2011 Heisman Trophy Rankings: Who Has the Best Chance To Win Next Season?
We're just a few days removed from the 76th Heisman Trophy ceremony. Cam Newton was just honored at his Heisman dinner. The candidates have returned to their teams to get ready for their bowl games.
But that doesn't mean it's too early to start looking ahead to next year's Heisman campaign.
The following contestants are the players with the best chance of actually winning the trophy in 2011. Some players are not on this list because they may be headed for the NFL Draft or are recovering from injury. And, of course, it's still early enough that events may overtake this prediction.
But there's a good chance that a year from now, one of the players on this list will be the 77th Heisman Trophy winner.
No. 10: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
Lattimore had a fine season for the Gamecocks as just a true freshman.
He ran for 1,198 yards and 17 touchdowns and topped the 180-yard mark three times in SEC play.
His powerful running style wore down defenses and he showed a lot of versatility by catching 26 passes for two more scores.
South Carolina should have an explosive offense next year, so look for Lattimore to be in the Heisman mix.
No. 9: Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Martinez was another freshman phenom who should get Heisman notice as a sophomore.
He started out like gangbusters for the Cornhuskers, but faded a bit toward the end of the season. Still, he did rush for 942 yards and 12 scores while passing for 1,578 yards and 15 touchdowns.
There is some question as to his happiness in Lincoln and there are rumors he might transfer. But if he stays at Nebraska, he'll undoubtedly improve upon his freshman season and become a prime Heisman contender.
No. 8: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Murray might've had the best freshman season ever for an SEC quarterback.
He showed a lot of resiliency during a tough season and ended up the best player on a very talented, but underachieving, team.
He finished ninth nationally in passing efficiency, throwing for 2,851 yards, 24 touchdowns and just six picks. He never seemed to hit the freshman wall and by the end of the year he was playing like a veteran.
You have to like Georgia's future with Murray. If he builds upon this season with a better sophomore year, he'll be talked about as a prime Heisman contender in 2011.
No. 7: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Any time you are an Oklahoma quarterback, you have a shot at the Heisman.
It should be no different for Landry Jones in 2011.
He is coming off a monster sophomore year in which he threw for 4,289 yards and 35 touchdowns while leading the Sooners to the Big 12 title.
Jones has quietly thrown for 61 touchdowns in his first two years as a starter and, if history is any guide, we can expect even more from him in 2011.
Don't count out Jones as a Heisman contender next year, even with the possible loss of receiver Ryan Broyles to the NFL.
No. 6: Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon
Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Win or lose against Auburn, the Ducks will be rolling again in 2011.
A big reason will be the return of Darron Thomas for his junior season. With or without LaMichael James (who I expect to jump to the NFL), Thomas is this program's emerging star.
In his first year as a starter, he threw for 2,500 yards and 28 touchdowns while rushing for 492 yards and five more scores.
He'll be the focus of the team in 2011, so look for him to improve upon those numbers and become a Heisman contender in his own right.
No. 5: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Richardson was briefly forgotten during an injury-riddled sophomore year, but look for him to bounce back big time in 2011.
That's because his running mate, Mark Ingram, is likely to jump to the NFL, leaving the bulk of the carries in his talented possession.
Richardson had just 658 yards and five touchdowns this year, but he missed two full games to injuries and, of course, had to share time with Ingram the rest of the season.
Look for Richardson and the Tide to bounce back next year and for him to make a Heisman run as a junior.
No. 4: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Blackmon finished fifth in the Heisman race this year and has a chance to win the whole thing as a junior.
That is, if he comes back to college instead of heading to the NFL. At this point, I think he's coming back, so that's why he's on this list.
He's coming off one of the great seasons ever by a receiver, as he caught 102 passes for 1,665 yards and 18 touchdowns.
With Cowboy quarterback Brandon Weeden coming back too, there's no reason to think Blackmon won't have another huge year. And if all goes right, he can make it to New York for the 2011 Heisman ceremony.
No. 3: Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Moore has a chance to cement his status as one of the great quarterbacks in collegiate history in 2011.
He is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Heisman voting—indeed, he'll be the top returning vote-getter—which means that Heisman voters will be very familiar with his exploits heading into next season. Still, few probably realize that he could end up the all-time NCAA winner as a starting quarterback and maybe the all-time passing efficiency leader as well.
This past year, he threw for 3,506 yards and 33 touchdowns with just five interceptions as Boise State just missed another undefeated season.
It could be that 2010 was his best chance at the Heisman, but don't underestimate Moore's ability to elevate his team. He'll be a prime Heisman challenger in 2011.
No. 2: Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
If the 2010 Heisman was awarded in October, Robinson would have been the runaway winner.
He started out on fire and led the nation in rushing and total yards for much of the season's first half.
However, injuries and the weakness of his team led to the collapse of his candidacy. Still, he finished sixth in the Heisman vote after rushing for 1,643 yards and passing for 2,316 while combining for 30 touchdowns running and passing. Those are incredible numbers that might've bordered on amazing had he not gotten hurt.
Durability will be the key to his Heisman success in 2011. If Robinson stays healthy, he has a chance to win Michigan's fourth Heisman.
No. 1: Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Terrelle Pryor has his last chance in 2011.
We've seen him now for three years and he's gotten better statistically each season. We know he has the physical ability. We know he'll be on one of the country's top teams and we know he'll be the unquestioned leader of that team.
The only question is, does he have the consistency and the heart to see it through?
There's no doubt he improved dramatically as a junior. Pryor threw for 2,551 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior while rushing for another 639 yards and four scores.
However, when you look at Cam Newton's numbers, you get a glimpse into what Pryor should be able to do, given his incredible physical gifts.
Be that as it may, if Pryor continues to improve his passing numbers while still maintaining his solid rushing totals, he'll have a good chance to win the Heisman in 2011.
For now, he's your Heisman front-runner.