The Coaches’ Trophy is not the only award that continues to be cycled through SEC athletic museums. The Heisman has become a normal occurrence with three of the last four Heisman’s coming from the conference.
At this point Johnny Manziel is the frontrunner for the Heisman for a second year, but there are five others in the SEC that will try and prevent Manziel from grabbing the repeat.
That gives the SEC at least six challengers for the Heisman before the season starts.
Heading into the 2013 season, these are the names to watch as the SEC again leads the country with talent and top teams. These five have the chance to overtake Johnny Football at the podium in New York to end the year.
Aaron Murray is one of the best pocket passing quarterbacks in the country. He has been the leader of the Georgia offense for three years, with his senior season being his fourth as a starter.
This past year was the best of Murray’s career so far and almost resulted in a SEC title and national title game berth.
There is business that was left unfinished and Murray is coming back to challenge for a title. He went into the Capital One Bowl and threw for 427 yards and five touchdowns against Nebraska. Murray is back on the upswing.
Given the talent that remains in Athens and the exponential growth that was witnessed this season, Murray has the chance to be the best quarterback in the country in 2013.
2012 Stats: 249-of-386 for 3,893 yards, 36 TDs, 10 INTs
A.J. McCarron has been the most impressive player on the Alabama team over the past two seasons. The way that he has been able to control the Crimson Tide offense and set records while doing it has been impressive to watch.
McCarron had a huge year in 2012, finishing with his second straight national title win. Heading into 2013 he will be a leader in the SEC and expected to challenge for the Heisman.
He finished the year as the most efficient passer in the country. Heading into the new year he has some of the best weapons in college football that will surround him.
If McCarron can grow just slightly over this year’s mark, he will be in New York to finish the year.
2012 Stats: 211-of-314 for 2,933 yards, 30 TDs, 3 INTs
Jadeveon Clowney laid the biggest hit of the season in the Gamecocks bowl appearance against Michigan. It was a hit that rattled the cameras on the sideline.
That one strike has Clowney’s name floating around the 2013 Heisman discussion. He has been very impressive in his time with the Gamecocks, recording a sack in eight out of 13 games this fall.
He had a season high of five against Clemson.
Clowney will keep the defensive player talk alive in the Heisman discussion in 2013 as he is expected to be the best defensive end in the country. He will bring a powerful threat to the Gamecocks defense and could help usher in another SEC Eastern Division title.
2012 Stats: 54 total tackles, 40 solo, 23.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, 5 QB hurries, 3 forced fumbles
Todd Gurley was the best freshman running back in the SEC this past season. He and Keith Marshall put together a dangerous tandem, but Gurley was the leader for the Bulldogs on the ground.
He finished the year with 1,385 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns. He also averaged 6.2 yards a carry, and added 16 catches and 117 receiving yards to his stat line. Imagine what the results will be once Gurley has a year in the Bobo system and in the strength and conditioning program.
There have been a lot of good running backs that have played between the hedges, but Gurley has the ability to be one of the best in Georgia history.
Look for him to have a strong sophomore season, shaking up the Heisman race before December.
2012 Stats: 222 carries for 1,385 yards, 6.2 YPC, 17 TDs; 16 receptions for 117 yards
Jeff Driskel has become the future for the Florida Gators offense for better or for worse. The Gators have needed a stud quarterback since the departure of Tim Tebow, and finally there is a playmaker in the Gators backfield.
The Gators have seen the dual-threat ability of Driskel add a solid dimension to the Gators offense, giving them an advantage over a number of opposing defenses, and helping them land at No. 2 for a while before they were ready in 2012.
Florida's offense will take major leaps forward in 2013 and Jeff Driskel will be a major part of the growth. Look for Driskel to channel Tebow in 2013 and create a lot of plays on his own for the Florida offense.
Defense will be a big part of the Florida winning pedigree in the coming year, but Driskel will perform at unexpected levels and will challenge for the Heisman.
2012 Stats: 156-of-245 for 1,646 yards, 12 TDs, 5 INTs; 118 carries for 408 yards, 4 TDs