USC QB Matt Barkley will enter the 2012 season as the consensus Heisman favorite
When USC QB Matt Barkley announced yesterday that he would be returning to Los Angeles for his senior season, it sent shock waves throughout the college football world.
Barkley is now set to become the face of college football for 2012, and he's going to assume Andrew Luck's role as the most talked about player in the sport this offseason.
I’ve already said that I think it’s a great decision by Barkley to return for his senior year. However, there are some other high-profile 2012 Heisman candidates who probably won’t appreciate it too much, since Barkley will now be the consensus favorite to win the award.
He'll also hog up most of the spotlight and attention throughout the spring and the summer.
Here’s a look at ten of the top 2012 Heisman candidates that could be pushed to the back burner now that Barkley is returning to USC.
Denard Robinson was forced to adapt to his new role as a pass-first quarterback this season.
Although Robinson tossed 14 interceptions, he handled the transition very well, as he helped guide the Wolverines to a 10-win season and a berth in the Sugar Bowl.
The dual-threat star is one of the most exciting and explosive players in the country.
And with Michigan's potential for 2012 looking very strong, Robinson will definitely hear his name mentioned in the Heisman conversation throughout the offseason.
WR Sammy Waktins got most of the national attention, but it was actually QB Tajh Boyd who was the main factor in Clemson's transformation from an unranked afterthought in the preseason into the ACC champion.
Boyd opened a lot of people's eyes in his first year as a starter, as the former 5-star recruit finally made good on his high school hype.
The 6'1'', 230-pound redshirt sophomore threw for 3,578 yards and accounted for 36 total touchdowns.
Clemson will likely go into 2012 as one of the top-ranked national title contenders. And if the Tigers can live up to the hype, Boyd will be near the top of most people's Heisman lists all season long.
It's a real shame that South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore, one of the few truly elite backs in college football, went down with a season-ending knee injury against Mississippi State.
But if Lattimore can rehabilitate his knee and come back fully healthy in 2012, he's going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Lattimore has rushed for over 2,000 yards and scored 30 touchdowns in just 20 career games.
The term "beast" gets thrown around a little too often these days, but the 6'1'', 230-pound sophomore truly fits the description.
If Lattimore returns to full health next season, the SEC better watch out.
Ranked No. 1 in the country in both polls, Oklahoma entered the season with high hopes and national championship aspirations.
The face of the team, QB Landry Jones started 2011 on the short list of Heisman favorites, but abruptly fell out of the running when Oklahoma got shocked by Texas Tech back in Week 8.
The wheels came off the Sooners’ season soon after that, and Jones watched as his pro stock continued to drop after a loss to Baylor and a blowout loss to Oklahoma State in the final game of the season.
Now that he’s sitting firmly behind Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin III, it may be wise for Jones to return for his senior year and try to regain the respect he had back in the summer.
Jones has a ton of natural ability. If he can bounce back in 2012, he'll once again find his name amongst college football's top quarterbacks.
QB Logan Thomas had some big cleats to fill this season, as he stepped in for Tyrod Taylor, one of the most successful and productive quarterbacks in school history.
But Thomas showed fans more than a few glimpses of his remarkable talent and enormous potential this year, leading the Hokies to an 11-win season, an ACC Coastal division title and a berth in the Sugar bowl.
A signal-caller, the 6'6'', 250-pound budding star will be one of the most coveted junior quarterback prospects next season. He'll guide a Virginia Tech team that should enter the year ranked in the Top 10 in the preseason polls.
If RB David Wilson decides to return to Blacksburg, the Hokies will have one of the best backfields in the country next season.
Stepping in for Ryan Mallett, Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson was one of the biggest breakout stars of the 2011 season.
Wilson flourished in Bobby Petrino's offensive system, throwing for 3,422 yards and 22 touchdown strikes this year while guiding the Razorbacks to a 10-2 record.
The junior signal-caller is losing three of his top receivers—Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs. But he’ll also get back emerging junior WR Cobi Hamilton and Knile Davis, one of the top running backs in the country, who missed the entire 2011 season with an injury.
Wilson should have Arkansas right in the hunt in the SEC West in 2012.
If the Razorbacks end up winning the conference next year, he’ll likely get an invitation to New York City.
Of the five Heisman finalists this year, LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu, who is just a true sophomore, will likely be the only one to return next season.
Mathieu took the college football world by storm and became the face of the LSU defense this season. His punt returns for touchdowns against Arkansas and Georgia were two of the biggest plays of the Tigers' undefeated campaign.
It will be hard to replicate the tremendous success he had this season, but Mathieu has definitely put himself on the college football map.
He will definitely be one of the most talked about names going into next season.
With QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon both heading off to the NFL, RB Joseph Randle is set to be the focal point of the Oklahoma State offensive attack next season.
Randle flourished in his first year as a starter this season, as he did a terrific job replacing Kendall Hunter, one of the most productive backs in school history.
The 6'1'', 190-pound sophomore rushed for 1,193 yards and scored 25 total touchdowns this year.
He will have a great chance to best those numbers in 2012.
Aaron Murray didn’t have the end to the season that he was hoping for—Georgia got routed by LSU in the SEC championship game.
But you have to give the redshirt sophomore credit for reeling off 10 straight wins after starting the season 0-2.
Murray, who threw for 2,861 yards and hit 33 touchdown passes in 2011, helped to save head coach Mark Richt’s job. And his performance also gave Georgia fans something to look forward to next season.
The Bulldogs will go into 2012 as the favorite to win the SEC East division once again.
David Wilson took the ACC by storm in his first year as the main man in the Virginia Tech backfield, leading the conference with 1,627 rushing yards and scored 10 total touchdowns.
Wilson could enter the 2012 NFL draft and be an almost-guaranteed second-round pick. But if he decides to come back to school he'll be a serious Heisman candidate, and will boost his pro stock while playing for a team that has a legitimate shot at a national championship.
The 5'10'', 205-pound junior has as much raw speed as any player in the country. If he returns, he has a chance to ascend to true superstar status next season.
QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
QB Collin Klein, Kansas State
QB E.J. Manuel, Florida State
QB Darron Thomas, Oregon
QB Casey Pachall, TCU
QB Brock Osweiler, Arizona State
QB Braxton Miller, Ohio State
QB James Franklin, Missouri
QB Keith Price, Washington
QB A.J. McCarron, Alabama
QB Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
QB Tyler Bray, Tennessee
QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
RB Michael Dyer, Auburn
RB Knile Davis, Arkansas
RB Rex Burkhead, Nebraska
RB Cierre Wood, Notre Dame
RB Ray Graham, Pittsburgh
RB Henry Josey, Missouri
RB Isaiah Crowell, Georgia
RB Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State
RB Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State
RB Spencer Ware, LSU
RB Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
RB James White, Wisconsin
RB Malcolm Brown, Texas
RB Dustin Garrison, West Virginia
RB Marcus Coker, Iowa
RB Silas Redd, Penn State
RB Stepfan Taylor, Stanford
RB Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
RB Mike Gillislee, Florida
WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
WR Robert Woods, USC
WR Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers
WR Keenan Allen, California
DE Sam Montgomery, LSU
LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
Not included on the list are the players who I think are most likely to enter the 2012 NFL draft.
QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor
RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin
RB Chris Polk, Washington
RB LaMichael James, Oregon
RB Bernard Pierce, Temple
RB Lamar Miller, Miami (Already Declared)
WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (Already Declared)