The following are the first five of ten players I feel have the most legitimate chance to win the 2009 Heisman Trophy if they each meet expectations and live up to their full potential in the coming season!
Jevan Snead, QB, Ole Miss
Ole Miss should win a lot of games and will likely be high in the rankings all year long. Snead emerged out of nowhere after leading the Rebels to their huge upset win over the Florida Gators in the swamp.
He threw 13 interceptions a year ago, but with a favorable 2009 schedule (Memphis, SE Louisiana, at South Carolina, at Vanderbilt, Alabama, UAB, Arkansas, at Auburn (who’s still reloading), Northern Arizona, Tennessee, LSU, and Mississippi State), Snead's stats should resemble those of the top three vote-getters of last year's Heisman voting.
Almost all of Mississippi's tough games are at home, and there will be just enough nationally televised moments for Snead to shine.
Todd Reesing, QB, Kansas
The Big 12 North division’s spotlight game will be Nebraska at Kansas on Nov. 14. By then, Todd Reesing and the Jayhawks will have already played Oklahoma at home and will have gone on the road to face Texas Tech, and there will still be games against Texas and Missouri to follow.
There won't be a shortage of moments where Reesing will have the opportunity to make a Heisman statement and put up the big numbers needed to get in the race.
With Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier returning after combining for 189 catches for 2,452 yards and 23 touchdowns, this should be a huge year for the KU passing game.
They have a killer schedule and I'm not sure they'll win enough of those games for Reesing to be a serious contender, but that's probably why he's going to put up the big numbers in the first place—by playing catch-up!
Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
Clausen will have the Notre Dame spotlight and a decent receiving corps to put up the numbers and the wins to be in the hunt for the big prize.
He ended the 2008 season on a high note with his 22-of-26, 401-yard, five-touchdown performance in the win over Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl.
To have a real chance of being in the Heisman hunt, he must become the leader and Notre Dame will need a big day at Michigan, a home victory over Michigan State, and most importantly, a tremendous performance against USC on Oct. 17.
Last year, Clausen completed just 11-of-22 passes for 41 yards with two interceptions in the embarrassing loss to the Trojans.
In addition to making the early Heisman contender list, Clausen is the key to the immediate future of Notre Dame football and the job security of Charlie Weis.
Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
Tebow, by many accounts might be the odds on favorite to give his 2007 Heisman a 2009 twin, but he's not the only one who might accomplish that feat.
Personally, I'm not a huge fan of Tebow's, but I'll give him his due. His stats over the past two seasons have been downright amazing and ridiculous. Maybe it's the system, but stats are stats.
With Florida's cupcake 2009 schedule, UF will almost undoubtedly go undefeated in the regular season and Tebow should once again be the media darling and put up more outrageous numbers.
I have no doubt in my mind, barring injury, that he will be in New York as a finalist, come December.
Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
Speaking of ridiculous stats, Bradford, the 2008 Heisman winner, set the bar extremely high for himself, as he threw for over 4,700 yards and 50 touchdowns to only eight interceptions, and rushed for five more scores while posting a QB Rating of nearly 181.
With Chris Brown and Demarco Murray, each 1000+ yard rushers a year ago, who combined for 34 touchdowns, both returning, and with the loss of top receiver Juaquin Iglesias and even with the surprising return of star tight end Jermaine Gresham, Bradford will be hard-pressed to duplicate the numbers he put up a year ago.
Then again, if he could get close to two-thirds of that production, he's a no-brainer to be invited to New York for a chance at his second Heisman.
As a Buckeye fan, it's hard to accept that both Tebow and Bradford could definitely win the 2009 Heisman because as of right now, there is only one two-time winner and I'd prefer it remain as such.
Archie Griffin won the Heisman while playing at Ohio State in 1974 and 1975 and even if Tebow or Bradford should win a second Heisman, Archie will always be the first to have done it, and I bet Archie can live with that, so I can too!
Five down, five to go—Part II coming soon—Stay tuned!