College Football 2011 Predictions: 25 Quarterbacks With Heisman Potential

Matt MattareCorrespondent IIIMay 9, 2011

College Football 2011 Predictions: 25 Quarterbacks With Heisman Potential

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    BOISE, ID - NOVEMBER 19:  Kellen Moore #11 of the Boise State Broncos hands off the ball against the Fresno State Bulldogs at Bronco Stadium on November 19, 2010 in Boise, Idaho.  (Photo by Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images)
    Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images

    Last year around this time, no one had Cam Newton anywhere on the Heisman Trophy radar. After a year barreling over opponents in the SEC, though, he took home the prestigious award in a landslide. 

    Everyone knows who the favorites are going into the 2011 season, but there are plenty of relatively unknown quarterbacks who could emerge much like Cam did last year. Today we count down 25 quarterbacks who could be striking a Heisman pose in December. 

No. 25: Kirk Cousins

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    MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 26: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Michigan State Spartans looks to pass the ball against the Wisconsin Badgers on September 26, 2009 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 2,825 yards (66.9 percent), 20 TDs, 10 INTs, 150.7 rating

    Why He's Here: This is his third year at the helm for the Spartans and he's capable of leading them on another charge for the Big Ten title. 

    Could He Really Win? Probably not. If Michigan State is going to be successful, it'll be with a heavy dose of the run game via their stable of backs, not because Cousins slings it around the yard. 

No. 24: Danny O'Brien

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    2010 Stats: 2,438 yards (57.0 percent), 22 TDs, 8 INTs, 150.7 rating

    Why He's Here: O'Brien flashed some great potential in his first year leading the Terps. He's one of the best young quarterbacks that most fans have never heard about. 

    Could He Really Win? It'd take a miracle. Randy Edsall isn't exactly known for his electrifying offenses.

No. 23: GJ Kinne

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 30: G.J. Kinne #4 of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane is tackled by Brian Smith #58 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes at Notre Dame Stadium on October 30, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. Tulsa defeated Notre Dame 28-27. (Photo by Jon
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 3,650 yards (59.8 percent), 31 TDs, 10 INTs, 144.3 rating

    Why He's Here: Kinne passed for the 11th-most yards in the country last year while engineering a 10-win season for the Golden Hurricane.

    Could He Really Win? No. Gone are both the head coach and offensive coordinator that orchestrated the explosive Tulsa offense. In order to sniff the Downtown Athletic Club as a mid-major, you've got to put up gaudy numbers and basically run the table. The latter won't happen, and with the Graham-Morris coaching combo leaving town, there are questions about the former as well. 

No. 22: Jake Heaps

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    FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 16:  Quarterback Jake Heaps #9 of the BYU Cougars throws a pass against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 16, 2010 in Fort Worth, Texas. TCU beat BYU 31-3. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 2,316 yards (57.2 percent), 15 TDs, 9 INTs, 116.2 rating

    Why He's Here: Heaps is young and on the rise. BYU has a long history of prolific quarterbacks and it seems clear that he's next in line. 

    Could He Really Win? No. He's got a lot of potential and is off to a great start, but he still needs at least one more year of seasoning. 

No. 21: Dayne Crist

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 04: Dayne Crist #10 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks for a receiver as teammate Zack Martin #70 blocks Gerald Gooden #2 of the Purdue Boilermakers at Notre Dame Stadium on September 4, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Da
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 2,033 yards (59.2 percent), 15 TDs, 7 INTs, 129.3 rating

    Why He's Here: Crist actually put up some great stats before getting injured, and if the Irish make a run toward the top of the polls, he'll have the ND hype machine behind him.

    Could He Really Win? No. First step is fending off Tommy Rees. Second step is becoming more consistent. Third step is staying healthy. Those are some steep steps. 

No. 20: Tahj Boyd

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 31:  Tajh Boyd #10 of the Clemson Tigers drops back to pass against the USF Bulls during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 31, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 329 yards (52.4 percent), 4 TDs, 3 INTs, 107.7 rating

    Why He's Here: He's going to be charged with leading the new-and-improved up-tempo offense coordinator Chad Morris is installing. If Boyd can progress and grasp the system, big numbers could follow.

    Could He Really Win? No. It'd take a monumental leap for the former 4-star recruit to get into the Heisman debate. Maybe next year. 

No. 19: Jordan Wynn

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    SAN DIEGO - NOVEMBER 20:  Quarterback Jordan Wynn #3 of the Utah Utes throws a pass against the San Deigo State Aztecs at Qualcomm Stadium on November 20, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 2,334 yards (62.2 percent), 17 TDs, 10 INTs, 139.9 rating

    Why He's Here: Another young, up-and-coming quarterback from the state of Utah. Wynn performed admirably in his first year leading the Utes. He hit some speed bumps late in the year, but he should improve in his second season.

    Could He Really Win? No. The first season in the Pac-12 could be a bit turbulent and expecting him to light it up against better teams week in and week out is asking too much. 

No. 18: Ryan Tannehill

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    AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 25:  Quarterback Ryan Tannehill #17 of Texas A&M during the game against University of Texas in the first half at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on November 25, 2010 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Darren Carroll/Getty Images)
    Darren Carroll/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 1,638 yards (65.0 percent), 13 TDs, 6 INTs, 137.0 rating

    Why He's Here: Tannehill took over for Big 12 preseason first-team quarterback Jerrod Johnson and rejuvenated the Aggies down the stretch. 

    Could He Really Win? Not out of the question, but it'd be asking a lot. Tannehill played great once he was handed the keys, but chances are slim he'll make a run.

No. 17: Kyle Padron

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    DALLAS - SEPTEMBER 24:  Quarterback Kyle Padron #2 of the SMU Mustangs celebrates a touchdown in the third quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on September 24, 2010 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 3,828 yards (59.4 percent), 31 TDs, 14 INTs, 137.4 rating

    Why He's Here: He played well last year and he's in June Jones' offense. I don't know if you've heard, but June likes to sling that ball around the yard quite a bit.

    Could He Really Win? No. The mid-major "have to run the table" card is in play here. He may have gaudy numbers, but even they won't be enough.

No. 16: Aaron Murray

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    ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Aaron Murray #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Sanford Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 3,049 yards (61.1 percent), 24 TDs, 8 INTs, 154.5 rating

    Why He's Here: Murray was ranked 14th in the country in passer rating during his first season starting for the Bulldogs.

    Could He Really Win? Very slim chance. He posted great numbers last year, but his biggest weapon (AJ Green) has left for the greener pastures of the NFL. Those are big shoes on the outside that likely will go unfilled and curtail Murray's production.

No. 15: Dan Persa

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    EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 23: Dan Persa #7 of the Northwestern Wildcats throws a pass against the Michigan State Spartans at Ryan Field on October 23, 2010 in Evanston, Illinois. Michigan State defeated Northwestern 35-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Ima
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 2,581 yards (73.5 percent), 15 TDs, 4 INTs, 159.0 rating, 9 rushing TDs

    Why He's Here: Persa was the nation's most accurate passer last season, and he is an incredibly smart dual-threat. 

    Could He Really Win? No. Persa is fighting back from a devastating injury and it's borderline impossible to get anyone to notice you when you're playing at Northwestern.

No. 14: Geno Smith

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 20:  Geno Smith#12 of the West Virginia Mountaineers runs with the ball during the Big East Conference game against the Louisville Cardinals at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 2,763 yards (64.8 percent), 24 TDs, 7 INTs, 144.7 rating

    Why He's Here: The Mountaineers' quarterback has a cannon for an arm and was one of the most accurate passers in the country. 

    Could He Really Win? Too many hurdles to have a true chance. There's a very weird situation going on with Bill Stewart being ushered out the door and coaching one more season as a lame duck. Combine that with the fact that West Virginia has been notoriously inconsistent the past few years, and it's too tall a mountain to climb for Geno. 

No. 13: Nick Foles

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    EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 26: Quarterback Nick Foles #8 of the Arizona Wildcats passes the ball as defensive end Terrell Turner #45 of the Oregon Ducks applies pressure in the fourth quarter of the game at Autzen Stadium on November 26, 2010 in Eugene, Oregon
    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 3,191 yards (67.1 percent), 20 TDs, 10 INTs, 140.9 rating

    Why He's Here: He's a very accurate passer who will likely be playing himself into a big payday next April this season. 

    Could He Really Win? He could be this year's Andrew Luck, emerging from the "he's a nice player" category and thrusting himself into being a legitimate contender for the Heisman. He needs to have a stellar season and Arizona needs to finally get over the hump in the Pac-12, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. 

No. 12: Bryant Moniz

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    HONOLULU - SEPTEMBER 02: Quarterback Bryant Moniz #17 of the University of Hawaii Warriors is chased by Chris Galippo #54 of the University of Southern California Trojans as he carries the ball during first half action against the University of Southern C
    Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 5,040 yards (65.0 percent), 39 TDs, 15 INTs, 159.1 rating

    Why He's Here: He was the most prolific passer in the country last year, pacing the NCAA in passing yardage and touchdowns thrown. Expect more of the same from Hawaii's high-flying offense.

    Could He Really Win? No. Colt Brennan was the rich man's Bryant Moniz, armed with NCAA records and a BCS berth. Not even he could snatch the Heisman. 

No. 11: EJ Manuel

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 04:  EJ Manuel #3 of the Florida State Seminoles against the Virginia Tech Hokies during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 861 yards (69.9 percent), 4 TDs, 4 INTs, 153.3 rating

    Why He's Here: Manuel takes the reins from the graduated Christian Ponder and will be leading a consensus preseason top-10 team.

    Could He Really Win? It's not inconceivable, but it's also not likely. Manuel could be a big-time contender in 2012, but this fall is just a tad too soon. 

No. 10: John Brantley

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    GAINESVILLE, FL - APRIL 9:  Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis of the Florida Gators directs play with quarterback John Bantley #12 during the Orange and Blue spring football game April 9, 2011 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 2,061 yards (60.8 percent), 9 TDs, 10 INTs, 116.4 rating

    Why He's Here: Brantley was a monster recruit who was miscast in the spread offense under Urban Meyer. New offensive coordinator Charlie Weis transformed Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen into Heisman contenders. Who says he can't do it with Brantley?

    Could He Really Win? Probably not. It'd be a giant step from his sub-par debut last season, but if the Gators get hot and he gets comfortable with Weis' offense, then he could be a contender.

No. 9: Robert Griffin III

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    2010 Stats: 3,501 yards (67.0 percent), 22 TDs, 8 INTs, 144.2 rating, 8 rushing TDs

    Why He's Here: He's a dynamic threat in the passing and running games. If he can drag Baylor to respectability, then he deserves plenty of recognition.

    Could He Really Win? He has the skills to win, but whether he's a contender will be contingent on how his team does. It's a long shot to expect them to make that big a leap this season.

No. 8: Taylor Martinez

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    2010 Stats: 1,631 yards (59.2 percent), 10 TDs, 7 INTs, 138.2 rating, 965 rushing yards (6.0 avg), 12 rushing TDs

    Why He's Here: He was flat-out dominant early last season. If he recaptures that form, he'll be right in the thick of the race

    Could He Really Win? Absolutely. He needs to refine his passing, but his explosiveness will wreak havoc on the new teams he faces in the Big Ten. 

No. 7: Brandon Weeden

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    STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Brandon Weeden #3 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys looks for an open receiver against the Oklahoma Sooners at Boone Pickens Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Image
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 4,277 yards (66.9 percent), 34 TDs, 13 INTs, 154.1 rating

    Why He's Here: He ranked near the top of almost every single passing category last season. 

    Could He Really Win? Yes. The Pokes seem poised to finally break through in the Big 12. Most casual fans have no idea who Weeden is right now, but they'll know by midseason. 

No. 6: Matt Barkley

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    2010 Stats: 2,761 yards (62.6 percent), 26 TDs, 12 INTs, 141.2 rating

    Why He's Here: He's in his third-year starting for the Trojans and will have plenty of young, talented and explosive weapons on the outside at his disposal.

    Could He Really Win? He could if Southern Cal is near the top of the one poll they're allowed to be ranked within during their suspension, but chances are slim that a Lane Kiffin-coached team can manage that feat. 

No. 5: Denard Robinson

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    2010 Stats: 2,570 yards (62.5 percent), 18 TDs, 11 INTs, 149.6 rating, 1,702 yards rushing (6.6 avg), 14 rushing TDs

    Why He's Here: He was the most electrifying player in the country for the first two months of the season. He's one of the most dangerous running threats at quarterback that the game has ever seen.

    Could He Really Win? It all depends on how new head coach Brady Hoke decides to use Robinson. The 'Nard Dog was the perfect fit for Rich Rodriguez's spread offense, but Hoke wants him under center more. Will this shift sabotage his shot at a Heisman? Probably. 

No. 4: Darron Thomas

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    BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 13:  Darron Thomas #1 of the Oregon Ducks warms up before their game against the California Golden Bears  at California Memorial Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 2,881 yards (61.5 percent), 30 TDs, 9 INTs, 151.0 rating, 486 rushing yards (5.2 avg), 5 rushing TDs

    Why He's Here: He led the Oregon Ducks' historically explosive offense, teaming with LaMichael James to roll through the Pac 10. He's a dual-threat who will once again post some absurd stat lines in the Oregon attack.

    Could He Really Win? He's a great quarterback who will be giving Andrew Luck a run for first-team All-Pac 12 quarterback, but it'll be tough since his teammate (James) will likely be an even stronger candidate. 

No. 3: Kellen Moore

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    2010 Stats: 3,845 yards (71.3 percent), 35 TDs, 6 INTs, 182.6 rating

    Why He's Here: Moore was a finalist last season after posting the highest passer rating in the country and leading Boise State within one game of the BCS. 

    Could He Really Win? If Boise State can run the table and Moore posts similar numbers then, yes, he can do it. I wouldn't bet against Moore putting up the numbers, but another undefeated season from the Broncos may be a stretch. 

No. 2: Landry Jones

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Landry Jones #12 of the Oklahoma Sooners throws the ball against the Connecticut Huskies during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the Universtity of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Peters
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2010 Stats: 4,718 yards (65.6 percent), 38 TDs, 12 INTs, 146.3 rating

    Why He's Here: He was one of the most prolific passers in the country last year and will be the trigger man for the projected preseason favorite. 

    Could He Really Win? Yes, indeed. If he continues on the trajectory he took at the end of last season, Jones could post some staggering numbers and lead the Sooners to the national championship game.

No. 1: Andrew Luck

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    2010 Stats: 3,338 yards (70.7 percent), 32 TDs, 8 INTs, 170.2 rating

    Why He's Here: He's everyone's consensus No. 1 quarterback. He's the most pro-ready quarterback to return to college since Peyton Manning back in '97 and he'll be the front-runner to strike a pose from Day 1 of the college football season.

    Could He Really Win? He'll be the preseason favorite, but will he (and the Cardinal) be the same without Jim Harbaugh? More than likely he won't do anything to hurt his draft stock, but the numbers won't be out of this world like some expect. To answer the question, though: Yes, he can win, and plenty expect him to do just that. 

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