

  12. Joshua January 19, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    The Geno Smith/Tavon Austin combo will make WVU a force to be feared for any defence. Not to mention Garrison as a maturing running back, and Alston plowing through D Lines

  13. Steven (tyoung) January 19, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    Where logan thomas hes only goin 2 get better all we do is win we have 8 st8 10 win season and wilson goin to the nfl we eill b throwin a lot more this year m.davis d.j coles no love to my hokies…

  14. PittHater January 19, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    W… V… U… WVU! Look out Big XII!

  15. Steven (tyoung) January 19, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    Also logan thomas going to score throw the air and on the ground im telling you he will will be a dark horse no love thofor logan…

  16. steven(tyoung) January 20, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    Still waiting on why loagn thomas isnt on this list???? he going 2 score 40 tds next year he will have 15 tds on the ground alone you watch.. we will win 10 or 11 games like we do every year.. the kids only going 2 get better as a passer..some of the people you got on this list no way they will win heisman there team would have 2 win 11 games next year and thats not happenin….go hokies no love for the hokies

    • Heismanpundit January 30, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

      No Logan Thomas because he plays in a bad offensive system that doesn’t produce numbers for a QB.

  17. Todd Swanson January 20, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    What???? No Tyler Wilson from Arkansas, he led the SEC in passing and total yards. WOW!!

    • Heismanpundit January 30, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

      Leading the SEC in passing and total yards did not lead to a single Heisman vote this year and Arkansas was a top 10 team. I see no reason why the same result would produce anything different.

  18. William January 21, 2012 at 6:11 am #

    Heisman pundit has tajh boyd in front of marcus lattimore and Mathieu not in the heisman watch. You dont have the best quarterback in the SEC in tyler wilson in there either. Common man! Stop making these stupid articles. Your top 10 is probably even worse!

  19. 239balla March 7, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    Most likely Sammy “bug” Watkins gne take the Heisman this year

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