No one has been able to win this trophy back to back years, since Archie Griffin for Ohio State in 1974-75. Can Johnny Manziell change that?
We’re just less than 5 weeks away from the start of the college football season. It’s time to start breaking down the 2013 season. Today let’s start by breaking down, how I think the 2013 Heisman Trophy race will go. This season’s race promises to be wide open. Will it be another quarterback, or with several running backs in the mix, will a running back take home the trophy. How about a wide receiver? After last season, where a freshman won the prize, there’s also a very good chance we could have our first back to back winner since Archie Griffin. Which will it be? Let’s dig in and break down the Sports & Swag 2013 preseason Top 10 list!
1. Braxton Miller - Jr. QB, Ohio State: is going into his 2nd season in Urban Meyer’s offense, which should be a plus. Miller, did quite well in his first season, amassing over 2,000 yards through the air, and over 1,200 yards on the ground. Braxton, is a runner first, which is fine in an Urban Meyer offense, but he can sling the rock a little. The problem last season, was the receivers he had to throw to were very inexperienced. Good news is, all of those guys are back. Miller’s passing stats will have to be better, and they should be, if he is to have his name called in New York City. The Buckeyes have the tradition, marquee name, and coach for Miller to get plenty of votes. It will be on his shoulders how much he’s acclimated himself to Urban Meyer’s offense. If he has, Miller will have a great shot at the Heisman, and Ohio St may find themselves in Pasadena, a week after the Rose Bowl for the BCS national title game.
2. Jadeveon Clowney - Jr. DE, South Carolina: is not just your run of the mill, defensive player, that gets his name thrown into the Heisman mix seemingly every season. Clowney, is a serious threat to become the first Heisman winner since Michigan’s Charles Woodson, in 1997, that primarily played on defense. Any defender who is to be considered a candidate for the Heisman would have to have extraordinary stats, and be looked upon as being the MVP of his team, so to speak. This 2013 Gamecocks team should be ready to compete in the SEC and nationally. In 2012, Clowney’s, 13 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss garnered him being the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He’ll have to do at least that, to have a good shot. With his freakish athletic ability, size, and overall passion for the game, those numbers could easily be surpassed. With that, he could also be the #1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
3. A.J. McCarron – Sr. QB, Alabama: is a solid threat to win the Heisman, despite Nick Saban’s strategy to run the ball, and yield to what’s usually the best defense in the country. Even with that strategy, probably the only thing that denied McCarron (2933 yds passing, 67% completions) a trip to New York was the loss to last year’s Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies. It’s the popular belief around the country, that A.J. is just a ‘game manager’ so to speak. My belief is McCarron is much more than a game manager. He just hasn’t had to be more than that. However, this year there are three new starters on the offensive line, so the inexperience could have McCarron in a little more distress, and force him to make a few more plays with his feet. One thing McCarron shouldn’t have to worry about is Bama’s receiving corps. Not only are they, probably the best in school history, but they may be the best in the nation when all is said and done. If Bama, wins the SEC they will probably play for their 3rd title in a row, and McCarron will at least be invited to NYC.
4. Tajh Boyd – Sr. QB, Clemson: may be fourth on my list, but is more than capable of hearing his name called in NYC. Boyd’s numbers in offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ offense, are likely to better than McCarron’s and Braxton Miller’s, but I think Clemson drops a game somewhere to cost him the hardware. Boyd, who threw for 3,896 yards and had a 67% completion rate, has 1st team All-American receiver, Sammy Watkins as a target. So, there is no shortage of talent around him. Clemson’s quest for a possible ACC title, and national title are likely to come down, to a season opening meeting with the Georgia Bulldogs and an October 19th ACC showdown against the Florida State Seminoles. Both games will be played in Death Valley. If Clemson pulls both those games out, the Tigers are likely to be in line for a BCS bowl and should run the table. If that happens, and Boyd shines, it will be very difficult to deny him the Heisman.
5. Johnny Manziel – So. QB, Texas A&M: returns with a chance to make more history. He’s already the only freshman to ever take home the Heisman Trophy, now he has a chance to become only the second player to win back to back Heisman’s. I don’t think it’s going to happen for a couple of reasons. 1. I think SEC defenses catch up with the Aggies. That’s not to say I don’t see A&M having an explosive offense. I just think they take a step back. Besides the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma, the other 3 games that really mattered on the national landscape last season, vs Florida, vs LSU, and at Alabama, the Aggies had their way against all 3 defenses in the first half, but struggled in the second half against each. It seemed, that once these teams were dialed in to what A&M was doing, Manziel and company had problems. 2. Manziel, and the Aggies will have targets on their back. Can A&M handle the pressure of being the hunted? We’ll find out early, as Alabama visits the 12th Man at Kyle Field, in week a 3 SEC showdown. Regardless, Manziel will not go quietly in defending the Heisman trophy. Should be fun to watch.
6. Teddy Bridgewater – Jr. QB, Louisville: is probably a little lesser known to the average college football fan, but ask any Florida Gator fan, and they can tell you all about him. Bridgewater and the Cardinals, beat up on the Gators in the Sugar Bowl, 33-23. Florida scored a couple late TD’s to make it look closer than it was. Bridgewater, like Tajh Boyd, should flourish from playing in a system that’s high powered and will give him a lot of opportunities to rack up a lot of yards and points. However, unlike Boyd, Louisville’s schedule lacks any marquee games for Bridgewater to shine. So, why put Bridgewater in this spot? He’s here, because I think he’s ultimately as good, or better than the QB’s I have ahead of him. He’ll probably top his 3,718 yards and 27 TD’s from last season, but with the toughest games on Louisville’s schedule being hosting Rutgers, and at Cincinnati, there just won’t be enough for him to fall back on. Needless to say, the Cards would have to run the table for Bridgewater to have a shot.
7. T.J. Yeldon – So. RB, Alabama: is among several running backs that will have their shot at winning the Heisman. I’ll take Yeldon (1108 yds, 6.3 per carry) slightly ahead of them all. Versatility is his biggest asset. He has great speed and agility to take it the distance outside, but also has the power to run between the tackles. Which is a must, if you’re going to play for a Nick Saban coached team. To put it all together, Yeldon is also very adept at catching the ball out of the backfield. The highlight of his freshman season had to be the game winning TD against LSU, where he took a screen pass from A.J. McCarron to the house. We all know Yeldon will get enough carries. 1. Because it’s Alabama, and 2. because he’s now the starter. Could T.J. actually gain more Heisman votes than A.J.? It’s possible.
8. Todd Gurley – So. RB, Georgia: like Yeldon had a spectacular freshman year for the Bulldogs (1385 yds, 6.2 per carry). To be truthful, it’s really a coin flip between these two, to see who’s the best. If Bama and Georgia traded them, I don’t know if you would see much difference. I give Yeldon the slightest of an edge, because Bama’s schedule looks to be easier than Georgia’s on paper. Georgia, not only opens the season at Clemson, but also plays LSU and at Auburn out of the SEC west. Bama, conversely plays at Kentucky and Tennessee from the SEC east. That’s not to mention the Dawg’s playing east foes, Florida, South Carolina, and at Vanderbilt. Much like Yeldon, Gurley is very versatile. Great between the tackles, has the burst and agility to get outside, and is also a good receiver from the backfield. Gurley, being 8th on my list shows just how deep this Heisman class is. Gurley, possesses everything to get him plenty of votes come December.
9. Sammy Watkins – Jr. WR/KR, Clemson: is the first receiver on the list, but is also very capable of taking home the trophy. Watkins, has had some off the field problems, that have affected him, but there is no doubting the talent. Watkins, is not only adept at catching the football and knowing what to do with it once he gets it, but he is also an electrifying kick returner. Unfortunately, a suspension for the first two games of last season, and a major drop off statistically from his freshman season to his sophomore season (1219 yds receiving as frosh to 705 yards receiving as soph., and 700+ kick return yards as Frosh to 257 KR yards as Soph.), means Watkins will have a lot of climbing to do for Heisman consideration. Clemson, however will be in a couple marquee games (Georgia, Florida St.), and as mentioned above will have a good shot at running the table, if they win those games. If, Watkins gains back the form, where many hailed him as being the best receiver in the country, the Tigers will be tough to beat.
10. De’Anthony Thomas – Jr. RB, Oregon: and the rest of the Ducks are in a bit of transition period. Former head coach, Chip Kelly is now coaching the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. So, former offensive coordinator, Mark Helfrich takes over the head coaching reigns. The transition should be smooth from a terminology and overall scheme standpoint, but how will Helfrich handle being the man on the sideline. Thomas’ chances at the Heisman will clearly boil down to how smooth the transition is. Thomas, is your proto-typical Oregon running back. Small (5’9″ 176lbs), but fast and shifty. He fits what Oregon wants to do when they have the ball, perfectly, and because of this he should have great numbers. The Ducks are also very popular around the country, so getting votes shouldn’t be much of a problem. Schedule wise, the Ducks have one major hurdle at Stanford. The Pac-12 is much improved, but the rest are very manageable, and Thomas should rack up plenty of yards and TD’s. The Ducks, also have their eyes on another title game appearance.
Six Pack of notables (best of the rest):
Lache Seastrunk – Jr. RB, Baylor
Aaron Murray – Sr. QB, Georgia
Amari Cooper – So. WR, Alabama
Marquise Lee – Jr. WR/KR, USC
Jordan Lynch – Sr. QB, Northern Illinois
David Fales – Sr. QB, San Jose St.
Anyone else that you would have on the list? Make a comment and let me know. Should be a very interesting Heisman race, and very entertaining college football season. Visit sportsandswag.com/often, as we have more content to get prepare for the 2013 college football season!
- Will Johnny Manziel Dominate The NFL The Way He Has The NCAA? (sportsandswag.com)
- Clemson’s Boyd Not Scared of Clowney (guardianlv.com)
- Top 5 2013 Heisman contenders by Twitter buzz (sbnation.com)