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College Football 2011: Top 10 Heisman Candidates

Tyler RobinsonContributor IIJanuary 27, 2011

College Football 2011: Top 10 Heisman Candidates

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    College football starts back up on August 23rd, 2011! Are you pumped up? I am.

    It's never too early to start talking about who the front runners for the Heisman Trophy will be next season, is it? I don't think so.

    Many of the players that made the college football season so special last season will be returning to school again in the fall. Here are the top 10 Heisman candidates for the 2011 season.

10. Aaron Murray

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Aaron Murray was outstanding in his freshman season.

    His Georgia Bulldogs stumbled out of the gate, going 1-4 to start the year. The young quarterback got the team going, and they would rally back to finish the season at 6-6.

    Murray threw for 3,049 yards, 24 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. The Bulldogs quarterback had a passer efficiency rating of 154.5, which was good for 14th in the nation. Not bad for a freshman.

    Murray may not be a front runner this year, but he is still in the early stages of his career and has all of the tools to be a big time player down the road.

9. Trent Richardson

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Alabama looks to return to its old glory next year, and Trent Richardson is going to be the player that leads them back.

    For the first time in his career at Alabama, Richardson won't have to split time with former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram.

    Richardson rushed for 700 yards and six touchdowns this season while averaging 6.3 yards per carry. The Crimson Tide running back also caught 23 passes for 266 yards and had four touchdowns through the air.

    Richardson should have a monster year now that he'll be the featured back and will get more touches.

8. Denard Robinson

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    The man they call "Shoelace" was the early favorite to win the Heisman last year.

    Denard Robinson was as deadly with his legs as he was with his arm. The Michigan quarterback threw for 2,570 yards with 18 touchdowns and also ran for 1,702 yards (second in the nation) and 14 touchdowns. He was the first player in the history of college football to throw and run for over 1,500 yards in one season.

    Rich Rodriguez is out, and Brady Hoke is in. It will be interesting to see how Robinson will adapt with a new system coming in. Michigan will also need to win more games if Robinson is going to make a run at the Heisman. He's got all the talent to do it; we'll see if he has the team behind him.

7. Marcus Lattimore

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    As a true freshman Marcus Lattimore for ran for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns. He added 412 yards through the receiving game and tacked on another two touchdowns.

    Lattimore is one of the most gifted athletes we have in college football today. At 6'0" and 218 pounds, Lattimore has the size to run through defenders, and he still has the speed to blow by them. He faced brutal SEC defenses throughout the season, and he's proven himself as one of the top backs in the country.

    South Carolina's program should compete next year, and Lattimore will have a large role in the success that the Gamecocks have.

6. Darron Thomas

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    In his first season as a starter, Darron Thomas led the Oregon Ducks to the national championship game.

    Though he doesn't get as much pub as he should, Thomas was one of the country's best quarterbacks last season. The Ducks quarterback threw for 2,881 yards and 30 touchdowns to go along with a 150.97 efficiency rating. Thomas also ran for 486 yards and five touchdowns.

    Thomas is the engine that runs the Ducks' machine offense. He is in charge of making all the reads, and the offense really goes when he does.

    In the national championship game the Ducks got off to a slow start, and Thomas was missing his reads. By the end of the night he finished with a career-high 363 yards and brought the Ducks back to tie the game at 19 before Auburn pulled away at the end of the game.

    The Ducks will be a force next year, and Thomas should only improve on the impressive season he had this year.

5. Justin Blackmon

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Justin Blackmon might be the greatest wideout that we've ever seen in the college game. Really. The Oklahoma State sophomore caught 111 balls for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns.

    Blackmon had at least 125 yards receiving in every game he played in except against Oklahoma; he still had 105 yards and a touchdown against the Sooners. Blackmon's production is unparalleled by any other wideout in the college game.

    Wide receivers generally don't get a lot of hype when it comes to the Heisman, but Blackmon should be the exception.

4. Kellen Moore

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    Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images

    Kellen Moore finished fourth in the Heisman voting last year, and he should compete for the award again next season.

    Moore has been pretty dominant, to say the least, during his tenure at Boise State: Moore is 38-2 as a starter in his career. The Broncos quarterback led the nation in passer efficiency at 182.6. He threw for 3,845 yards, 35 touchdowns and only six interceptions.

    The Broncos are always a threat to run the table, and Moore will be leading their charge again next season.

3. Landry Jones

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    How was Landry Jones not mentioned in last year's Heisman talk? Jones threw for 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns; both were good for second in the country.

    Oklahoma is a popular pick to play in the national championship game, and Landry Jones is a big reason experts are picking them. The numbers are going to be there for Jones again next season. If he can guide the Sooners back to the title game, then he will have a legitimate shot to take the award.

    Jason White won the Heisman in 2003, and Sam Bradford brought home another Heisman for the Sooners in 2008. If Jones takes the Heisman next year, then the Sooner will have three quarterbacks that won the Heisman in the last 10 years.

    That's unreal. Think about it.

2. LaMichael James

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    The nation's best running back will be a favorite to win the Heisman next season.

    James led the country in rushing with 1,731 yards and scored 21 touchdowns. He is a threat to take it to the house every time he gets his hands on the rock.

    The Ducks offense was like nothing we've ever seen before in the college game. They score at an alarming rate, and LaHeisman's knack for the big play is a big reason why.

    The Ducks were on the verge of winning the national championship last year, and they have the squad to return to the big game next season.

    James set records in his freshman year and led the nation in rushing his sophomore year, and his junior year is going to be his best to date. Look for James and the Ducks to do some special things in 2011.

1. Andrew Luck

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    When I went to the University of Oregon, I used to work in a restaurant, and one of the girls I worked with dated an Oregon defensive back. This was in 2009, and it was Andrew Luck's freshman year.

    Oregon traveled to Stanford that year and lost in a shootout 51-42. Toby Gerhart ran for 223 yards and three touchdowns, and Luck threw for 251 yards with a touchdown. When I got to work the next day, I asked my coworker what T.J. (her boyfriend/Ducks DB) had to say about the game.

    "T.J. said that Stanford's quarterback is going to win the Heisman before he's done, and that he was the best quarterback he'd ever seen."

    T.J. was right. He knew it Luck's freshman year. Andrew Luck is going to win the Heisman.

    Luck must have known something then too, because he turned down millions of dollars he would have earned as the NFL's top pick to return to Stanford. 

    Luck led Stanford to an 11-1 record with its only loss coming to the Oregon Ducks in Autzen. Luck was third in passer efficiency at 170.16, he threw for 3,338 yards and he tossed 32 touchdowns.

    The Stanford Cardinal and Andrew Luck are poised to make a title run next year. As long as Luck can get Stanford back to a BCS bowl game, then he is going to win the Heisman. It's that simple. He finished second in the Heisman voting this past year, and Cam Newton won't be in his way next year.

    The Heisman is Luck's to lose.

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