2011 Heisman Trophy Watch: Edwin Baker and 5 Other Dark Horse Candidates

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2011 Heisman Trophy Watch: Edwin Baker and 5 Other Dark Horse Candidates
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The Heisman Trophy is the most prestigious individual award in college football. Just to be mentioned as a potential candidate is fulfilling enough. 

Many believe that the likes of Oregon's LaMichael James, Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Boise State's Kellen Moore have the Heisman Trophy cornered.

Such a statement has plenty of merit, but as we saw last year, anyone can come out of nowhere and dazzle the masses with spectacular play. Here is a list of dark horse Heisman Trophy candidates that will be sure to receive some consideration by the team in November.

 

RB Edwin Baker, Michigan State

Michigan State deploys a running back-by-committee but the sure-fire leader among the depth chart is Edwin Baker. Last year, Baker quietly rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns on just 207 carries.

Baker helped the Spartans get off to a typical hot start. Michigan State would close out the year with an 11-2 record. With the race in the Big Ten wide-open, success in East Lansing will tug Michigan State out of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State's shadows.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

This will allow Baker to attain more media attention, which equates to a greater sense of publicity, which will undoubtedly help his push for Heisman Trophy candidacy.

 

RB Lamar Miller, Miami

Bringing with him an offensive scheme that utilizes the ground game very efficiently (and productively), new Hurricanes head coach Al Golden is expecting big things out of sophomore Lamar Miller.

Last year, Miller averaged nearly six-yards per carry while leading the Hurricanes in rushing touchdowns. He will split carries with Mike James, though.

As we saw with Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown at Temple, the offense that Golden is bringing to Miami will lean on the run. The success of the Hurricanes will depend on the ground game.

With Miller poised to be the workhorse for what should be a rejuvenated Miami offense, look for him to garnish recognition as he becomes the first 1,000-yard rusher since Willis McGahee in 2002.

 

RB Ray Graham, Pittsburgh

Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Panthers have been churning out excellent running backs over the last several years. From LeSean McCoy to Dion Lewis, they are known to pound the ball.

This year, Ray Graham is going to be the full time rusher. Last season, Graham surprised folks by finding running lanes in the tightest of pockets and making defenders miss.

New head coach Todd Graham is expected to deploy an offensive scheme that will put up plenty of yards and points. This is beneficial to Graham, who rushed for 922 yards and eight touchdowns as a backup a year ago.

While he may not be as mainstream as some of the other productive rushers in college football, his numbers will justify any recognition he should receive for the Heisman Trophy.

WR Ryan Swope, Texas A&M

Texas A&M is supposedly primed to make a run at the Bowl Championship Series. If this holds true and they can shock the Big 12, then a lot of media attention will be focused on wide receiver Ryan Swope.

Last year, Swope was the second in the chain of command of receivers for the Aggies. All signs indicate that he might have an overall better skill-set than Jeff Fuller.

In 2010, then-sophomore Swope nabbed 72 receptions for 825 yards and four touchdowns. His 72 receptions were tied for most on the team with Fuller. His play-making ability is there, so therefore Swope's yards-per-reception statistic should jump by a few yards this coming season. 

 

QB Ryan Lindley, San Diego State

Move over TCU and Boise State, there is another hopeful BCS-buster in town. Led by quarterback Ryan Lindley, the Aztecs might have enough juice and experience to improve on their 9-4 record from a year ago and make a legitimate run at the BCS—even if they have to go through Michigan, TCU and Boise State.

Lindley is one of the nation's premiere passers. In 2010, he passed for 2,880 yards and 28 touchdowns.

Last year, Lindley struggled against Missouri and TCU—both games were losses. He threw four touchdowns versus Utah to go along with his 528 yards, but also threw three picks.

Expect Lindley to take a big leap forward his senior year and put those games behind him as he builds on that experience and has a 4,000-yard season with 30 or more touchdowns.

 

QB Mike Glennon, NC State

The brother of former Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon, Mike Glennon brings a Phillip Rivers-like pocket presence back to Raleigh, North Carolina. Taking over for the departed Russell Wilson, Glennon brings a strong arm and great accuracy to the table as the Wolfpack looks to build on a 9-4 record.

Head coach Tom O'Brien developed current Atlanta Falcons passer Matt Ryan. He now gets to build-up his first truly elite quarterback recruit in Glennon.

Glennon will be entering 2011 as a first-time starter, but don't let his inexperience fool you. He has a commanding presence in the pocket and a pedigree that many would love to have. He is the perfect fit for this offense; by the time November rolls around, we will begin to hear the Matt Ryan comparisons.

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