It's never too early to start talking about the Heisman Trophy, and some of the early favorites for the most prestigious individual award in college football for the 2014 season hail from SEC schools.
Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon, Georgia running back Todd Gurley, South Carolina running back Mike Davis and Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott all are listed on Bovada's early odds to win the 2014 Heisman Trophy out of the SEC.
|Mike Davis||South Carolina||RB||15/1|
|Dak Prescott||Mississippi State||QB||40/1|
Those four players being on the board is interesting for two reasons.
First, three of the four are running backs. While the SEC is going through massive quarterback turnover from the 2013 season, only twice since 2000 have non-quarterbacks won the Heisman Trophy. Yeldon may have to split carries with Derrick Henry, and while Gurley and Davis are bona fide superstars, they're still fighting uphill battles to actually win the award.
But more surprising is that one of the more dynamic returning SEC quarterbacks isn't on the board at all—Auburn rising senior Nick Marshall.
The Pineview, Ga., native burst onto the scene in 2013, displaying game-breaking ability on the ground in head coach Gus Malzahn's hurry-up, no-huddle offense. He rushed for 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns and completed 59.4 percent of his passes (142-of-239) for 1,976 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. He led his team to within 13 seconds of winning the BCS National Championship and finishing one of the most remarkable single-season turnarounds in college football history off with a bang.
Not bad, especially considering he only had five weeks in the offense and only two-and-a-half as the starter before taking his first snap in the season opener against Washington State.
Aside from running back Tre Mason, offensive tackle Greg Robinson and fullback Jay Prosch, he has his entire two-deep on offense returning—along with several key instant-impact recruits, including junior college transfer wide receiver D'haquille Williams.
Marshall was raw as a passer coming in, but his supporting cast coupled with the extended period of time Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee have to fine-tune his touch in the passing game should transform Marshall into a polished passer by the start of the 2014 season.
On top of that, he plays for a team that will be in the spotlight early and often.
The Tigers chimed in at the No. 3 spot in ESPN.com's "way too early" Top 25, No. 4 in CBSSports.com's, No. 6 by Sports Illustrated and fourth from B/R's own Adam Kramer. Debate the actual ranking all you want, but what isn't up for debate is that Auburn is a high-profile team that will start the season with a ton of eyeballs on it.
Will Auburn QB Nick Marshall be a 2014 Heisman Trophy finalist?
That works wonders for Heisman contenders—particularly those who play the glamour position of quarterback. If Auburn is going to be as successful as some of the preseason predictions suggest, Marshall will be a big reason why.
Kramer notes in his recap of Bovada's early odds that Marshall is a name from off the board to consider, and that anything around 25/1 for the Tigers' signal-caller would be "a steal."
Considering Marshall's talent, the spotlight in which he'll be playing under, the X's and O's acumen of his head coach and the luxury of time to develop this offseason, don't be surprised to see Marshall in New York City as a Heisman finalist in early December.
* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com.