There isn't a more celebrated and anticipated award in sports than the Heisman trophy.
Each December, a group of college football's elite gather in New York City in order to discover who will be added to the long list of Heisman legends.
Alabama's sophomore sensation, Mark Ingram, did just that just a few months ago. Not only did Ingram bring Mr. Heisman's bronze figurine back to school under his arm but also with a title ring on his finger.
With the graduation of a few repeat Big Apple invitees, including Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy, seats are open and ready to be reserved by the next crop of elite college football players.
Of course, many will tab Ingram as the favorite to win the award for the second year in a row, but who will be in the running alongside him?
It may be a little early, but Heisman speculation is at its best before the games have been played.
Based on their 2009 statistical years and their projected teams, here are the top candidates, listed in alphabetical order, for the 2010 Heisman Trophy.
Coming out of high school, the former five-star picked Southern Miss over elite programs like Florida, LSU, and Miami.
Although it was a surprise to almost everyone, Brown is proving that his choice might have been a wise one. In his first two seasons, he has already totaled nearly 2,000 receiving yards.
It will be hard for Brown to gain much recognition at a smaller school, but it isn't impossible. If he can heal fully from a broken leg suffered last year, the self-made underdog may wind up near the top of draft boards come next April, or even in NYC with a monstrous statistical year.
'09 Stats: 785 receiving yards, nine touchdowns.
Quite possibly the most dangerous player in college football returning in 2010, Broyles can do it all.
Whether it's on special teams or catching the ball, he has more explosiveness than any player in the country. In '09 alone, Broyles had seven plays over 40 yards.
The scary thing is, Broyles continued to get better as the season went on. In his last three games, he accounted for 376 receiving yards and punt returns of 57, 89, and 42 yards a piece. Due to his game-changing ability, Broyles has a decent shot at the hardware if he excels in every aspect of his game.
'09 Stats: 1,120 receiving yards, 15 touchdowns, 492 punt return yards.
The bruising tailback out of Wisconsin is a rare physical specimen.
At 6'2", 248 pounds, Clay has a skill-set that will shock many who haven't heard of the under-the-radar Badger. In the mold of Brandon Jacobs, he did most of his damage in the second half of the '09 season, finishing the year with six straight 100-yard rushing games.
If he can keep up the pace and pick up where he left off, you might see Clay's name running up the Heisman board. However, he will need some help from his team as he is an overlooked tailback.
'09 Stats: 1,517 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns.
Due to an injury to starting Bearcat quarterback Tony Pike, Collaros was given a chance and shined under the spotlight.
Not only did his impress with his cannon of an arm, but showed flashes of brilliance with his legs. Although he saw limited time after Pike's return, Collaros was already being talked about by most of the nation.
With an incredible passer rating of 195.5 in '09, expectations should be even higher for Collaros than the graduated Pike ever had. It will be tough for Collaros to win the trophy this year, but if Pike was being considered in '09, there is no reason his successor shouldn't be getting Heisman looks.
'09 Stats: 1,434 passing yards, 344 rushing yards, 14 total touchdowns.
Although he isn't quite on the same level as Boise State's Moore, Dalton is another special player.
Leading his TCU team to an undefeated 12-0 season before losing in the Fiesta Bowl to the Broncos, Dalton started making a name for not only his team but himself as well. Connecting for 23 touchdowns through the air, he will only get better in his final year.
With both his legs and arm, Dalton has displayed consistency in each of his first three seasons. If he can keep it up, while leading his team back to a BCS-game, you will be seeing Dalton's name more often around the country.
'09 Stats: 2,756 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, eight interceptions.
Now the face of the West Virginia program, Devine has proven that he is every inch of the player he was supposed to be.
With blazing speed and quickness faster than Lane Kiffin's departure from Knoxville, he looks to add onto his Mountaineer legacy in his final year in school. He currently sits at 3,381 rushing yards for his career, including two-straight 1,000-yard seasons on the ground.
It will be difficult for Devine to even get a seat if his team doesn't help him out. Big East players always seem to be underappreciated because of the common thought that the Big East is not a "power" conference. Devine may need his stats to speak for themselves, so attaining big numbers will be important in his Heisman campaign.
'09 Stats: 1,465 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns.
If it weren't for injuries sidelining him for five games in '09, Floyd would already be recognized as the best receiver in college football.
Now healthy and playing in Brian Kelly's pass-happy offense, he will be the No. 1 target for the Irish with Golden Tate's departure. If he can stay on the field all year, Floyd will be in the running for the Biletnikoff Award.
Or quite possibly, he will follow in the footsteps of former Domer Tim Brown and bring the Heisman back to South Bend. His health will dictate how much Floyd will be able to accomplish this season.
'09 Stats: 44 recs, 795 yards, nine touchdowns, 18.1 ypc average.
Green is a member of one of the greatest receiving classes in the history of college football.
Competing with guys like Floyd, Jones, and Brown, he has kept up his production and is a common name around the nation. Known for his blend of ball-skills and vertical jump, Green has become not only one of the most dangerous red-zone threats, but he can also stretch the field.
Coming off a mediocre year, Georgia will be an improved team. If he can get to the 1,000-yard mark and haul in 15+ touchdowns, you will see Green's name all over ESPN. Not to mention, all over those ESPN Heisman ballots.
'09 Stats: 808 receiving yards, six touchdowns.
Taking over for Chase Daniels, Gabbert was highly touted coming out of high school and was given playing time from the get go of his young college career.
Going into his junior year, he may be ready to take the next step into the top echelon of college quarterbacks. Putting up big numbers in '09, he will be surrounded by a better and more experienced Mizzou team this season.
If he can improve on his passing numbers while keeping his touchdown-interception ratio the same (24:9), there is no reason for Gabbert's name not to be mentioned with the award. But like many others, his team's on-field results may push him in or out of contention.
Like Miami's young quarterback, Gabbert is most likely a year or two away from serious contention.
'09 Stats: 3,593 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, nine interceptions.
The returning Heisman-winner will look to improve on a spectacular year in which he also lead his team to a national championship.
With another year under his belt, look for Ingram only to get better. His big, stout frame, combined with his athleticism give him a lethal combination that will be hard for any defender to stop.
If the offensive line can hold it's own, there is no reason Ingram won't find himself in the Big Apple come next December. He is my pick to bring home the trophy for the second consecutive year.
'09 Stats: 17 touchdowns, 1658 rushing yards, 6.1 avg.
Harris had one of the most exciting sophmore campaigns for a quarterback in some time.
With Miami struggling in recent years to find a consistent signal-caller, he stepped up big time for the 'Canes, throwing for 24 touchdowns in his first year. However, he did hit some road bumps on the way to a nine-win season, throwing 17 interceptions.
Mistakes are common in underclassmen campaigns. Once Harris has another year or two in the ACC, expect him to be in the next crop of college football's elite class of quarterbacks.
Heisman consideration might be a year away for the junior, but it isn't out of the question with an increase in production and a BCS appearance.
'09 Stats: 3,352 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 17 interceptions.
Even with the graduation of bruiser LaGarrette Blount, Oregon is bound to still have one of the best rushing attacks in the nation.
James, a smaller-sized back (5'9"), took advantage of Blount's absence last year, rushing for over 1,500 yards on the ground in his freshman campaign. Now with a year in the college game under his belt, look for James' production to increase even more as the years pass.
The biggest question mark was raised yesterday after the news of his domestic violence arrest. It will be interesting to see how Oregon handles the situation and whether James will miss time on the field next season.
His arrest will only roughen the road to the Heisman for James, but as long as his numbers continue to rise, he has a chance.
'09 Stats: 1,542 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns, 6.7 avg.
Overlooked by many major programs coming out of high school, Lewis proved his doubters wrong by running for nearly 1,800 yards in his first collegiate season.
Filling in for current Philadelphia Eagle LeSean McCoy, many weren't expecting much from the Panther running game last year. However, Lewis responded by running for 100+ yards in nine games.
If he can stay healthy in such a small frame (5'8"), expect Lewis to make a run at the rushing crown in 2010. He has a bright future ahead of him, despite what any doubter once told him.
'09 Stats: 1,799 rushing yards, 17 touchdowns, 5.5 avg.
Johnson is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country, most likely due to the program he plays at. His pass-run skill-set is one of the best I have seen lately.
Although on a mediocre team, there is no reason to sell this guy short. His best numbers come against his best competition, even behind a below average offensive line that gave up 27 sacks in '09.
In his last regular season game, Johnson threw for four touchdowns and 342 yards in a loss at Texas. To go along with his arm, he added almost a 100 yards on the ground.
It will be tough to win a Heisman at Texas A&M. However, due to his eye-widening stats and exciting skill-set, don't be too surprised if he is in contention for the last seat.
'09 Stats: 3,579 passing yards, 506 rushing yards, 38 total touchdowns.
Due to the reliance on Ingram's two legs, Alabama didn't win football games through the air. However, that still didn't stop Jones from showing why he is among college football's elite wideouts.
Although his stats don't speak for his talent, he makes the best of his opportunities. The 6'4" junior cannot only beat defensive backs deep but can jump with anyone, making a him a dangerous threat inside the 20.
No matter how many balls are thrown his way, having him on the field will help his team by drawing attention. But when he does get his chances, he will backup the hype behind his name.
The only way a Heisman falls into his arms is if he attains the top receiver in the nation label, along with a decrease in production from Ingram.
'09 Stats: 43 receptions, 596 yards, four touchdowns.
The nation's leading passer threw for 5,000 yards for the second consecutive season in '09.
Putting Houston on the national map, Keenum drew plenty of Heisman consideration, only to fall out of contention after losses against Central Florida and East Carolina.
However, with plenty of talent back, including their star signal-caller, there is no reason Houston won't be competing with the best again this year. If they do, Keenum may have a legitimate shot at the hardware in his final season.
'09 Stats: 5,671 passing yards, 44 touchdowns, 15 interceptions.
Locker is another gun-slinger who can pick up plenty of yards with his feet as well.
Projected as the No. 1 overall pick in this years' draft by many, Locker decided to stay in school and get his degree. Although his team has struggled in his time at the school, that doesn't stop anyone from seeing the talent that Locker possesses.
Not only does he have a prototypical quarterback frame, but he plays the game like a fullback. Whether or not the Huskies have a successful season, you can expect Locker to at least be near the top of many draft boards come 2011.
'09 Stats: 2,800 passing yards, 388 rushing yards, 28 total touchdowns.
Kaepernick is also one of the most under-appreciated offensive players in the nation.
Leading one of the best rushing attacks in the country the past few years, he has put the Nevada program on the map, finally giving Boise State a run for their money in the WAC.
Kaerpernick not only has back-to-back 2,000-yard passing seasons, but also consecutive 1,000-yard rushing years as well. He is a true record- book-breaker.
Since Nevada isn't a household name by any means, he will need some magic to get to New York. If he can manage to lead the Wolf Pack into the Top 25, Kaerpernick may get some Heisman attention. His numbers alone won't get him anywhere.
'09 Stats: 2,052 passing yards, 1,183 rushing yards, 36 total touchdowns.
Even throughout a transfer from Michigan, no one has ever doubted the talent of Mallett.
In his first year with the Razorbacks, he and his rocket arm lived up to his name and put his name among the best passers in the nation. With the graduation of big names like Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, and Sam Bradford graduating, room has been made for Mallett to take over as the next big quarterback in the South.
On Wednesday, it was reported that Mallett broke his left foot and will miss the rest of spring practice. However, expect him to make a full recovery even further his numbers from last year in 2010.
'09 Stats: 3627 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, seven interceptions.
The best returning quarterback in college football isn't on Houston, Arkansas, or Washington.
That honor belongs to the undefeated and determined Moore. Even his numbers (only three INT's) were almost perfect.
Leading his team to a perfect season in '09, he will lead his team's climb up the polls once again in 2010. If he can do what he has done all of his career, there is no reason for Boise State not to be in another BCS-game.
And if, by some chance, Moore leads his team to a No. 1 ranking, you will see some serious Heisman votes coming his way. I like his chances.
'09 Stats: 3,536 passing yards, 39 touchdowns, three interceptions.
One of the smallest quarterbacks height-wise in the country, Masoli makes up for it with is feet.
At only 5'11", Masoli specializes in the Duck's spread-attack. He can extend plays, easily finding open receivers, or tuck the ball and run for the first down.
What makes him so dangerous is the fact that he is a dual-threat quarterback. With the many threats in the Oregon offense, Masoli is going to have another fantastic year for the BCS-projected Ducks. Maybe even fantastic enough to earn him a spot at the Heisman dinner.
'09 Stats: 2,147 passing yards, 668 rushing yards, 28 total touchdowns.
One of the most talked about players in college football, it is hard to believe that Pryor is only going into his third season with the Buckeyes.
After a slow start in '09, he stepped up his play and showed why he is mentioned with the elite at his position by many. Once Pryor finds consistent production, he may be the next Vince Young, as he has been projected as by many experts over the years.
I was hesitant to put Pryor on the list, but I believe this year will be his coming-out party. The mistakes will most likely decrease greatly and touchdowns will be a more common sight from the junior.
'09 Stats: 2,094 passing yards, 779 rushing yards, 25 total touchdowns.
Overshadowed by freshman phenoms like Lewis and Williams, Rodgers is one of the best running backs in college football.
Playing for West Coast Beaves, Rodgers is not only the most dynamic player on the roster but also the most impactful. Whether it is receiving or rushing the football, he seems to have a knack for making plays.
Coming off his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season, Rodgers may break into the upper-echelon of playmakers in his junior year. If he can continue the mass production in both categories, you will see his name up there with the best in no time.
'09 Stats: 1,440 rushing yards, 522 receiving yards, 22 touchdowns.
Bursting onto the national scene as a freshman, Williams made a name for himself and the Hokies en route to an incredible 21 rushing touchdowns.
Williams, known for his blend of quickness, vision, and strength, will only improve now that he has become fully adjusted to the next level. The former four-star recruit out of Virginia will be making a run at a spot in New York City by the end of the year if his team can get things done as well.
The one thing holding Williams back from getting the trophy might be his teammate, Tyrod Taylor, stealing some of the spotlight.
'09 Stats: 1,655 rushing yards, 21 touchdowns, 5.5 avg.
One of the more versatile players in the nation, Young provides the best quarterback in college football with a lethal weapon who can play all over the field.
Although on the smaller side, Young uses his speed and quickness to his advantage. It's as if defenders have a hard time bringing down the receiver due to his smaller size.
In addition to making them miss after the catch, he can also make them miss on kick returns, as evidenced by his two return touchdowns in '09.
Much like Broyles, Young has a shot only because of his playmaking and versatility talents. With a few defining moments and a national championship berth, maybe Young sneaks into the Heisman conversation along with his quarterback.
'09 Stats: 1,041 receiving yards, 138 rushing yards, 14 total touchdowns.
Jonathon Baldwin, WR - Pitt
James Cleveland, WR - Houston
Robert Griffin, QB - Baylor
Montel Harris, RB - Boston College
Landry Jones, QB - Oklahoma
Andrew Luck, QB - Stanford
Josh Nesbitt, QB - Georgia Tech
Christian Ponder, QB - Florida State
Evan Royster, RB - Penn State