The start of college football is right around the corner. The countdown to kickoff begins with the SEC media days in Hoover, Alabama.
The football media has now turned its attention to the other BCS conferences.
It is time to start discussing players to watch for the Heisman Trophy. For the third straight year and the fifth time since 2000, the reigning winner returns with a chance to win the award for second time.
Alabama’s Mark Ingram is the returning winner and the only player with a chance to join Archie Griffin as the only two-time winners. While Ingram is trying to win his second award, USC’s Reggie Bush might be losing his.
Here is a look at five players from each BCS conference who could be a Heisman contender. Along with a look at five players from non-BCS conferences that could be in the running for the award.
One quick note, I did not include any defensive players or offensive linemen. Most Heisman contenders and winners come from the skill players on offense.
(Note: To cut down on the length of this article, I am splitting it up into three articles. This last part will cover the Pac-10, SEC, and the non-BCS conferences. )
Pac-10 Heisman Contenders To Watch
5. James Rodgers, WR, Oregon State Beavers
Rodgers is a threat to score in every phase of the game. He can be dangerous as a receiver, kick returner, or in the rushing game.
Last season, Rodgers caught a school-record 91 passes for 1,034 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, plus he added 303 rushing yards. Rodgers was seventh in the nation and led the Pac-10 with 179.1 all-purpose yards per game.
A couple of things could derail Rodgers' Heisman hopes. The first is that Oregon State is breaking in a new quarterback after the departure of Sean Canfield and his brother Jazquizz could end up with more press.
4. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon Ducks
James made the best of the situation after starting running back LaGarrett Blount melted down after the Boise State game. Instead of getting spot carries, James went on to set a freshman Pac-10 record with 1,546 yards on 230 carries with 14 touchdowns.
A home run threat, James led the nation with 21 carries over 20 yards and four carries that went for more than 50 yards. James also added 186 receiving yards on 17 receptions.
After Jeremiah Masoli was kicked off the team for theft and a drug citation, Oregon will have to lean on James even more. This should help his Heisman chances since he will be the focal point of the Ducks offense.
3. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford Cardinal
Luck will try to improve on an impressive freshman performance of 2,575 yards with 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He also added 358 yards on the ground on 61 carries with two touchdowns.
The only downside to Luck’s freshman year was that he missed the Cardinal’s bowl game after an injury to a finger on his throwing hand in the last game of the year against Notre Dame. Without Luck, Stanford lost to Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl.
Luck will try to avoid a sophomore slump and win the Heisman. The departure of Toby Gerhart could have the biggest impact on Luck’s chances of winning the award.
2. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State Beavers
Can anyone forget Rodgers coming out party on an ESPN Thursday night game against the USC Trojans? Rodgers followed up that performance last season with 1,440 yards on 273 attempts and 21 touchdowns.
Rodgers also added 522 receiving yards on 78 receptions with a touchdown. He is also the only two-time All-Pac-10 team back for the 2010 season.
With the departure of Sean Canfield, Rodgers will have to carry the load even more this season. That should increase his chances of winning the Heisman if he can stay healthy.
1. Jake Locker, QB, Washington Huskies
Had he declared for the NFL draft after last season, Locker might have been the No. 1 pick and most thought he was certainly entrenched in the top five. Last season, he passed for 2,800 yards with 21 touchdowns, but he also had 14 interceptions.
Locker also added 388 yards on the ground in 112 carries and added seven rushing touchdowns. He is also an accomplished baseball player who has been picked twice in the baseball draft and is currently under contract with the Los Angeles Angles.
Washington returns 10 starters on offense and should be even better in year two under Steve Sarkisian. As long as Locker can stay healthy, he will be in the Heisman conversation all year long.
Other Pac-10 Players To Watch
- Matt Barkley, QB, USC Trojans
- Nick Foles, QB, Arizona Wildcats
- Shane Vereen, RB, California Golden Bears
- Nic Grigsby, RB, Arizona Wildcats
- Kevin Riley, QB, California Golden Bears
SEC Heisman Contenders To Watch
5. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama Crimson Tide
Jones returns to the national champions to help with their bid to repeat. Last season, Jones 596 yards on 43 receptions with four touchdowns.
After a subpar sophomore season, Jones looks to rebound in 2010. The one player who could help with that is Greg McElroy, who is going into season two as the starting quarterback.
Two things will hurt Jones chances at the Heisman. The first is that current winner Mark Ingram is on the same team and Jones' poor 2009-10 season puts him behind in the Heisman hype.
4. Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky Wildcats
If Cobb played for nearly any other SEC team but Kentucky (namely, Alabama, Florida, or Georgia), he would be a major Heisman contender. Cobb is the one player in the SEC who is a threat to score on every touch of the ball and every phase of the game.
During his time with the Wildcats, Cobb has played at wide receiver, quarterback, and running back, plus as a punt and kick returner. Last season, 447 receiving yards on 39 receptions, 573 rushing yards, 653 combined punt and kickoff yards, 89 passing yards, and 15 combined touchdowns.
Cobb should be a national superstar but does not get the hype playing for Kentucky. That still should not stop Cobb from making a statement this season and a run at the Heisman.
3. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia Bulldogs
Green was nearly unstoppable last season until injuries slowed down what could have been an outstanding season. Because of those injuries, Green’s sophomore season did not match his freshman season.
Still, even after missing three games last season, Green had 808 yards on 53 catches with six touchdowns. That also includes the fact that Georgia was breaking in a new starting quarterback.
Green will be a Heisman contender if he can stay healthy for an entire season. One down side is that for the second year in a row the Bulldogs starting quarterback will lack game experience.
2. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas Razorbacks
If not for the number one guy on our list, Mallett would be the top player to watch in the SEC. He is the only quarterback in the conference who is a certain NFL prospect.
After sitting out the 2008 season because he transferred from Michigan, Mallett threw for 3,627 yards with 30 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. For Mallett to be a Heisman contender, the Razorbacks win total must improve.
In the defensive-crazed SEC, Arkansas puts up video game numbers on offense. Improving against the SEC’s best would help Mallett. Last season, the Razorbacks lost to perennial powerhouses of Alabama, Georgia, Florida and LSU.
1. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama Crimson Tide
The returning Heisman Trophy winner has to be the favorite to win once again in 2010-11. Ingram's cause is helped even more since he will also be trying led Alabama to back-to-back national championships.
One thing to remember about Ingram is that he has only fumbled twice in his career and only lost one of those fumbles. Last year he rushed for 1,658 yards, adding 334 yards receiving with 20 combined touchdowns.
The only thing that could derail Ingram’s Heisman hopes is that he won the award last year. Only one player has ever award the twice—Ohio State great, Archie Griffin.
Other SEC players to watch
- Greg McElroy, QB, Alabama Crimson Tide
- Jordan Jefferson, QB, LSU Tigers
- Mike Hartline, QB, Kentucky Wildcats
- Stephen Garcia, QB, South Carolina Gamecocks
- John Brantley, QB, Florida Gators
Non-BCS conference Heisman Contenders
5. Andy Dalton, QB, TCU Horned Frogs
Dalton led TCU to an undefeated regular season in 2009-10 in the Mountain West Conference and the first BCS appearance for the Horned Frogs and the third for the MWC. Last season, he had 2,756 passing yards, 512 rushing yards, and 26 combined touchdowns.
4. Dwight Dasher, QB, Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Last season, Middle Tennessee became the first Sun Belt team to win 10 games and the Blue Raiders won their first-ever bowl game in school history over Southern Mississippi. Dasher was a big reason for the dream season with 2,789 passing yards, 1,154 rushing yards, and 36 combined touchdowns.
3. Ricky Dobbs, QB, Navy Midshipmen
Ask Ohio State fans if Dobbs belongs on this list after he nearly led Navy to a win over the Buckeyes. Notre Dame fans will tell you Dobbs belongs on this list after the Midshipmen went in to South Bend to earn a victory.
Last season, Dobbs led Nave to a nine-win season and a bowl victory and if he becomes a better passer, he could be a Heisman contender. In the Navy triple option, Dobbs rushed for 1,192 yards and passed for 1,031 yards with 33 combined touchdowns.
2. Case Keenum, QB, Houston Cougars
Keenum has put up video game like numbers for the past two seasons at Houston. The quarterback gives the Cougars their first Heisman contender since David Klingler finished third.
Last season, Keenum passed for 5,671 yards with 44 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions. He also added 158 rushing yards and four touchdowns for the C-USA champions.
1. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State Broncos
Moore is the only quarterback besides, Greg McElroy, to be undefeated at the end of last season. The Western Athletic Conference was treated to its third BCS appearance and second in BSU history.
Moore will try to bring the WAC its first Heisman winner in BSU’s final year in the conference. Last season, Moore had 3,536 passing yards with 39 touchdowns and only three interceptions, while only getting sacked three times the entire year.
Other non-BCS Conference Players To Watch
- Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada Wolf Pack
- Vai Taua, RB, Nevada Wolf Pack
- Austin Pettis, WR, Boise State Broncos
- James Cleveland, WR, Houston Cougars
- Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple Owls