SEC Football: Breaking Down Conference's Future Heisman Candidates
The SEC has won six consecutive national championships, but one thing the conference does not dominate is the Heisman Trophy. The SEC has only produced four Heisman Trophy winners since 1995 and only has two candidates so far in 2012, according to the ESPN top-15 players.
The Heisman Trophy is usually given to explosive offensive players. Guys who put up sexy stats, play on the offensive side of the ball and help their team win. The SEC, however, is known for ferocious defense and doesn't exactly have a bunch of players that are putting up Robert Griffin or Geno Smith-type numbers.
But there are many young players who will quickly become the face of this conference sooner rather than later, and many players who are capable of adding some excitement to the SEC.
Here are a few players that could eventually hoist another Heisman Trophy for the SEC and help the conference dominate in that department as well.
Jadeveon Clowney, DL, South Carolina
If we are talking about next year being the future, you have to put Jadeveon Clowney in the conversation. The defensive end will be a junior next season and likely will leave South Carolina early for the NFL draft. Still, his athleticism is off the charts and he is easily one of the best pass-rushers that college football has seen in a very long time.
In just one season and three games, Clowney has produced 49 tackles, 11 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. There is nobody who demands double-teams like this guy and very few who get off the ball as quick as he does.
There is likely only one more year left for the former 5-star recruit, but he has the talent to really put up monster-type numbers that we haven't seen in a long time from a defensive player.
Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Isaiah Crowell, who?
True freshman Todd Gurley has stepped up in a huge way for Georgia ever since the original starter decided that playing football was a right and not a privilege. Gurley wasn't even considered the top running back prospect from the 2012 class, as that went to 5-star Keith Marshall, but it's Gurley who has quickly turned heads throughout the college football landscape.
In just three games in his short career, he has rushed for 276 yards and four touchdowns. He is averaging over nine yards per carry and already has five runs for over 20 yards. His average per carry also increases as the game goes on, as he is averaging a whopping 21 yards per touch in the fourth quarter.
If the true freshman is producing like this in his first year, what will he look like with a year under his belt?
Shaq Roland, WR, South Carolina
Shaq Roland has gotten off to a slow start for South Carolina, but the talent is still there for this young wide receiver. At 6'1", 180 pounds, Roland has the size, athleticism and great hands to become a top receiving threat in the SEC.
Despite only catching three passes in his first three games, the true freshman is averaging over 18 yards per reception, which just goes to show how explosive he can be. He is a player who gets the down the field in a hurry and can help stretch the field for the Gamecocks' offense.
Once he made his commitment, he was often compared to Alshon Jeffery. Of course, he has a long way to go before filling those shoes, but the potential is certainly there for this kid to become something special.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Head coach Kevin Sumlin surprised a few people when he decided that he was going to make redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel his starting quarterback. After just two games, we are starting to see what the coach saw in his young signal-caller.
Manziel is a dual-threat quarterback that has thrown for over 400 yards, rushed for 184 and has scored seven touchdowns in the first two games for the Aggies. And while most running quarterbacks struggle with accuracy, Manziel is completing 65 percent of his passes, including 12-of-15 in the third quarter.
With his play-making ability and good decision making, the Texas A&M quarterback will only get better as time goes on. And with what he has shown so far in the first couple of games, that could get scary for opposing SEC defenses.
Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas
Jonathan Williams hasn't seen the field much in an Arkansas uniform this season, racking up just four carries in the first three games. And while he may not see significant playing time his freshman season, he is the running back of the future for Arkansas, especially with Knile Davis likely leaving for next year’s NFL draft.
Williams is a bigger back at 6'0", 205 pounds, but has underrated speed and elusiveness in the open field. He can either run you over or make a defender miss as he breaks off a big run and takes the ball into the end zone. He also has terrific hands and can help in the receiving department as well.
Although the season for Arkansas isn't looking so great, the future at the running back position is in good hands with Williams leading the way.
Cyrus Jones, WR, Alabama
With many of the Alabama wide receivers stepping up early on, true freshman Cyrus Jones has yet to be productive for this program. Still, the former 5-star recruit was considered one of the top wide receivers of the 2012 class for a reason.
He isn't the biggest wide receiver at 5'10", 192 pounds, but what he lacks in size, he is able to make up in great quickness and footwork. Jones is simply a playmaker who has excellent ball skills and is capable of playing either side of the football field.
It is only a matter of time before we see Jones contributing on the football field and making plays for this Alabama offense.
Kiehl Frazier, QB, Auburn
Things aren't looking good for quarterback Kiehl Frazier, but let's not pull the plug on him just yet. I know his 50 percent completion percentage is horrible and his five interceptions to two touchdown passes are brutal to watch, but the upside is still there with this young quarterback.
He is still 6'2", 220 pounds, he still has a live arm and he remains one of the more mobile quarterbacks in this entire conference. His accuracy and decision making still need work, but if Auburn fans are ready to give up on him after just three starts, I'm sure many other schools would love to take this guy off their hands.
The Frazier experiment isn't working the way many thought it would early on, but not everything comes so easy right away. Give the young man some more time.
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
Dorial Green-Beckham was often considered the top overall recruit to come out of the 2012 class. It is not too often you have a receiver that is 6'6" and can also run a 4.4.
Potential just oozes out of his body, as this guy has everything you look for in a NFL-caliber receiver. There is no defensive back that can cover him with his height, his speed is enough to burn corners, his hands catch everything in sight and he runs terrific routes.
Can we just skip college and put this kid in the NFL right now?
Seriously though, with Green-Beckham playing in an explosive Gary Pinkel offense, it is only a matter of time before he becomes a household name.
T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama
T.J. Yeldon has the best chance to become a Heisman candidate as early as next season because his name is already known across college football. In just three games, the true freshman is the leading rusher for the Crimson Tide, averaging over six yards a carry and helping in both the running and passing game.
Yeldon is as explosive a player as you will get, with his terrific speed, vision of the field and his ability to make defenders miss. He is truly a complete running back who can do a little bit of everything for head coach Nick Saban. The only thing missing is the size of Trent Richardson, which would make Yeldon, perhaps, a perfect back.
It is only a matter of time before the starting job belongs to Yeldon, and then we can seriously begin talking about a second Heisman trophy for the Alabama Crimson Tide.