5 CFB Studs Who Could Keep Johnny Heisman from Becoming Johnny Heisman II
Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, beating out Notre Dame's Manti Te'o and Kansas State's Collin Klein.
But it's not too early to look at some of his competitors for next year's coveted award.
Te'o and Klein will move on to the pro ranks, but a whole host of star players will be back to give Johnny Football a run for his money in 2013.
Before anointing Manziel to win back-to-back Heismans, consider this: Since the award began in 1935, only one player has received consecutive Heisman Trophy Awards—Ohio State running back Archie Griffin, who won the award in 1974 and 1975.
If Manziel falls below or just matches his numbers from 2012 in the 2013 season, he will likely have some hefty competition.
In 2012, the quarterback threw for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns while running for 1,181 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Let's analyze the five guys who have the best shot at unseating Johnny Heisman in 2013.
Braxton Miller, Ohio State, Quarterback
Miller's numbers in 2012 (2,039 passing yards, 15 TDs, 1,271 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns) didn't stack up to that of Manziel's, but he led the Buckeyes to a perfect 12-0 record.
Miller didn't receive the credit he deserved because of the lack of attention given to an unbeaten Ohio State team that is not bowl-eligible because of NCAA sanctions, but he still managed to finish fifth in the Heisman voting.
The sophomore will only get better under the tutelage of head coach Urban Meyer, who has a knack for grooming quarterbacks to fit his scheme. Miller still has a lot of work to do with his passing, as he only completed 58.3 percent of his passes in 2012.
If the Buckeyes run the table again in 2012—or are a one-loss team that's BCS-bound—Miller will be in the thick of the conversation to take home a Heisman Trophy last won by an Ohio State player in 2006, when quarterback Troy Smith captured the award.
Marqise Lee, USC, Wide Receiver
Even though Lee shared the spotlight with fellow wide receiver Robert Woods in Southern California, it was the sophomore Lee who by far outperformed Woods.
For the year, Lee grabbed an incredible 112 passes for 1,680 yards and 14 touchdowns. In doing so, he captured the nation's highest honor for a wide receiver, winning the Biletnikoff Award. On October 27 against Arizona, he delivered a Heisman moment, as he went off for an incredible 16 catches for 345 yards and two scores.
Lee will look to build on his sophomore season and further cement his status at the top wideout in college football in 2013. He won't have Matt Barkley under center and it will be a learning process with Max Wittek or whoever steps it to quarterback the Trojans, but look for Lee to be in the Heisman talk next year after finishing fourth in the voting this year.
Upon receiving the Biletnikoff Award, Lee gave his take on the Heisman next year, via Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times.
"I'm not going to really focus on the trophy, but I'm going to make sure I compete and do the things I need to do in order to just get back up there," he said. "It was good just to be mentioned in that conversation."
It may take a Larry Fitzgerald-esque year to do it.
In 2003 at Pittsburgh, Fitzgerald had 1,672 yards and 22 touchdowns and still fell short of the award, finishing second to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. The last wide receiver to win the award was Desmond Howard in 1991.
It won't be easy for Lee to convince voters this award isn't just a quarterback's award, but he appears motivated to do so.
Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona, Running Back
Carey is a running back many probably have never heard of.
But he finished second in the nation in rushing yards with 1,757—behind only Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch—had 20 touchdowns on the ground and 288 receiving yards and a touchdown.
He did all this as a sophomore. A consensus All-American, Carey's best game came against Colorado Nov. 10, when he ripped off 366 rushing yards and five touchdowns in a 56-31 win over the Buffaloes.
Carey finished the 2012 regular season strong, running for 742 yards and seven touchdowns in the team's final three games. Carey will be showcasing his skills in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl as the Wildcats take on Nevada Dec. 15.
It may be difficult for Carey to get the exposure to Heisman voters unless Arizona puts together a strong 2013 campaign. The Wildcats went 7-5, but the 5'10", 203-pounder did not even finish in the top-10 in voting for the award
If the Wildcats can improve as a team and Carey establishes himself as the unquestioned best back in college football, he will have a shot.
Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois, Quarterback
A Heisman winner from the Mid-American Conference?
It seems impossible, but don't tell Jordan Lynch that.
As a junior at Northern Illinois, quarterback Lynch lit up scoreboards and dazzled on the field, throwing for 2,962 yards and 24 touchdowns, while leading the nation in rushing with 1,771 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Not bad for an 11-1 team heading to the Orange Bowl to take on Florida State.
While people may complain about the strength of the MAC affecting Lynch's numbers and Northern Illinois' success, there is still to be said about compiling 4,733 yards of offense in Division I football.
It was a travesty that Lynch received little consideration as a Heisman finalist and finished seventh in the final voting. Other than transfer to a big-name school, I'm not sure what Lynch will have to do in 2013 to receive legit consideration for the award.
Lynch will only get better in 2013, and make it even harder to ignore his excellence.
Marcus Mariota, Oregon, Quarterback
Is it Chip Kelly's system, or the quarterback in the system that makes the Ducks so great?
Either way, freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota dazzled in his first season with the Ducks.
He ranked fifth in the nation in quarterback rating at 165.4, while completing 69.9 percent of his passes for 2,511 yards and 30 touchdowns. Mariota can also run—adding 690 yards on the ground and four touchdowns for Oregon.
If not for a late-season loss to Stanford, which doomed the Ducks' BCS title game hopes, Mariota would have received more consideration for the 2012 Heisman.
In 2013, look for him to grow even more comfortable in Kelly's system and lead the Ducks to another strong showing. If they can run the table in the 2013 regular season, and Mariota rises to the occasion in big games, he may become the first Oregon player to win the Heisman Trophy.
Manziel's brutal SEC schedule could cause him to stumble, leaving the door open for Mariota to become the Heisman favorite in his sophomore campaign.