The recruits from the high school recruiting class of 2014 have signed their letters of intent.
Not all of them are going to live up to their lofty recruiting rankings this season. Some will take time to adjust to the rigors of college life and go on to redshirt. Some will find ways to contribute as backups or on special teams. Others will be pressed into action due to injuries. Only a select few will become stars this fall.
Here at HeismanPundit 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, 2012 and 2013.
It’s important to remember that not every recruiting class will produce a Heisman winner, or even a Heisman candidate. Johnny Manziel was from the class of 2011, while Robert Griffin and Mark Ingram were from the class of 2008. Cam Newton was in the high school class of 2007. The classes of 2009 and 2010 were somewhat devoid of serious candidates. In other words, it’s possible that Heisman glory passes over this group.
Selecting the candidates is not as simple as checking off some 5-star players from the recruiting sites.
First off, we narrow the list down 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, we assess the abilities of the players in question. 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, how well does the player fit into the system in which he will be playing? Does his team’s 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. Keep these guys on your radar and expect at least one of them to make a strong run at the Heisman within the next four years. Here they are (in no particular order):
Keller Chryst, QB, Stanford — Chryst is the best quarterback prospect from the West Coast since Carson Palmer. He’s a big, strong, grown man (6-4, 230) with good athleticism who happens to throw lasers. He has first-pick-in-the-draft potential down the road and, if all goes right, he’ll be the latest Cardinal quarterback to make a legit run at the Heisman.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson — Think of how prolific Tajh Boyd has been in Chad Morris’s offense the past three seasons. Now replace him with an even more talented specimen like Watson and it’s not hard to imagine that the Gainesville, Ga., product is on his way to a special career. The 6-3, 195-pounder had over 17,000 yards of offense in high school.
Aaron Sharp, QB, UCLA — Sharp is very similar to Robert Griffin III coming out of high school due to his combination of track speed (21.19 200m) and raw football talent. It’s rare to have one of the fastest players in the country playing quarterback, but that’s what Sharp brings to the table. He also has a strong arm, good size and solid accuracy and with his skill set he should flourish in UCLA’s offensive scheme.
Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma — Mixon is a big, bruising downhill power back with good speed for his size (10.96 1oom at 6-1, 215 pounds). He is deceptively athletic and also exceptional as a receiver. He’s the best back signed by Oklahoma since Adrian Petersen. Like Petersen, he has an upright, attacking running style that makes him very tough to tackle in the open field. Though he’s no A.D. when it come to breakaway ability, he’ll play a lot as a freshman and eventually emerge as the latest star running back for the Sooners.
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State — Rudolph is a perfect fit for the Cowboys offense. At 6-4, 210 pounds, he has a strong arm and is athletic enough to make plays with his feet. He is used to operating out of a shot gun attack. Like most of the quarterbacks who came before him in Stillwater, he’ll have excellent production in his career. But his overall physical ability separates him from previous OSU quarterbacks and could turn him into a potential Heisman candidate down the road.
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU — Fournette is the consensus No. 1 running back in the country and some contend he is the best player overall. There’s no doubt he’s a physically gifted big back with very good speed for his size (10.95 at 6-1, 226) and he should play right away for the Tigers. The only question is whether he’ll get the chance to have the kind of production needed to challenge for a Heisman while playing for LSU. If given the carries, he should be a candidate sooner rather than later.
Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina — This was an excellent year for high school running backs. Hood is another one of those big, physical backs who can kick it into an extra gear in the open field. It’s rare for a man this size to have such quick feet. Hood will start from Day One for the Tar Heels and have an outstanding career.
Racean Thomas, RB, Auburn — While Fournette, Mixon and Hood are power backs with speed, Thomas is an ultra-quick and shifty scatback with breakaway ability and a knack for staying on his feet. His vision is outstanding and his ability to stop and start and cut on a dime is the best I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s not hard to picture him gaining huge yardage in Gus Malzahn’s offense and, like Tre Mason, making it to New York one day.
Deshone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame — It’s only a matter of time before Brian Kelly finds the right quarterback to run his offense. Kizer could be that guy. He’s a very talented dual-threat with good size (6-4, 205) and athletic ability. A successful Irish quarterback is always a Heisman candidate, so Kizer stands a good chance to fulfill that promise.
Others to watch
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Luke Rubenzer, QB, California
Reggie Bonnafon, QB, Louisville
De’Chavon Hayes, RB, Arizona State
Adam Choice, RB, Clemson
KD Cannon, WR, Baylor
DJ Gillins, QB, Wisconsin
Jarrod Heard, QB, Texas
Will Crest, QB, West Virginia
Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Dalvin Warmack, RB, Kansas State