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Future Heisman candidates from the recruiting class of 2014

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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 200820092010 , 20112012 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):

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The Fastest Recruits from the Class of 2011

I thought I’d get an early jump on my annual fastest players in college football list by ranking the swiftest recruits from the class of 2011.

This might require you to temporarily suspend your belief that all reported 40-yard dash times are accurate.  Hate to break it to you, but most players do not run 4.4 or better.  Many 40 times are either fudged or improperly recorded.  That’s why the most reliable and accurate indicator of true speed is–and always will be–track marks.

For instance, there have been many reports that Oregon recruit Tacoi Sumler might be this year’s fastest recruit based on his 40 time of 4.24.  But his best verified 100m time is 10.80.  Now, it could well be that he runs a very fast 40 and a not-very-fast 100.  But when you are comparing speed, you have to compare apples to apples.  Track times are run under similiar conditions and on similiar surfaces with legitimate timing devices.  Forty-yard dashes are run on a wide array of surfaces, under widely varying conditions (no wind is ever recorded, for instance) and recorded without standard devices, which usually results in some inaccuracies.   This is not to say that a player isn’t fast because he doesn’t have a track mark.  It’s just acknowledging that track marks are the best way to quantify and then compare what we know about players and their speed.

Now, the list, which only includes players who have signed to date.  Keep in mind that most of these guys still have another track season to go, so this list could shift by the time fall comes around:

1. Miles Schuler, WR, Rutgers–Schuler has a best of 10.39 in the 100 meters as a junior in high school.  I give him the nod over Evans below due to his ability to pull that time off in a cold weather state like New Jersey.  If he had the benefit of more training days in warm weather, he would likely have even faster times.  As it stands, he is a highly-overlooked talent who should shine for the Scarlet Knights.

2. Sheroid Evans, CB, Texas–Evans also has a best of 10.39 in the 100m and adds to that a 20.82 in the 200m.  He also is a standout in the intermediate hurdles.  Might be a better overall athlete than anyone on this list, which is why he’s slated for cornerback for Texas.

3. Damiere Byrd, CB, South Carolina–Byrd had a best time of 10.42 in the 100m and should line up at cornerback and also serve as a dangerous return man for the Gamecocks.

4. Mike Bellamy, RB, Clemson–Bellamy is one of the more highly-recruited running backs in the country and he is a true breakaway threat with a best of 10.51 in the 100m.

5. Romar Morris, RB, North Carolina–A diminutive running back headed to UNC, he’s got a best of 10.54 in the 100m.

6. De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon–The Black Mamba has a best of 10.57 in the 100 meters and 21.01 in the 200m.

7. George Farmer, WR, USC–The nation’s top receiver recruit has blazed a 10.55 in the 100m and has gone as low as 10.40 wind-aided.

8. George Atkinson, DB, Notre Dame–Atkinson, who best projects to safety, has a best of 10.61 in the 100m.

9. Dallas Burroughs, WR, Boise State–Burroughs has a best of 10.63 in the 100m and is a good bet to be the next Bronco breakaway threat about whom everyone will ask “Where did he come from?”

10. Justin Scott-Wesley, WR, Georgia–Scott-Wesley has a best of 10.66 in the 100m.

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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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