Several big names in contention for college football’s top honor
Luck, Moore and others aim to translate hot starts into Heisman votes
A mere two weeks into the 2011 season and Heisman speculation has already begun. College football’s most prestigious award, given annually to the game’s best player, is the ultimate individual honor and offers the winner admission to an elite fraternity of gridiron legends. While some past winners have emerged out of relative obscurity, most receive plenty of Heisman-hype entering the season. Thus is the case in 2011, as this year’s top candidates are household names to most college football fans. With that, let us take a look at who has emerged as Heisman frontrunners through the first two weekends:
Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Considered a guaranteed first-round pick in last year’s NFL Draft, Luck decided to forgo the riches and finish out his tenure in Palo Alto. While some ridiculed his decision, barring injury, the senior is now considered the consensus number one prospect for the 2012 Draft. His intelligence, poise, and experience in a pro-style offense have NFL scouts salivating. Despite losing head coach Jim Harbaugh to the Baltimore Ravens this past offseason, Luck has shown no signs of issues adopting a new playbook. In two blowout wins over San Jose State and Duke, Luck amassed 461 yards passing, seven total touchdowns, and only one interception. With stiffer competition ahead in the new-look Pac 12, Luck will have plenty of meaningful games to prove he is the nation’s best signal-caller.
Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
Last season, Jones finished with nearly 4,800 passing yards, good enough for second in the country. With an abundance of talent returning on both sides of the ball, including favorite target Ryan Broyles, the top-ranked Sooners’ quarterback is poised for another monster year. Like Andrew Luck, Sam Bradford’s former understudy appears to be destined for a career in the NFL, as his 6’4” 230lb frame make him and ideal quarterback prospect. In a 47-14 week one rout of in-state rival Tulsa, Jones threw for 375 yards, connecting on 35 of 47 pass attempts. Though Jones only recorded one touchdown pass, much credit is due to tailback Dominique Whaley, who was able to score four times on the ground against the overmatched Tulsa defense. Look for Jones to increase his touchdown numbers as the schedule progresses and the opposing defenses become more formidable. He will have a chance to win over voters this weekend as the #1 Sooners head to Tallahassee for a highly-anticipated showdown with fifth-ranked Florida State.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Baylor’s do-it-all quarterback vaulted himself from dark-horse Heisman candidate to one of the most-talked-about players in all of college football in one night with a stellar performance in a thrilling victory over defending Rose Bowl champion TCU. Griffin posted 359 yards passing, 38 on the ground, along with five touchdowns in the exhilarating 50-48 victory. While RGIII has always been a dual-threat quarterback, what impressed against the Horned Frogs was his incredible accuracy, as he connected on 21 of 27 passes, several of which were perfect strikes downfield. If Griffin III can continue to play at a high level and it parlays into team success for the Bears, look for the junior to become a mainstay on the Heisman radar.
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
In a year dominated by big-name signal-callers, the Crimson Tide running back may be the best non-quarterback in the nation. With the departure of Mark Ingram, a former Heisman winner himself, to the NFL, Richardson will finally be the featured back in Alabama’s potent offense. Despite a slow start in week one versus Kent State in which he recorded just 37 yards on 13 carries (three of which went for touchdowns), Richardson was able to bounce back in week two, running for 111 yards and two scores against a capable Penn State defense. His five touchdowns through two games are good for second in the country. Given Bama’s challenging SEC schedule, including games versus Florida, LSU, and Arkansas, and inexperience at quarterback, Richardson will undoubtedly shoulder much of the offensive load for the Tide as year progresses.
Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State
Boise State made a huge statement with a dominating victory over SEC power Georgia in week one. Moore was the star of the show, completing 28 of 34 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Moore and his Bronco teammates proved once again they can play with the big boys, as they lit up a respected defense and may have kindled the already-hot seat of Georgia headman Mark Richt. Though not considered an elite NFL prospect due to his stature (6’1”, 190lbs), Moore (39-2 as a starter) is back for his fourth consecutive season as the Broncos’ starting quarterback and is looking to add a final chapter to his exceptional career on the blue turf. The senior has amassed well over 10,000 career passing yards and counting, and boasts a ridiculous 102 touchdowns compared to just 20 interceptions. Moore has been a perennial Heisman candidate throughout his career, but Boise State’s notoriously soft schedule has not helped his cause. However, if Moore has one more outstanding statistical year and the Broncos qualify for another BCS bowl it will be tough for voters to deny his resume.
Other players to watch:
Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon
Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin