Way-Too-Early Top 5 Heisman Trophy candidates for 2017

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

There are two primary goals that top-tier college football players enter the season with. Number one is, obviously, to win the College Football Playoff national championship game. Number two is to win the Heisman Trophy award. Who are the way-too-early favorites to rock this year’s race?

With still roughly four months to go until the start of the season, these rankings are definitely subject to change. The possibilities of transfers, injuries, teammate transfers or teammate injuries among many other changes make these rankings 100% subject to change and anything but set in stone.

We’ll start with some names worth remembering and some honorable mentions.

Names Worth Remembering (no order)

Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State Seminoles

Kamryn Pettway, RB, Auburn Tigers

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston Cougars

Quinton Flowers, QB, South Florida Bulls

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn Tigers

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon Ducks

Shane Buechele, QB, Texas Longhorns

Kenny Hill, QB, TCU Horned Frogs

Luke Falk, QB, Washington State Cougars

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA Bruins

Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State Broncos

Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State Buckeyes

Malik Zaire, QB, Undecided

Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington Huskies

Phillip Lindsay, RB, Colorado Buffaloes

 

Honorable Mentions (no order)

Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma Sooners — Mayfield has been one of the nation’s top passers over the past two seasons, totaling 7,665 passing yards, 76 touchdowns, and just 15 interceptions. However, it’s hard to see his recent legal issues go unnoticed by the voters regardless of how well he performs this season.

JT Barrett, QB, Ohio State Buckeyes — Barrett is an electrifying quarterback running the football, but he leaves a lot to be desired in the passing game. He could contend for the award if he steps that up this season and keeps Ohio State at the top of the rankings.

Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama Crimson Tide — Hurts, like Barrett, is a great running quarterback on a great team, but he needs work in the passing game. As just a sophomore, however, I can see him improving a lot and finishing higher in the final vote than he did last season.

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State Cowboys — Rudolph silently put together a productive season last year, amassing 4,091 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, and just 4 interceptions. As one of the nation’s top returning senior quarterbacks, he should be a Heisman contender for sure.

Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State Nittany Lions — McSorley proved to be one of the most unlikely success stories last season after he led Penn State to a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl appearance after a 2-2 start. He is one of the few efficient running quarterbacks that have already developed a reliable passing game, so don’t sleep on him.

 

Top 5

No. 5 – Jake Browning, QB, Washington Huskies

Many people thought that Browning would at least be a top 5 finisher in the voting last season after a breakout season in which he threw for 3,430 passing yards, 43 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. However, he was not. There is no reason to believe that he won’t be able to put up solid numbers once again. With three of last year’s five finalists no longer in school, he should definitely be a top 5 contender.

 

No. 4 – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State Nittany Lions

Barkley is probably the best all-around running back in the nation in terms of a combination of rushing and receiving. Playing for a team with arguably the most explosive offense in the country, he is sure to see his share of touches once again. Last season as a sophomore, he totaled 300 touches, 1,898 scrimmage yards, and 22 touchdowns, a huge improvement from his freshman season. Look for even more of an improvement this season.

 

No. 3 – Derrius Guice, RB, LSU Tigers

It seems more than safe to say that LSU is in good hands at the running back position after the departure of the 2017 NFL Draft’s #4 overall pick Leonard Fournette. In limited playing time last season, Guice carried the ball just 183 times, but he did so for 1,387 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. That’s good for 7.6 average yards per carry, and that’s against some tough SEC defenses. In a full-time starting role, Guice should shine even brighter this season.

 

No. 2 – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville Cardinals

Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy award winner, could easily be the top player in the nation again. However, only one player has won the award twice, so if Jackson wants to become the second, he’s going to have to play as well as or better than he played last season. That’s a tall task seeing as how he totaled 51 touchdowns (30 passing, 21 rushing) last year, but it’s certainly a good possibility.

 

No. 1 – Sam Darnold, QB, USC Trojans

Remember USC’s 1-3 start last season? Darnold doesn’t. After that miserable start in which he started just one game, he led the team to a 9-0 record, including a Rose Bowl victory over the scorching hot Penn State Nittany Lions. The projected #1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft looks to be headed towards a season for the ages after a shortened season in which he threw for 3,086 passing yards, 31 touchdowns, and just 9 interceptions.

 

-Asher Fair

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