Future Heisman Candidates from the Recruiting Class of 2012

National signing day and all it entails is under way across the country.

One thing we always like to do here at HP is list a few guys from each recruiting class who we foresee as future Heisman candidates.

It’s an inexact science, but in 2007, we had a guy named Cameron Newton on our list. Here are our picks from 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

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?

Let’s see what’s in store for this year’s class, along with a few of their highlights.  I expect at least one of these players to make a strong run at the Heisman within the next two to three years. Here they are, after the jump:

(in alphabetical order)

Bri’onte Dunn, Ohio State — The premier power back in this class will have a unique opportunity to pile up yards in Urban Meyer’s spread offense. This guy is big and strong at 6-2, 225 pounds and he likes to run people over, but he has remarkable feet for his size, too. He should be the next great Buckeye back.

Johnathan Gray, Texas — HP’s No. 1 running back has everything you want: Size, speed, vision, hands, power, etc. He’s a dynamic downtown threat who can also break tackles. He’ll contribute from the getgo for the Longhorns and contend for the Heisman before too long.

Randy Johnson, Miami — One of the premier playmakers in this class, Johnson can take it the distance at any time. He can run, catch and return kicks and I expect him to be the most exciting player at Miami since Devin Hester. An incredible all-around talent.

Gunner Kiel, Notre Dame — Kiel has one of the strongest arms in this recruiting class, but he also has the athleticism to move around in Brian Kelly’s spread system. The Notre Dame quarterback is always one good season away from being a legit candidate and I expect Kiel to have a great career for the Irish.

Trevor Knight, Oklahoma — The Sooners seem to be favoring mobile quarterbacks of late with the signing of Blake Bell a couple years ago and now with Knight in 2012. While he’s got great feet and natural running ability, Knight is also a strong-armed and accurate passer.

Cyler Miles, Washington — HP’s No. 1-rated quarterback out of this class, Miles has the potential to elevate Washington to the next level within a few seasons. He’s got similar size and physical ability to Cam Newton, so keep an eye on him.

Mario Pender, Florida State — The Seminoles don’t have a storied running back tradition, but Pender might be the best of the bunch before it’s all said and done.  He has great size to go with breakaway speed and he should contribute right away for the ‘Noles.

Barry Sanders, Jr., Stanford — He doesn’t just have the name, he’s got the ability as well. And with Stanford being a recent destination for Heisman candidates, I like his chances to make a splash in the next few years.

Russel Shell, Pittsburgh — Shell might be the most talented running back recruit to sign with the Panthers since Tony Dorsett. He’s a complete running back who could’ve played anywhere he wanted, but he chose to stick with Pitt. He should have an instant impact.

T.J. Yeldon, Alabama — After a year of adjustment, look for Yeldon to pick up where Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson left off. He’s a tall, athletic back who can also catch the ball. He’ll make Tide fans very happy in the years to come.

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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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4 Responses to Future Heisman Candidates from the Recruiting Class of 2012

  1. Picks on Sports February 26, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    Go Duke Johnson !

  2. Cowboy_KS March 11, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    No mention of OState’s Wes Lunt out of Rochester IL? 6’5″ 205# 3,651 yards, 31 TDs, 4 INTs in just 10 games his senior season. Lunt has a 65 yard highly accurate cannon for an arm. He’s going into Gundy’s offense so highly likely to have 2-3 +4500 yard seasons. You ranked him 23rd behind several kids with glaring mechanical flaws.

    What gives Wise HP?

  3. Cowboy_KS August 1, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    Interesting that Trevor Knight made the list. OKState picked up Knight’s #1 target, Austin Hays, that accounted for over half of Knight’s passing yards and TD’s. Understand the Heisman voters love OU, but Knight will never start at QB for the Sooner’s. He simply doesn’t have the passing ability to stretch D’s the way Stoops expects.


  1. Future Heisman candidates from the recruiting class of 2013 | Heisman Pundit - February 5, 2013

    […] Over at Heismanpundit.com we are always on the lookout for future Heisman candidates, so it’s a tradition of ours to try to pick out the players from each recruiting class who best fit that bill. It’s an inexact science, but in 2007, we had a guy named Cameron Newton on our list. Here are our picks from 2008, 2009, 2010 , 2011 and 2012. […]