The following are the second five of 10 players I feel have the most legitimate chance to contend for and possibly win the 2009 Heisman Trophy if they each meet their full potential and stay healthy in the coming season!
I've also added a special bonus for you all at the end—They don't call me sneaky for nothing!
JacQuizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
Oregon State should once again challenge USC for the Pac-10 title and a healthy Rodgers will go a long way to helping the Beavers overtake the Trojans. (Pun not intended, but I couldn't help but laugh a little after I typed that!)
Rodgers gained 186 yards and scored two touchdowns while almost single-handedly blowing up the USC defense last year—the same defense that just sent nine of its 11 players to the NFL.
He missed the final two games of the season due to injury, but in the 11 games he played in, JacQuizz rushed for 1253 yards and 11 touchdowns on 259 carries and added 29 receptions for 247 yards and a touchdown.
Oregon State is a program on the rise and Rodgers made a name for himself last season, so if he can stay healthy this season and duplicate his 2008 performance, especially against USC, there's no doubt he will be garner serious attention from the Heisman committee come December.
Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
Bryant missed Spring football in Stillwater after having minor knee surgery to repair a small ligament tear, but he should be ready to go this fall!
The Cowboys will need him to be their go to guy even more with the loss of their second leading receiver, tight end Brandon Pettigrew to the NFL.
A year ago, Bryant was easily one of the best receivers in the Big 12, if not the entire nation. He made 87 receptions for 1480 yards (123.3 per game) and scored 19 touchdowns.
Running back Kendall Hunter (1555 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns in 2008), should command enough respect coming out the backfield to open up the passing lanes to allow Bryant and veteran quarterback Zac Robinson to hook up for some big plays again this year.
Oklahoma State could be this years Texas Tech, but even better with a legitimate threat at running back in Hunter, in addition to their high-powered passing game.
Bryant will have plenty of opportunities to be noticed with OSU's schedule. They open at home vs. Georgia, then Houston in week two will not be a pushover. In October, they play at Baylor, then the following week host Texas and finish the season with a visit from the Sooners.
I don't doubt that Bryant will have a solid season, but will the Cowboys win enough of games to keep him in the Heisman race?
Zac Robinson, QB, Oklahoma State
Basically, everything I said above about Bryant goes for Robinson as well. Robinson should have a very productive year, but can he lead the Cowboys to enough wins?
In 2008, Robinson was unknown to most of the country at the start of the season, but that wouldn't last. He posted a QB rating of 166.8 while throwing for just over 3000 yards and 25 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions and rushing for another 562 yards and 8 scores.
Robinson led Oklahoma State to what was considered a huge upset win at then No. 3 Missouri on Oct. 11.
One week later on ESPN's game of the week, the Cowboys barely lost to then No. 1 Texas in Austin, 28-24.
Okie State did however suffer two lopsided losses in national spotlight games late in the season vs. Texas Tech (56-20) and Oklahoma (61-41).
If they can avoid those kinds of letdowns in 2009, Robinson, Bryant and even the less-hyped Hunter may all receive attention from the Heisman voters.
Jahvid Best, RB, California
Many would consider Best the nation’s most exciting running back heading into the 2009 season. Rightfully so when you consider what he did in 2008.
He rushed for 1580 yards (131.7 per game) on 194 carries for an impressive 8.1 yards per carry, and added 15 touchdowns
It's extremely likely that he’ll put up highlight run after highlight run. Much like Ohio State's Beanie Wells a year ago, if he stays healthy, (a big if), a 2,000-yard could be on the horizon.
Just as I said with JacQuizz Rodgers, the key for Best in the eyes of the Heisman voters will be the same: How he does against USC.
Last season, he had his worst game of the year as the USC defense held him to just 30 yards on 13 carries.
I have very little doubt that Best will redeem himself vs. the Trojans in 2009 and catapult himself near the top of the Heisman finalists list.
Colt McCoy, QB, Texas
McCoy and the Longhorns felt slighted in 2008 after losing only to Texas Tech, on an almost fluke-like touchdown by Michael Crabtree, on the last play of game.
That one play cost the Horns a shot at Florida in the BCS title game, where instead, Oklahoma, who Texas had beaten 45-35 on a neutral field earlier in the year, got the nod and then proceeded to lose their fifth straight BCS bowl game.
If Colt McCoy has anything to say about it this year, that will not happen again!
McCoy, who posted a 173.8 QB rating, threw for 3,859 passing yards, 34 touchdowns to only eight interceptions and also ran for 561 yards and found the end zone with his legs 11 times. 173.8 QB Rating. He finished second in the Heisman trophy voting behind Sam Bradford and ahead of Tim Tebow.
Texas has a tough schedule but they have a great team and if anyone is going to go unbeaten in the Big 12 in 2009, they are the team to bet on.
With his roommate and top receiver Jordan Shipley returning for a sixth season and without a true standout running back in the mix, McCoy should once again put up great passing and rushing numbers, and solidify his status as one of, if not the No. 1 Heisman contender for 2009 and increase his stock as a potential top NFL pick for 2010.
Now, I'm sure I'm not alone with most or all of the top ten that I chose, so I also wanted to pick five guys who may not be on the 2009 Heisman radar yet. These are the players I see as potential dark horse candidates. Some are longshots—some are more legit than others.
Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State
QB Zac Robinson and WR Dez Bryant overshadowed a great year by Hunter in 2008. Will they do it again in 2009?
Chris Brown/DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma
Both backs rushed for over 1000 yards but Murray was the No. 1 guy before he was injured. Who will emerge as No. 1 this season or will Oklahoma play the running back by committee game since they both appear to be qualified?
Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia
Now a junior and out of the shadow of Pat White, this is Devine's team. He quietly rushed for nearly 1300 yards a year ago, but only 4 touchdowns. Can he shine is the spotlight and lead WVU to a Big East Championship on his own merit?
Case Keenum, QB, Houston
Keenum has to be the least known player to make this list and therefore is the biggest dark horse of them all. Not to mention, players from non-BCS conferences are almost guaranteed to not get the recognition they deserve because of the perception of their SOS.
That being said, Keenum threw for over 5000 yards and tossed 44 touchdowns and also ran for seven scores. He threw for 300+ yards in every game last season and only failed to throw for 350+ once! Will his real-life EA Sports NCAA Football-level stats be enough to get him noticed by the voters in 2009?
Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor
Last, but certainly not least, in a word, Griffin was AMAZING in 2008. All he did as a true freshman in 2008 was pass for 2,091 yards, 15 touchdowns to only three interceptions, and run for another 843 yards and 13 touchdowns, all while posting a QB rating of 142.0 for the Bears.
Unfortunately, Griffin's incredible stats didn't translate into much, as Baylor finished the year 4-8. While those gaudy stats could prove hard to duplicate, I expect that Griffin will be able to put up similar numbers, and with any help from his defense at all, the Bears could become bowl eligible in 2009.
I hope they do because it's a shame that most of the nation has never seen Griffin play, and without a bowl game for Baylor, it will probably remain that way.
I hope you will let me know what you think of my entire top 10 and sleepers in contention for the 2009 Heisman trophy!