2011 College Football Rankings: Top Heisman Candidate on Each Top 25 Team
The defending Heisman, Cam Newton, is moving on to the NFL and now it is time to crown a new king of the college football world.
Facebook pages are made, online campaigns are created and every school in the country is trying to push their star as the next Heisman.
Many of the players on this list have no realistic chance of winning the Heisman, but deserve to be honored on their respective teams. Others on this list have been to the Heisman ceremonies in New York, and want to find their way back.
These are the top Heisman candidates from each of the preseason Top 25 teams. Let the debate begin.
25. Mississippi State Bulldogs: RB Vick Ballard
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Last season, Vick Ballard broke through and was one of the best running backs in the SEC. He rushed for 968 yards and 19 touchdowns (second best in the SEC), the whole splitting time with LaDarius Perkins.
A junior college transfer, Ballard was impressive in his first ever season in D-1. This season he will probably be the focal point of the offense.
Ballard is not the most flashy back, but he gets the job done. He is incredibly strong and loves to go right through defenders. He has underrated breakaway speed and is great at making people miss.
Ballard will probably be a dark horse to win the Heisman in 2011.
24. Nebraska Cornhuskers: QB Taylor Martinez
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
At the beginning of the 2010 season, Martinez appeared to be the front runner for the Heisman. Things have drastically changed since then, he is not fighting for his starting job.
Despite so much doubt surrounding Martinez, he still has a better chance than any other Husker to win the Heisman. He has proven that he can play at that high level before and has the capability to do it again.
If Martinez can get his confidence back, he is capable to put up 2,500 passing yards with 1,500 rushing yards. He has the talent to carry an offense, now lets see if he can get it done.
23. Arizona State Sun Devils: LB Vontaze Burfict
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Arizona State is supposed to be one of the most improved teams in college football next season, in large part to their defense. Anchoring their defense is one of the most feared linebackers alive, Vontaze Burfict.
Burfict is the biggest recruit Arizona State has ever had and he has lived up to the hype. Sporting News named a first-team all-American by sporting new last season as well as the Pac-12 defensive player as just a sophomore.
The only knock on Burfict is that he was been criticized for losing his head from time to time. He is notorious for getting personal fouls and getting too emotional in games. However, this emotion can also be a good thing.
Burfict can dominate a game and is probably the best linebacker in college football. If he can keep his head on straight and will his team to victories, Burfict has as good of a chance as any defensive player to be invited to New York next year.
22. Virginia Tech Hokies: RB/KR David Wilson
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Wilson’s numbers last season were not too impressive because he was behind Ryan Williams and Darren Evans on the depth chart.
With both of them declaring for the NFL draft, Wilson will now become the feature back at Virginia Tech.
Last season Wilson rushed for 619 yards and six touchdowns on just 113 carries. He also returned 22 kicks for 26.5 yards per return and two touchdowns.
Wilson is a big play threat and is playing in a system in which running backs have historically thrived. Expect 1,200+ yards and 15+ touchdowns from Wilson next season. If the Hokies can be better than expected, he might get a few looks for the Hesiman.
21. Missouri Tigers: WR T.J. Moe
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
T.J. Moe could very well be the most underrated receiver in college football. He doesn’t have the prototypical height of a wide receiver (just 6’0”) but he makes up for it with his blazing speed.
Last season Moe was the favorite target of quarterback Blaine Gabbert and 92 receptions for 1,045 yards and six touchdowns.
He will be with a new quarterback in 2011, but should still be a dominant receiver. If Moe can click with his new signal-caller, than he will become a household name in college football.
20. Florida Gators: RB Jeff Demps
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
It is hard to believe that the Gators don’t really have a true contender for the Heisman trophy. The guy with the best chance is running back Jeff Demps, arguably the fastest player in college football.
He is said to have ran a sub-4.2 40-yard dash, and believe it. Everyone is waiting for the day that Demps finally breaks out and starts dominating.
Could it be 2011? Maybe. Demps will be a key player if Florida wants to bounce back from their disappointing eight win season.
19. Texas Longhorns: RB Malcolm Brown
Malcolm Brown is the only freshman featured on this list. If you have not heard have him before, you will be very familiar once the season starts.
Texas is in desperate need of playmakers, so they are expected to have the true freshman be their feature back.
He is exactly what you look for in a running back. He is 6’1” 220, runs with toughness and hits the hole hard.
If Texas wants to be contenders again in the near future, they will have to rely heavily on Brown. He may not win the Heisman in 2011, but remember his name. He will be a top contender for the award in the coming years.
18. Georgia Bulldogs: QB Aaron Murray
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Aaron Murray was excellent in his freshman campaign in 2010. He threw for 3,049 yards, 24 touchdowns and was one of the most efficient passer in the country.
It is hard to believe someone with those kind of numbers was on a 6-7 team.
In 2011 expect the Bulldogs to bounce back as a team and for Murray to be in the Heisman discussion all season. The better his team does, the more recognition Murray will get.
He is one of the best young players in college football and should be a Heisman candidate the rest of his college career. He probably needs one more year to mature, but after that he could be one of the front runners for the award.
17. Auburn Tigers: RB Michael Dyer
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Michael Dyer had a phenomenal freshman season considering how crowded the backfield was at Auburn. Quarterback Cam Newton had the majority of the carriers and Dyer also had to split time with running back Onterio McCalebb.
Dyer still managed to run for 1,093 yards and five touchdowns.
He saved his best performance of the season for the BCS title game last season as well, rushing for 143 yards on 22 carries
If Auburn wants to remain a major player in 2011, Dyer will have to put the offense on his back. His team is losing four of their starting offensive lineman from a season ago along with their Heisman quarterback.
Dyer probably wont win the Heisman in 2011, but he will still have 2012 and 2013 to make a run for the trophy.
16. Michigan State Spartans: RB Edwin Baker
Hunter Martin/Getty Images
It was tough to decide who to give this spot to. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was excellent for the Spartans last season, but Baker was the focal point of the offense.
Baker rushed for 1,201 yards last season and scored 13 touchdowns. He is the workhorse for the Spartans and his consistent play was vital in their surprising 2010 season.
If the Spartans want to carry over their 2010 success into 2011, Baker will need to step up. Michigan State is losing a lot of key defensive players that will be tough to replace.
The Spartans will go as far as Baker can carry them in 2011. He probably wont take home the hardware next season, but should be considered.
15. South Carolina Gamecocks: RB Marcus Lattimore
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
Marcus Lattimore was the most impressive freshman running back in the country last season. He is just a great all-around running back. He is strong, tough, quick and is nearly impossible to tackle.
Last season he rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns, both good enough for third in the SEC.
Lattimore is definitely one of the early favorite to win the Hesiman in 2011. If South Carolina has a strong season, he should get an invitation to the ceremony in New York. However, like Aaron Murray, he still has two seasons after 2011 in which he can win it.
14. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: WR Michael Floyd
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Floyd surprised everyone when he decided to return for his senior season and looks to make it the best of his career. He has every reason to believe it will be.
Much of Floyds success in 2011 depends on who will be the quarterback. He had success with both Tommy Rees and Dayne Crist, but he had more consistent numbers with Crist.
This is a huge season for Notre Dame. They want to be a major player of the BCS bowls this season and will need their star, Floyd, to be a big part of his team.
13. Wisconsin Badgers: RB Monte Ball/ James White
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
It is impossible to choose between these two backs. They are the most dominant running back duo in college football.
Last season Montee Ball ran for 996 yards and found the end zone 18 times. While James While ran for 1,012 yards and had 14 touchdowns.
The two-headed monster of Ball and White is the main reason why fans in Madison are very hopeful coming into the 2011 season.
If one of these backs can ever get the vast majority of the carries, they could easily become a serious Heisman contender. Unfortunately, they will probably continue to share the load.
12. Texas A&M Aggies: QB Ryan Tannehill
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Last season Ryan Tannehill took over for the injured Jerrod Johnson at quarterback halfway through the season. He inherited a 3-3 team, and proceeded to not lose another game for the rest of the regular season.
He already has marquee wins against Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma under his belt and looks to take another step forward in 2011.
Tannehill has played receiver most of his career at Texas A&M but has recently made a case that he should be the starting quarterback.
In just seven games last season, he threw for 1,638 yards and 13 touchdowns.
If Texas A&M remains a highly ranked team, Tannehill’s name could be tossed around in Heisman debates. He probably doesn’t have a realistic chance to win it, but his play we get him a few looks.
11. Arkansas Razorbacks: RB Knile Davis
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
I am a huge Knile Davis fan. He has a scary combination of size and speed and might be the best running back in the SEC. In offseason workouts he ran a 4.29 40-yard dash and benched 415 pounds. The kid is a freak.
Arkansas is losing quarterback Ryan Mallett, but Razorbacks fans should not be worried. Davis has what it takes to carry an offense.
Last season he was second in rushing yards in the SEC only to Heisman winner Cam Newton. He rushed for 1,322 yards and tallied 13 touchdowns.
I expect Davis to be one of the top contenders for the Heisman trophy in 2011. Dare I say he is my preseason vote?
10. Oklahoma State Cowboys: WR Justin Blackmon
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Justin Blackmon was one of the most dominant receivers in college football last season. He surprised a lot of people when he chose to return in for his junior season in 2011 alongside quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Oklahoma State is losing their offensive coordinator, Dana Holgorsen, nut their offense should still be amongst the most explosive in the nation.
Last season Blackmon had 111 receptions for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns.
With his quarterback returning, expect similar dominance in 2011. If he wants to be a serious contender for the Heisman at wide receiver, he will have to be even more amazing.
9. TCU Horned Frogs: LB Tank Carder
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
First of all, is there a better linebacker name than Tank Carder?
Carder doesn’t have the most gaudy statistics, but he has the ability to take over games. If you watched the Rose Bowl, then you know what I mean.
Tank was in on every play. He was blowing up the offensive line, plugging holes, sacking the quarterback and even had the game saving pass deflection.
Last season Carder anchored the TCU defense with 61 tackles, four sacks and one interception.
He was not very well known until his Rose Bowl performance last season, but should get more recognition in 2011. He is one of the best defensive player makers in college football.
8. Boise State Broncos: QB Kellen Moore
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Boise State quarterback, Kellen Moore, is definitely one of the top five candidates for the Heisman in 2011. He has been excellent in each of his three seasons so far and continues to improve.
It is tough to find a better quarterback, statistically, last season than Moore. He threw for 3,845 yards, 35 touchdowns and only eight interceptions.
Because Moore is at Boise State, he will probably never win the award. However, he is as deserving as any quarterback in the country.
7. Stanford Cardinal: QB Andrew Luck
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The runner-up for the 2010 Heisman, Luck appears to be the clear cut favorite in 2011.
He surprised everyone when he decided to return to Stanford for the 2011 season, despite Stanford losing many key parts of their Orange Bowl winning team. Their offensive line is going to be made-over in 2011 and they will have a new head coach.
In 2010, Luck threw for 3,338 yards, 32 touchdowns and had a passer rating of 170.16. He is an incredible talent and is one of the smartest football players you will ever meet.
If Luck can manage to keep Stanford in the running for a BCS bowl bid, then I think he deserves the Heisman honors.
6. Ohio State Buckeyes: QB Terrelle Pryor
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
You can call him unreliable or not NFL quality, but Terrelle Pryor wins football games. He is 33-6 in his career at Ohio State so far.'
Unfortunately for Pryor, he will be suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season.
Pryor has led his team to a BCS bowl game each of his three seasons at Ohio State. If his back up, Joe Bauserman, can win ball games in the beginning of the year, Pryor should be able to take them to another BCS game.
He is the ultimate duel-threat quarterback. Last season he threw for 2,772 yards and ran for 754 yards along with 31 total touchdowns.
If it were not for his suspension, he would easily be one of the top contenders for the Heisman.
5. Oregon Ducks: RB LaMichael James
Steve Dykes/Getty Images
LaMichael James is the main piece of the puzzle that makes Oregon’s prolific offense work. Last season he rushed for 1,731 yards and scored 20 touchdowns, good enough to be named the Doak Walker Award winner.
Other than Andrew Luck, James is probably the favorite to win the Heisman in 2011. He is a lock to get an invitation to New York.
His team is the clear cut favorite to win the Pac-12 next season and seems like an early favorite to make the BCS title game as well.
His resume is filled with various accolades and conference championships but it is still missing one thing, the Heisman trophy.
4. LSU Tigers: CB Morris Claiborne
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
I had to dig deep to choose the best Heisman candidate for LSU, but the more I looked, the more I knew it had to be Morris Claiborne.
Clairborne’s success has been overshadowed because he played opposite of cornerback Patrick Peterson, but he will not be overlooked anymore. Clairborne is a true shut down cornerback who comes up with big plays.
Last season he recorded 44 tackles and had five interceptions, good enough for third in the SEC.
Without Peterson, LSU will rely on Clairborne to cover the other teams best receiver every game. He is a big time player and deserves big time respect.
3. Florida State Seminoles: DE Brandon Jenkins
I am not a big believer in quarterback E.J. Manuel yet, but I am a believer in Brandon Jenkins.
Jenkins was surprisingly under the radar last season at Florida State. However, he is a player that should be feared and respected. Last season he racked up 55 tackles and 13.5 sacks, which was third in the nation.
Jenkins gets his done with his incredible speed off the line and is great at wrapping up ball carriers.
Florida State thinks they will have a breakout season in 2011, Jenkins is a major reason for that hype.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide: RB Trent Richardson
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
For his whole career at Alabama, Trent Richardson has been overshadowed by fellow running back Mark Ingram. Now that Ingram is going to the draft, it is show time for Richardson.
Last season he ran for 700 yards and six touchdowns on just 112 carriers. With additional carries in 2011, Richardson should have well over 1,000 yards.
He plays on one of the best teams in the country, and with Richardson at his best, Alabama will probably be one of the top contenders for the BCS title.
If the Tide is ranked near the top, Richardson might very well get an invitation to New York.
1. Oklahoma Sooners: QB Landry Jones
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Oklahoma has two of the top Heisman candidate in the country on their team, Ryan Broyles and Landry Jones.
I eventually chose to give Jones the spot on this list because quarterbacks tend to get more love from the Heisman voters. Also, because Jones had an unreal 2010 season.
He threw for 4,718 yards, 38 touchdowns and had a passer rating of 146.3. Those numbers are scary considering that 2010 was his first season as a starter.
Jones will only improve in his junior season in 2011. He will lead one of the strongest teams in the nation and if he can continue his success, we should see him in New York come December.