College Football 2011 Predictions: 10 Dark Horse Heisman Candidates to Watch
In the world of college football, it’s never too early to start discussing Heisman candidates.
For the 2011 season, the same names have been popping up everywhere in regards to the Heisman.
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, Oregon running back LaMichael James, Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones are the clear favorites to win the Heisman.
Others have also received a good bit of Heisman buzz heading into the season. Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore and Alabama running back Trent Richardson are just a few among this group of candidates.
However, what about those players who have received little to no hype, yet have an outside chance of winning the prestigious award?
Here are ten dark horse candidates to win the 2011 Heisman Trophy.
10. Bryant Moniz, Hawaii
Hawaii has churned out successful quarterbacks for some time now, including 2007 Heisman finalist Colt Brennan.
This year, it’s Bryant Moniz’s turn to lead the Warriors.
In 2010, Moniz threw for over 5,000 yards and 39 touchdowns. Another 5,000 yard season with an increased touchdown total will help Moniz’s Heisman candidacy.
However, the thing that will help him the most is a successful season by the Warriors.
9. Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State
Although he doesn’t receive much attention from the national media, the San Diego State running back is one of the top rushers in the nation.
Hillman was 10th nationally in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns last season. In 2011, he looks to build off his success from 2010.
If Hillman can lead the Aztecs to another great season despite losing former head coach Brady Hoke to Michigan, then the San Diego back will join the Heisman discussion.
8. Geno Smith, West Virginia
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith had a solid 2010 season, passing for 2,763 yards and 24 touchdowns while only throwing seven picks.
This year, Smith will try to lead the Big East favorite Mountaineers back to a BCS bowl.
A top tier bowl will go along ways for Smith’s Heisman candidacy.
7. Mark Barron, Alabama
The only defensive player on the list, Alabama safety Mark Barron is as good as advertised and possibly the best defensive player in the nation.
In 2010, he recorded three interceptions, two sacks and two forced fumbles from his safety position.
This year, he returns to Tuscaloosa to lead what might be the best defense in the country.
Though Barron has recently run into some trouble, if he can right the ship he’ll be this year’s Patrick Peterson or Ndamukong Suh as the defensive player that garners the most Heisman hype.
6. Robert Griffin, Baylor
Despite recent success, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin is once again only considered a Heisman dark horse.
Griffin threw for 3,501 yards and 22 touchdowns while leading the Bears to their first bowl game since 1994.
Another good season from Griffin and the Bears could help land Griffin in New York in early December.
5. Knile Davis, Arkansas
Now that quarterback Ryan Mallett is gone, the Arkansas offense now goes through running back Knile Davis.
Despite Mallett’s success, Davis had a very good 2010 campaign.
He rushed for 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns, and ran for over 100 yards in six of the Razorbacks’ final seven games.
Davis is the key to the Arkansas offense, and if he can lead them to another great season, Davis will start to get recognition outside of the SEC.
4. Montee Ball/James White, Wisconsin
The duo of Montee Ball and James White is the best there is in the nation.
The Badger backs totaled 2,048 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2010 despite sharing the backfield with John Clay as well.
If one of the two emerges as the clear cut starter, he could win the Doak Walker and possibly even the Heisman.
3. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
Even though South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffrey, Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles and Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon get more national publicity, the Notre Dame wide receiver may be the best of the bunch.
Floyd is Notre Dame’s best offensive player, and a healthy Dayne Crist will help him better showcase his skills.
As long as Floyd’s off the field troubles don’t worsen, he will be a contender for the Biletnikoff and a dark horse for the Heisman.
2. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State Justin Blackmon is getting most of the Heisman hype for the Cowboys, but what about his quarterback Brandon Weedon?
Weeden had an exceptional 2010, throwing for 4,277 yards and 34 touchdowns.
The Weeden/Blackmon tandem may be the best since Texas Tech had Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree.
Both were Heisman contenders, but Harrell finished ahead of Crabtree.
2011 may have a similar situation with Weeden and Blackmon.
1. Aaron Murray, Georgia
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murary is the dark horse that stands the best chance of winning the Heisman.
Murray was a freshman All-American in 2010 for the Dawgs, amassing 3,216 total yards of offense, which is second in SEC history.
He also plays for a marquee program that receives a lot of national exposure.
If Murray can lead the Dawgs’ resurgence and guide them to an SEC Championship or a BCS bowl, the Heisman Trophy would be a very real possibility for the Georgia signal caller.