Big 12 Football: Way Too Early 2014 Heisman Candidates
It's the offseason, which means everyone is a 2014 Heisman Trophy candidate.
Among the way-too-early favorites for next year's award, according to Bovada, are Florida State quarterback and reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight also make the early list at 6/1 and 25/1 odds, respectively.
But since the next seven months will be nothing more than football conversation starters anyway, here are a few more Big 12 players who could be in the Heisman mix by season's end.
Baylor QB Bryce Petty
Since the Heisman has transformed into a stat-centric, glorified Davey O'Brien Award, it was odd that Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty wasn't among the six finalists for the Heisman last December. All Petty did was throw for 3,844 yards and 30 touchdowns in the regular season, not to mention rushing for another 11.
Now that he's actually on a preseason radar, though, Petty should be one of the favorites to make it to New York for the Heisman ceremony next year.
The major question mark for Petty will be whether he can maintain, or improve, on his production. Senior receiver Tevin Reese is gone, as are running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin. So, too, is three-fifths of Baylor's offensive line.
That could mean one of two things. Either Baylor really does have the "Big 12 depth" that head coach Art Briles claims—receivers Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood return—and Petty leads a seamless transition. Or, production drops off. Either way, Petty will be the cornerstone of the offense.
In that vein, few players may be more valuable to their team than Petty.
Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight
If you want an example of what a good postseason can do for you, look no further than Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight.
No one in the Big 12 had a better bowl performance than Knight, who threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns—and had just seven rushing yards—in a 45-31 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. That game alone has put him on the early Heisman radar.
Knight certainly has potential. His development from a run-first quarterback to a true dual-threat over the course of the season was fascinating to watch.
He must continue to improve as a passer in the offseason to prove that what happened in New Orleans wasn't a one-time thing. With his athleticism, Knight can be a real game changer.
The Sooners will be young at running back and wide receiver, so it will be interesting to see how well the passing game progresses—if it progresses.
Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett
On a team that ran roughly two-thirds of the time, Kansas State Tyler Lockett cemented himself as one of the best wide receivers in the Big 12.
Lockett's 81 catches for 1,262 yards led the team and were third in the conference. He had five games of at least 100 yards receiving and two games of at least 200 yards.
And he missed a game against Baylor due to injury.
Lockett has made a strong case that he's the best receiver in the conference; he's certainly the most valuable member of K-State's offense.
Lockett will dominate the attention of opposing defenses next season, but he's such a great route runner that he may still find ways to get open. If he can make some big plays in the return game, that could be enough to warrant Heisman consideration at year's end.
Texas DE Cedric Reed
What's this? A defensive player for the Heisman?
Not even South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney could crack the Heisman finalists list, but Texas DE Cedric Reed is primed for a breakout season.
Not that his 2013 campaign was underwhelming by any stretch. Reed finished third on the team in tackles (79), 19 of which went for a loss and 10 of which were for sacks. He also had 16 quarterback hurries, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
For as much attention as fellow 'Horns defensive end and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat got, Reed was just as good. Reed's decision to return for his senior season was a huge victory for first-year coach Charlie Strong.
With a defensive-minded coaching staff, Reed is in a great position to command a bigger spotlight in 2014.
Texas Tech WR Jakeem Grant
In a conversation about do-it-all offensive weapons, it's hard not to mention Texas Tech wide receiver Jakeem Grant.
Grant barely missed B/R's breakout stars of 2014 post, so consider this a consolation prize and an admission that he's really, really good.
The Red Raiders use Grant as a receiver (796 yards and seven touchdowns in '13), but he's played a little running back (20 career rushes for 96 yards) and contributed in the return game (two kickoffs returned for a touchdown). With tight end Jace Amaro and receiver Eric Ward gone, expect Tech to make Grant an even bigger part of the offense.
It can be hard to gain Heisman consideration if a player isn't a No. 1 receiver or a bell cow running back, but Grant's versatility could pay dividends by next December.