25 Non-QBs with Best Shots to Win 2012 Heisman Trophy

Joe PenkalaCorrespondent IJuly 12, 2012

25 Non-QBs with Best Shots to Win 2012 Heisman Trophy

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    Since the Heisman Trophy first started back in 1935, it has been an award that has been dominated by quarterbacks. This year, signal-callers like Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Landry Jones will be towards the top of people's lists, hoping to continue the trend of quarterbacks winning like they have done the past two years.

    Aside from quarterbacks, other positions deserve their time in the sun as plenty of other players around the nation will post numbers that are Heisman-worthy.

    Here is a look at 25 players that do not play quarterback but will still have an impact on this year's race. 

De'Anthony Thomas

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    In his first year with the Ducks, De'Anthony Thomas was one of the most explosive players in the nation. On average, Thomas scored once every nine times he touched the ball.

    Just in his first season, Thomas rushed for 595 yards and seven touchdowns while also making 46 catches for 406 yards and scoring nine times. On top of the contributions to the passing and rushing game, Thomas also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.

    Thomas is a dynamic threat, and as people saw in the Rose Bowl, he has the ability to go the distance every time he touches the ball. 

Kenjon Barner

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    Another back out of the Oregon offense is Kenjon Barner. Barner has spent his career at Oregon in the shadow of LaMichael James but will be the main back this season.

    During the 2011 season, Barner rushed for 939 yards and 11 scores while also contributing through the passing game.,

    One thing that Barner has shown is that he has great speed and has handled the load before. If Barner can stay healthy the entire year, there is no reason that he cannot compete for the Heisman Trophy.

Sammy Watkins

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    Sammy Watkins had an incredible first year with Clemson. In his freshman season, Watkins caught 82 passes for 1,219 yards and 12 scores.

    Watkins is a constant downfield threat, and being paired with Tajh Boyd will only help his production. As long as Watkins can stay out of trouble off the field, people will be able to remain focused on the incredible numbers he puts up on the field. 

Tyrann Mathieu

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    Last year Tyrann Mathieu had such a good season that he was named one of the finalists for the Heisman Trophy. Back for another year, Mathieu has a chance to make another serious run at the trophy as the Tigers appear to be loaded once again.

    The only question that Mathieu will have to answer is if he can match and exceed the production from last year that put him on the map.

Marcus Lattimore

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    Marcus Lattimore saw another promising season last year cut short by a devastating knee injury. This injury came on the heels of an outstanding freshman season in 2010 and led to huge expectations last season.

    In his junior season, Lattimore will have plenty of eyes on him to see if he has rebounded from his knee injury. If he can perform up to the level of his first season with South Carolina, the back will have no issues earning some Heisman votes.

Robert Woods

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    If the season that Robert Woods had as a sophomore is any indication of what he is capable of as a junior, fans of the Trojans are in for a great season.

    During his second season with USC, Woods amassed 111 catches for 1,292 yards and 15 scores. Woods already appears to be NFL-ready, and he could give teammate Matt Barkley a serious run for the Heisman.  

Eddie Lacy

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    Stepping out of Trent Richardson's shadow this year will be Eddie Lacy. Lacy is such a fast and mobile back that while backing up Richardson, he still rushed for 674 yards and seven scores.

    Lacy will be the featured back this year in the Crimson Tide's offense, so if he is able to rise to the challenge and perform the way that Richardson did, Lacy will be a strong candidate for the Heisman Trophy.

Montee Ball

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    In 2011, Montee Ball was a touchdown machine. During the season, Ball rushed for 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns and also scored six more times through the air. 

    Over the past two years, Ball has helped the Badgers reach back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances and hopes to make it three as a senior.

    Being a senior running back will help Ball in the Heisman race, but losing Russell Wilson will hurt the Wisconsin offense and allow teams to stack the box and wait for Ball to get the handoff. 

Knile Davis

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    When Arkansas was getting ready to start the 2011 season, they expected to have a great shot at winning the SEC because of quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis. 

    Unfortunately, Davis suffered an injury in August that kept him out the entire year and the offense missed him.

    This year Davis is back, and if he can regain the form he had in 2010 when he rushed for 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns, the Razorbacks will be in the thick of the SEC race.

Manti Te'o

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    Manti Te'o is one of the best defensive players in the nation and helps make the Notre Dame defense so strong. Last year, Te'o accumulated 122 total tackles and five sacks.

    Te'o has the ability to go sideline to sideline and be an impact player. Since he is a member of one of the most covered teams in the nation, he will garner plenty of attention and could be a potential Heisman candidate. 

Marqise Lee

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    While Robert Woods is on one side of the formation, USC has the benefit of having Marqise Lee on the other side. 

    Lee had an outstanding 2011 season as he caught 73 passes for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns. 

    The only issue that Woods, Lee and Matt Barkley could run into with the Heisman is that with all the talent on their team, they could end up taking votes from each other.

Isaiah Crowell

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    Coming into the 2012 season, Isaiah Crowell and the Bulldogs are going to be a fun team to watch. Crowell has the benefit of knowing that Aaron Murray will get a lot of the defense's attention, which should allow him to have a big year.

    Much like Sammy Watkins, if Crowell can clean things up off the field, there should be no reason why he cannot put up the numbers to be one of the nation's best backs. 

Rex Burkhead

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    Rex Burkhead is back at Nebraska and is a part of one of the best rushing attacks in the Big 10. Burkhead has good speed and strength, and when paired up with Taylor Martinez, they can be unstoppable at times.

    If Burkhead can stay healthy and get off to a quick start in 2012, the Husker nation will start to push him as a Heisman candidate. 

Jarvis Jones

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    Last year, Jarvis Jones was an absolute monster as he managed to have a total of 14.5 sacks in the 2011 season. 

    Lately it seems like defensive players are getting more and more attention, so if Jones is able to match or surpass this number in 2012 and do so in a touch SEC, his candidacy may start to pick up steam. 

Kennan Allen

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    On a team that truly lacked offensive explosion, Keenan Allen was a bit of a relief for Cal fans. 

    With the exception of the two-headed receiving monster at USC, Allen is one of the best in the Pac-12. Last year he hauled in 98 catches and had six scores.

    If the team success is there in 2012, Allen will be a contender for the Heisman. 

Le'Veon Bell

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    With the departure of Kirk Cousins to the NFL, Michigan State is going to have to rely on the running game to get the job done in 2012.

    Le'Veon Bell will get the majority of the carries for the Spartans, and after a good performance in 2011 where Bell had 948 yards and 13 scores, his numbers should see a significant jump.

Kenny Stills

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    In 2012, Kenny Stills is going to be the go-to receiver for Oklahoma and Landry Jones. 

    Last year, Stills had 61 catches for 849 yards and eight touchdowns as a secondary option for most of the year. With the loss of Ryan Broyles to the NFL, Stills should see plenty of passes coming his way.

Dominique Whaley

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    If the passing game falters at Oklahoma, Dominique Whaley is more then capable of picking up the slack for the Sooners.

    Last year, Whaley carried the ball for 627 yards and nine touchdowns in only six games. 

    With his return for the 2012 season, Whaley could be a comeback player of the year and will certainly put up huge numbers as long as he stays healthy. 

Joseph Randle

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    While some of the major pieces of the Oklahoma offense has left for the NFL, Joseph Randle is still with the Cowboys and is ready to take over the spotlight.

    Despite the pass-heavy offense in 2011, Randle still managed to gain 1,216 yards and 24 touchdowns, numbers that will certainly gain him attention during the 2012 season. 

Stepfan Taylor

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    Much like Joseph Randle, Stepfan Taylor is going to step into the spotlight this year as Andrew Luck is gone and with the Indianapolis Colts.

    While the passing game may struggle at Stanford, they are set up to be a power-run team, and Taylor will see plenty of action and should have no issue surpassing last year's 1,330 yards and 10 scores. 

Da'Rick Rogers

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    Before the loss of Tyler Bray, Da'Rick Rogers was having a terrific year and seemed to have a great chemistry with his starting quarterback.

    This year, Bray is back, and Rogers will be the main target once again. If he was able to amass 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns while only having a healthy Bray for half the year, a full season should go extremely well for both of them.

Johnathan Franklin

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    The one bright spot for UCLA last year was the play of running back Johnathan Franklin. Franklin has great speed and strength but does not have a lot of talent around him.

    Despite taking a step back, Franklin still managed to run for 976 yards and five touchdowns but will need to step it up if he wants his name associated with the Heisman Trophy. 

Curtis McNeal

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    As if USC does not have enough talent, Curtis McNeal is a home-run threat at running back for the Trojans. 

    Last year, the back went for 1,006 yards and six touchdowns but still was an important weapon for USC. 

    The only thing that will keep McNeal from making a run at the Heisman Trophy is the passing firepower that the Trojans have. 

Marquess Wilson

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    When you combine Jeff Tuel as your quarterback and Mike Leach as your head coach, you know that Marquess Wilson could be in for a big year.

    Despite playing without Tuel last year, Wilson still had 1,388 yards and 12 scores. If Tuel is able to stay healthy and the Cougars can grasp Leach's offense, Wilson will be in for a huge year and could surprise a lot of people.

Tavon Austin

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    Aside from Geno Smith, Tavon Austin is a big part of the Mountaineers' offense that put up huge numbers during the 2011 season. 

    Based on the 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns that Austin had last year, the wideout should have an even better senior season, but it will be interesting to see how the offense adjusts to playing in the Big 12.