Last year the Heisman went to Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson who will look to add a second one this year as he returns for his junior season. Becoming the first two-time winner since Archie Griffin will be a tough task and Jackson has a number of worthy candidates that he’ll have to compete against to gain this honor. From the nation’s other top QB’s, RB’s and defenders it will be a long road for to New York this year for the Heisman ceremony.
5. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU: Guice has looked amazing through camp and is set to be the workhorse for LSU this year. Some say the back has more talent than Leonard Fournette, and he is far more adept in the openfield. He has homerun potential every play and could have people in the Bayou forgetting about their Heisman hopeful from last year. The only thing standing in his way is LSU’s lack of talent at QB. The same problem that held back Fournette will still linger as Guice will face a number of eight-man fronts while he adjusts to life as the feature back in college. If he can stay healthy and efficient then he has a great shot at bringing some hardware back to the Tigers.
4. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: Rosen is the top QB this year in my mind and has more talent than any offensive player in college football right now. Unfortunately for him he’s coming off a shoulder injury that cut his season short last year. He also finds himself on a roster with very little talent and is already hated by most scouts and media outlets. Despite all these negatives Rosen still has a great shot at the Heisman. He can make every throw on the field, has a lightning quick release, and isn’t afraid to let it loose. Overconfidence has led to some ugly turnovers but if he can take charge and lead this underdog UCLA team to a winning season and perhaps a bowl game then he’ll be a favorite for not only the Heisman but the number one overall pick in the 2018 draft.
3. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: Last year’s Heisman winner should be in for another big season but a number of factors could hurt his chances at winning the trophy a second time. The biggest problem is that Louisville lost three offensive lineman and a number of other contributors on offense. This means Jackson must adjust to new timing and will likely be playing with less time in the pocket. He may have to force too many plays and go in ‘hero ball’ mode if the Cardinals hope to make the playoffs. He’s also going to spend more time working as a pocket passer this season and while it will help his draft stock, it will limit the number of his rushes which led to the countless highlights that propelled him to be the Heisman winner last season. Still Jackson is lighting in a bottle and to count him out would be ridiculous.
2. Sam Darnold, QB, USC: Darnold became a media darling after he took over the starting gig for USC and is now talked about as the top QB in the country. He has great placement on the ball with decent arm strength and plays in a system that will help boost his numbers. As the starting QB for the Trojans he’s also going to receive an absurd amount of coverage and praise even if it’s not warranted (see Matt Barkley, Mark Sanchez, Matt Leinart, Todd Marinovich, etc…). Darnold is already being discussed as the frontrunner which gives him good early odds and if he starts the season out hot, the Heisman race could be over before we know it. Still Darnold must adjust to his first full season as a starter for the Trojans and will deal with losing a number of talented players including top receiver Juju Smith-Schuster.
1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: Barkley looks like the most talented back in college currently and with Penn State starting off in the top 10, he could propel this team to heights it hasn’t reached in a while. Coming off of a heartbreaking loss to the Trojans in the Rose Bowl last season, the Nittany Lions are going to be out for vengeance with their primary tool being Barkley. A true workhorse, he can take it up the middle and smash through defenses or bounce it to the outside and take off for an easy six points. Barkley will have an insane amount of carries this season and if he continues to play at the level of efficiency that he did last season, it is only a matter of time before the award is his. Barkley also has to play a number of top teams including Michigan and Ohio State and if he’s at his best for those matchups they could provide him with the Heisman moment he needs.
Dark Horse- Derwin James, DB, FSU: James is the most talented player in college and if healthy he rightfully deserves this award. Unfortunately we live in a world run by offense and he’s at a disadvantage. However he could have a season similar to that of Tyrann Mathieu when he was a finalist and with a weak group of candidates that could be the push he needs. The Seminoles have a noticeably worse defense with him on the sideline and if he can increase his turnover numbers this year and maybe score a couple of TD’s then he may finally bring the Heisman back to the defensive side of the ball. If his stats match his impact he can easily capture the honor, it’s just a matter of whether or not QB’s will be taking chances and putting the ball in play near him.
Cover Photo via WDRB
Article Photos via The Advocate, LA Times, Sporting News (x2) and Sports Illustrated