College Football 2011 Predictions: 10 Dark Horse Heisman Candidates to Watch

Joey HnathCorrespondent IMay 12, 2011

College Football 2011 Predictions: 10 Dark Horse Heisman Candidates to Watch

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    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

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    HONOLULU - SEPTEMBER 2:  Quarterback Bryant Moniz #17 of the University of Hawaii Warriors makes a pass against the University of Southern California Trojans during first half action at Aloha Stadium September 2, 2010 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Kent N
    Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

    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

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    SAN DIEGO - NOVEMBER 20:  Running back Ronnie Hillman #13 of the San Deigo State Aztecs carries the ball on a five yard touchdown run in the second quarter against the Utah Utes at Qualcomm Stadium on November 20, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    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

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    ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 28:  Geno Smith #12 of the West Virginia Mountineers passes the ball during the Champs Sports Bowl against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Eh
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    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

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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Mark Barron #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide intercepts a pass intended for Brett Brackett #83 of the Penn State Nittany Lions at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 11, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Gett
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    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

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Knile Davis #7 of the Arkansas Razorbacks runs the ball against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Im
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    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

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    PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Running back Montee Ball #28 of the Wisconsin Badgers rushes with the ball against the TCU Horned Frogs during the 97th Rose Bowl game on January 1, 2011 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    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

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    NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 20: Michael Floyd #3 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes against the Army Black Knights at Yankee Stadium on November 20, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    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

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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

    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

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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

    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.