Heisman Trophy: The Top 10 Candidates From the Recruiting Class of 2011

Chris HustonContributor IJanuary 6, 2011

Heisman Trophy: The Top 10 Candidates From the Recruiting Class of 2011

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    It's that time of year again.  

    The nation's elite high school football players are being courted to play for the top programs.  We're less than a month away from finding out where they will all sign. 

    Many of them have bright futures ahead, but a few stand out as being the most likely to compete for the most prestigious award in the sports world.

    Here is a list of the 10 players from the recruiting class of 2011 who have the best chance of winning a Heisman Trophy in the next few years.

    Remember, this is not merely a list of the top players in the class, but a list of those who stand the best chance of winning the Heisman down the road...

No. 10: Kendal Thompson, QB, Oklahoma

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    Kendal Thompson is a departure from the recent quarterbacks at Oklahoma. 

    Unlike Sam Bradford and Landry Jones, he is not a classic pocket passer, but at 6-2, 185 pounds is an athletic, dual-threat quarterback.

    Thompson only played in four games as a senior for Moore High in Southmoore, Okla., (due to injuries), but as a junior he threw for 2,793 yards and 29 touchdowns with just eight interceptions while also rushing for 466 yards and 10 scores.

    He's healthy now and appears to be one of the sleeper recruits of the class of 2011.  The fact that he is going to Oklahoma means he has a chance to play for a high-profile program, which gives him a better shot at the Heisman if he ever wins the starting job.

    That's not a foregone conclusion, but don't be surprised to see Thompson make his mark at some point.

No. 9: De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR/CB, USC

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    If there is one player in this class who can win the Heisman by doing a little bit of everything, it's De'Anthony Thomas of Crenshaw High in Los Angeles, who is headed for USC.

    Thomas rushed for 1,299 yards and 18 touchdowns, averaging 11.4 yards per carry as a senior, while also notching 42 tackles and 5 interceptions as a defensive back.

    He's one of the fastest players in this class, as he once ran a wind-aided 20.61 in the 200-meter dash: tops in the nation under any conditions.

    The 'Black Mamba' is versatile enough to play tailback, slot receiver, cornerback and return both punts and kicks in college. 

    With his speed and natural ability, he could take the Charles Woodson route to the Heisman.

No. 8: Aaron Green, RB, Nebraska

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    It's been a long time since Nebraska has had a running back challenge for the Heisman, but Aaron Green of James Madison High in San Antonio may just break that drought.

    Green is an explosive and elusive back who rushed for 1,029 yards and 12 touchdowns in just six games as a senior before getting hurt. 

    He is an ideal fit for Nebraska's spread offense and could be the next in a long line of All-American Cornhusker running backs.

    The one drawback he might have is a lack of durability, but if he can stay healthy, he'll have a productive career in Lincoln.

    Which means he may be a future Heisman candidate.

No. 7: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

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    There's a new influx of talented young quarterbacks heading to the Pac-10, and UCLA's Brett Hundley of Chandler (Ariz.) High might be the best of the bunch.

    The 6-3, 220-pound, dual-threat quarterback threw for 2,348 yards with 20 touchdown passes and just two interceptions as a senior, while also adding another 856 yards and nine scores on the ground.

    If UCLA sticks with its 'Pistol' offense, Hundley should thrive and help revive a program that has been on hard times of late.

    With his talent, he could become a big star in one of the nation's prime media hubs, which never hurts when it comes to the Heisman.

No. 6: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State

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    Braxton Miller of Wayne High in Huber Heights, Ohio, is the heir apparent to Terrelle Pryor, which means you can automatically pencil him in as a future Heisman candidate.

    Miller is another exciting dual-threat quarterback in the mold of Pryor, though he's not as physically imposing at 6-3, 200 pounds. 

    As a senior, Miller threw for 1,625 yards and 16 touchdowns with four picks while adding 470 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.  He's still a bit raw, but he's very athletic and quite promising as a passer. 

    It could well be that his role model for future Buckeye success isn't Pryor, but 2006 Heisman winner Troy Smith.

No. 5: Jerrard Randall, QB, Oregon

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    There's a new power out on the West Coast: the Oregon Ducks.

    And when you are a football power, that means you produce Heisman candidates.

    This year, it was LaMichael James.  Which Duck will it be in the future?

    How about quarterback Jerrard Randall of Chaminade-Madonna High in Hollywood, Fla.?  He's a natural fit for the up-tempo spread offense of Chip Kelly and is coming all the way across the country to play for the Ducks.

    As a junior, he surpassed 1,700 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing and totaled 32 touchdowns.  He's got blazing speed and a rocket for an arm and could be the most talented Duck quarterback since Dennis Dixon.

    Expect him to sit a couple years while he learns behind Darron Thomas, then look out.

No. 4: James Wilder, RB, Florida State

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    Florida State isn't exactly known for its powerful running game.

    But, then, it hasn't had a back like James Wilder Jr. on its roster in a long time.

    Wilder rushed for 1,525 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior at Plant High in Tampa and also was a terror at linebacker, collecting 72 tackles and eight sacks. 

    Some think Wilder (the son of longtime NFL star James Wilder) is best suited for linebacker, but apparently, he is set to play running back for the Seminoles.

    He's a chiseled 6-2, 225-pound bruiser who likes to attack defenses.  He's just the kind of tough back the Seminoles have been lacking in recent years.

    And if he's anywhere near as good as his pops, he'll be a serious Heisman candidate one day.

No. 3: Jeff Driskel, QB, Florida

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    Let the hype begin.

    Many are already comparing Jeff Driskel of Hagerty High in Oviedo, Fla., to legendary Florida great Tim Tebow.

    It's not a bad comparison.  Driskel is 6-4, 225 pounds and gifted with not only a strong arm, but nimble feet.

    Driskel threw for 1,783 yards and rushed for 1,296 and combined for 36 touchdowns as a senior.  While it remains to be seen whether he can bring the same leadership qualities that Tebow brought to Gainesville, there's no doubt he's got the physical tools.

    It's of note that while Driskel seems to be the ideal match for the Urban Meyer spread, he will actually be operating in Charlie Weis' pro-style offense at Florida. 

    Given Weis' credentials as a quarterback tutor, Driskel is sure to improve as a passer.  If he can still find a way to kill defenses with his feet, he's sure to put up some huge numbers.

    And if all goes well, he'll have one more thing in common with Tebow: a Heisman.

No. 2: Kiehl Frazier, QB, Auburn

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    For those who follow college football closely, it wasn't too surprising to see Cam Newton flourish at Auburn.

    That's because the Tigers have perhaps the most innovative offensive coordinator in all of college football in Gus Malzahn.  It was really only a matter of time before a top talent was able to win a Heisman in his offense.

    So it shouldn't be a shock to many if the next great Malzahn quarterback to challenge for the Heisman is Kiehl Frazier of Shiloh Christian in Springdale, Ark.

    Frazier is 6-3, 215-pounds and well-versed in the principles of the spread offense.  He threw for 2,975 yards and 42 touchdowns through the air and totaled 1,122 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground. 

    Yes, he combined for 64 touchdowns. Yes, he does have the talent to put up Cam-like numbers for Malzahn.

    The opportunity is there to get an early start on things at Auburn should Newton leave for the NFL as expected. 

    Look for Frazier to be the next big Tiger star in the years to come.

No. 1: Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas

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    The nation's No. 1 running back coming out of high school also has the best chance of winning a future Heisman Trophy in college.

    Malcolm Brown of Steele High in Cibolo, Texas, might be the most talented running back recruit to make his way to Austin since Ricky Williams.

    At 6-0, 215 pounds, Brown is a complete back with the power to run over defenders and the speed to roll by them.

    He joins the Longhorns just as Texas is shifting its offensive philosophy to a downhill, power running game.  In other words, a style that is tailor-made for Brown and his considerable abilities.

    As a senior, Brown ran for 2,636 yards and 30 touchdowns, so he's got the production to go with all that talent.

    He'll get a chance to win the starting job this fall and should be a star in the making by this time next year.

    Barring injury, he's a good bet to challenge for the Heisman Trophy and maybe win one before his career is through.