As we move closer to the 2011 Heisman Trophy presentation I thought it would be advantageous to take an early look at the players who are going to get invited to next year's Heisman Trophy presentation.
This list is based on the belief that Trent Richardson, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Matt Barkley and Montee Ball all enter the 2012 NFL Draft.
While the 2012 Heisman class won't be considered as elite as this years Heisman class, there will still be plenty of controversy surrounding who gets selected and who doesn't.
As usual, the SEC will dominate the Heisman ballot with at least three finalists coming from that conference, with the other finalists coming from the Big Ten and Big 12.
Who will be in NYC this time next year, awaiting the results of the Heisman trophy? If you're interested in finding that out, then read on.
Penn State's 2011 offense as a whole wasn't anything to get excited about. The one bright spot on the offense was the consistent play of sophomore running back Silas Redd.
Redd absolutely owned the month of October. In only five games he totaled 703 yards on 133 carries, scoring only three touchdowns but averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
While those numbers aren't absolutely Heisman worthy, they show the kind of production that Redd is bound to have in 2012. The reason why Redd's numbers are impressive is because he played on a Penn State team that had absolutely no passing game.
Penn State's passing attack will have an entire off season to get better, and it without a doubt will. As the passing offense gets better, Silas Redd will explode for Heisman-like production in 2012.
Look for Silas Redd to pad his Heisman stats in the first four games of the season against Ohio, Navy, Temple and Virginia.
Heisman Stat Prediction: 305 ATT, 2,200 YDS, 28 TD
Tyler Wilson and the Arkansas Razorbacks were impressive in the 2011 season, with their only losses coming to the two SEC teams playing the BCS National Title Game.
Wilson's production was extremely impressive, especially after his limited time in 2010 behind now Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallet. I don't think many people expected Tyler Wilson to be as good as he was last year, but that will change in 2012. In 2012 everyone will expect dominant numbers out of him, and he won't disappoint.
Wilson totaled 3,422 yards and 22 touchdowns on only 257 completions. While Wilson's completion percentage of 63 percent isn't as elite as other quarterbacks like RGIII, 72.4 completion percentage, his is still impressive.
The most impressive statistic for Wilson is the fact that he only threw six interceptions and never threw more than one in a single game.
Wilson will surely miss the production of senior receiver Jarius Wright, but he will still be able to produce Heisman like numbers with the receivers on his roster.
Heisman Stat Prediction: 310 CMP, 435 ATT, 71.2 CMP percentage, 29 TD, 6 INT
After their first two games the Georgia Bulldogs and starting quarterback Aaron Murray were considered one of the most overhyped teams and players in all of college football. After firing off 10 straight wins, Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs changed that thought, earning a trip to the Outback Bowl.
Aaron Murray's production dropped in 2011, but that is mainly due to the exit of now NFL star wide receiver AJ Green. In 2011, Murray amassed 2,861 passing yards with 33 touchdown on only 218 completions, earning him a 58.8 completion percentage.
Those numbers are nice, but they need some improving to help Murray earn a trip to the Heisman ceremony next year.
Good news for Murray—the Georgia Bulldogs are young. Their star running back Isaiah Crowell and star wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell are both freshman, and will get stronger and more physical with every offseason workout. Both of Murray's top targets, Malcolm Mitchell and Orson Charles, are returning next year, and that will truly be what sets Murray apart from other quarterbacks.
If Murray puts in the work this offseason with his receivers, he will be one of the most unstoppable quarterbacks in all of college football, which will come close to earning him a trip to NYC this time next year.
Heisman Stat Predictions: 250 CMP, 360 ATT, 69.4 CMP percentage, 3,345 YDS, 35 TD, 8 INT
Up until Clemson's October 29th 31-17 loss to then-unranked Georgia Tech, quarterback Tajh Boyd was believed to be solidified in the Heisman race.
All of that changed after Clemson dropped two of its next three games, all but sealing Boyd's fate.
In 2011, Boyd amassed 3,578 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on only 274 completions. Boyd attempted an incredible 453 passes, earning him a 60.3 completion percentage.
If Boyd wants to be in consideration for the 2012 Heisman Trophy he has to cut down on the interceptions and increase his completion percentage by quite a bit.
The good news for Boyd is that his main weapon, wide receiver Sammy Watkins, is only a freshman and will only get better and better with time. In 2012 the Boyd to Watkins connection will only get stronger, and with a focused offseason, Boyd will do what he needs to to become an elite, Heisman-level college quarterback.
Tajh Boyd will earn a trip to NYC based on the fact that his team will be in the hunt for a national championship well into the final weeks of the season, based on his and wide receiver Sammy Watkin's dominant play.
Heisman Stat Prediction: 333 CMP, 470 ATT, 3,950 YDS, 70.1 CMP percentage 37 TD, 6 INT
Denard Robinson is an absolute freakish athlete—there is no doubting that. The other thing there is no doubting when it comes to Robinson is that in 2012 he will be a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Robinson has not stopped electrifying college football fans since he stepped on the field as a starter during his sophomore season in 2010. His production has steadily increased every year, and 2012 will be no different.
One of the biggest reasons why Robinson will be in NYC this time next year is that he really does spread the wealth in his passing game. He doesn't rely on one receiver to be his go-to man. In 2011 Robinson has thrown touchdown passes to nine different receivers. The fact that he can get the ball to any of his receivers consistently will set him apart from other quarterbacks.
The dual-threat quarterback will once again lead the Wolverines in passing and rushing, just like he did in 2011. Robinson had 2,056 yards through the air and 1,163 yards on the ground this season. He has accounted for 34 touchdowns in 2011, and that number will only increase in 2012.
The one statistic that Robinson will have to cut down on to make the Heisman finalist list is turnovers. In 2011 he threw 14 turnovers, which didn't help him gain a reputable completion percentage. He will also have to better his 56.1 completion percentage if he wants to be in NYC this time next year.
I know it's hard to believe, but Denard "shoelace" Robinson will be more explosive in 2012 than he was in 2011.
Heisman State Prediction: Passing - 175 CMP, 255 ATT, 2,220 YDS, 68.7 CMP percentage 19 TD, 6 INT. Rushing - 195 ATT, 1,450 YDS, 21 TD.
Sophomore cornerback Tyrann Mathieu is one of the main reasons why LSU is sitting at the top of the BCS rankings and playing in a rematch with Alabama in the BCS title game. Mathieu's electrifying play on special teams as well as on defense is absolutely amazing to watch.
There is no doubt that Mathieu is the most valuable player on the 2011 LSU Tigers team, and that won't change come 2012. This season Matthieu has accumulated 71 total tackles, six forced fumbles, five recovered fumbles, two interceptions and 1.5 sacks. That kind of production as a cornerback is absolutely dominant, and it is one of the main reasons why he is a 2011 Heisman finalist.
If his defensive production wasn't enough, he also has 26 punt returns for 420 yards and two touchdowns. Mathieu's productivity, both on defense and on special teams, will only increase next year as he gets smarter, stronger and faster in the offseason.
The LSU Tigers defense is one of the best in the nation, and it will stay that way as long as Mathieu is holding down the secondary, and he will be doing that for at least one more year.
Aside from the safety position the LSU Tigers secondary has youth on its side, with a majority of their starters being sophomores. Look for Mathieu to anchor down the Tigers defense for one more season before earning his second straight trip to the Heisman presentation and then bolting to the NFL to be a top-five draft pick.
Heisman Stat Prediction: 77 TOT, 3.5 SACK, 4 INT, 4 FF. Special Teams - 39 Returns (kickoff/punt), 750 YDS, 5 TD.
Everyone knows Kansas State deserves to be playing in a BCS bowl. The reason they deserve to be there is the incredible play of junior quarterback Collin Klein.
Klein came out of nowhere this year. At 6'5'' and 225 pounds, Klein is a nightmare for opposing defenses to try to stop. In his first year as a starter, Klein accumulated 1,745 yards and 12 touchdowns on 145 completions, earning a completion percentage of 57.8 percent. Those statistics are solid, but Klein's ability to pass is overshadowed by his ability to torch defenses on the ground.
This past season Klein was Kansas State's leading rusher with 1,099 yards and 26 touchdowns on 293 carries. Yep, you read that right, Klein scored six more rushing touchdowns than current Heisman finalist running back Trent Richardson. Klein has accounted for a total of 38 touchdowns in 2011, and that number will increase in 2012.
Klein's primary target, receiver Chris Harper, is only a junior and will be returning to create one of the nations most dynamic duos with his dual-threat quarterback. Expect Klein to rely more on his arm than his legs next year to earn himself a much deserved trip to NYC and the Heisman Trophy presentation.
One of the main reasons why Klein will earn a trip to NYC is because his play will help his team be in the national championship hunt all the way to the final week of the season.
Heisman Stat Prediction: Passing - 190 CMP, 265 ATT, 71.6 CMP percentage, 20 TD, 5 INT. Rushing - 245 ATT, 1,323 YDS, 25 TD.
October 15th was a sad day for South Carolina fans across the nation. That was the day sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore's season ended with a torn ligament in his left knee.
Until injuring his knee, Lattimore was running all over opposing defenses like Georgia, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. In only six-and-a-half games Lattimore totaled 818 yards and 10 touchdowns on only 163 carries, earning him a solid average of five yards per carry.
In addition to his production on the ground, Lattimore had 19 receptions for 182 yards and one touchdown. In 2012, with star wide receiver Alshon Jeffery leaving for the NFL, I expect the Gamecocks to use Lattimore in the passing game much like the Chicago Bears utilize running back Matt Forte.
To earn a trip to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in NYC Lattimore will have to be healthy for the entirety of the 2012 season, and he will be. Latimore will only get stronger and faster through his rehabilitation process in the offseason, and he will come back a more complete version of himself.
The best thing for Lattimore happened while he was on the bench in 2011—the dismissal of QB Stephen Garcia making way for sophomore QB Connor Shaw. Next year Shaw will be a more complete passer, which will result in defenses having to respect the pass, in turn opening up the run game for Lattimore.
Lattimore, who wowed the college football world as a freshman, will return to form in 2012, dominating on the ground and in the passing game, ultimately earning a trip to NYC as a Heisman finalist.
Heisman Stat Prediction: Rushing - 245 ATT, 1,568 YDS, 20 TD. Receiving - 105 REC, 1,120 YDS, 14 TD.
Collin Klein's play in 2012 will wow the college football world, reminding them of the 2007 production of Tim Tebow, who just so happened to win the Heisman Trophy as well that year.
It might be a bold prediction to pick Klein to win the 2012 Heisman trophy, but when you look at the talent the Big 12 will be losing next year in Robert Griffin, Landry Jones, Brandon Weeden and most likely Justin Blackmon, that prediction makes a lot more sense.
So there you have it folks—an entire year early, Collin Klein will win the 2012 Heisman Trophy.