This past season, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson took ahold of college football early on and walked away as the youngest Heisman trophy winner ever. The dual-threat quarterback totaled 51 touchdowns last season and averaged 410 offensive yards per game. Jackson is likely a Heisman candidate this upcoming season, but who will join him? Only once have we seen a college football athlete win two Heisman trophies during their career, so the odds are definitely against Jackson this season. Here are the Heisman candidates for the upcoming 2017 season:
Derrius Guice, RB, Junior, LSU – Guice was in the shadows of former LSU running back Leonard Fournette at times last season and despite that, Guice led the team in rushing yards with 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns. Guice also just so happened to lead the SEC in rushing last season, which goes to show the type of impact this talented running back can make. Guice has only been at the collegiate level for two seasons but he has averaged about eight yards per carry in his career. The Tigers don’t have a ton to work with at quarterback which means they will likely rely on Guice to get things done on offense. He has already proven he is more than capable.
Sam Darnold, QB, Redshirt Sophomore, USC – Darnold tossed for 3,086 yards and 31 touchdowns last season and his presence elevated the Trojans to 10 straight wins after an ugly 1-3 start. His 453 yards passing and five touchdowns helped the Trojans tremendously in their 52-49 win over Big Ten champion Penn State in the Rose Bowl. The one thing about Darnold is something you will not see on the stat sheet and that is his veteran-like savviness that provides his teammates with confidence.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Junior, Louisville – Winning back-to-back Heisman campaigns has only been done once and that was by former Ohio State RB Archie Griffin, and that was 42 years ago. The odds are against Jackson to make history again but as dynamic as he his as a quarterback, the possibility remains. He lost key targets on offense this offseason but if the gifted quarterback produces consistently, his name will stay put in Heisman talks.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Junior, Penn State – Two seasons into his collegiate career and Barkley has established himself as one of the best playmakers in college football. Barkley has topped 1,000 yards rushing in both seasons and is coming off a 1,496 yard season along with 18 rushing scores. He is also very popular in the “best running back in the nation” talk. His performance against USC in the Rose Bowl (249 total yards, three TDs) was a national observation of his elite talent.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Redshirt Senior, Oklahoma – On one hand, Mayfield returns to an offensive system under offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley that he has excelled in. Mayfield is coming off a 2016 season in which he earned a first team All-Big 12 spot and placed third in Heisman votes. On the other hand, Mayfield lost his best weapon in WR Dede Westbrook to the NFL Draft. Luckily for Mayfield, there are not a great number of defensive juggernaut teams in the Big 12. If Mayfield can still orchestrate a productive season, he will firmly find himself within the Heisman discussion.
Josh Rosen, QB, Junior, UCLA – Rosen experienced an ugly 2016 season as he only had six games of action along with only 1,915 yards and just 10 touchdowns. His season ended prematurely due to a shoulder injury but he is still one of the top quarterbacks in the entire country. This is a guy who posted 3,669 yards and 23 touchdowns as a true freshman two seasons ago. Rosen does have his top two receivers return in Darren Andrews and Jordan Lasley and if fully recovered, Rosen has what it takes to build a solid campaign.
Bo Scarbrough, RB, Junior, Alabama – Scarbrough suffered a leg fracture in this year’s National Championship game but is expected to be fully recovered by the beginning of the season. It took a little while but Scarborough hit a stride late in the 2016 season and proved to be unstoppable with his aggressive running style. Scarborough averaged 6.3 yards per carry and in his final four games of the season (Auburn, Florida, Washington, Clemson), he averaged at worst 5.3 yards per carry. A full season to be the flag bearer will do wonders for the Alabama offense and the big running back will be able to produce a mighty convincing Heisman season.
Mason Rudolph, QB, Senior, Oklahoma State – Rudolph has been a passing yard machine the last two seasons and his senior year may be another record-setting one for him. The gunslinger tossed for 4,091 yards and 28 touchdowns last season in a pass happy offense and will now enjoy the luxury of having his top weapon back in WR James Washington. Rudolph averaged 315 yards per game last season and he has the capability to reach and surpass that total in 2017.