Winston’s top challengers for Heisman Trophy in 2014
Jameis Winston has barely had time to come down from his Heisman Trophy
win and already the question becomes, who’s next?
2014, the Florida State quarterback will be the ninth player to make a
bid to join Archie Griffin, the only two-time recipient of the award. As
history, — and most recently Johnny Manziel — has shown us, the
degree of difficulty in claiming trophy No. 2 has only increased, with
no one finishing higher than third since 1979.
Winston will now deal with a whole new set of expectations and
dissection of his every mannerism, quip and who he’s paling around with,
he’ll also be facing a class of contenders vying for the stiff-armed
Here is a look at the players most likely to
challenger Winston for next year’s Heisman, though keep in mind that the
last two winners were both redshirt freshman, so there remains the
chance that next year’s award goes to someone no one is talking about
(*Denotes that player is eligible
to enter the NFL draft but has yet to make an announcement. Johnny
Manziel falls into that category, but he is, by all accounts, turning
pro and is not included).
1. Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon, RS
He’s already said he’s
coming back to Eugene for at least one more year and has the name
recognition and the numbers to enter the season as the front-runner.
The favorite at this season’s halfway mark, Mariota
saw his chances — and the Ducks’ BCS title hopes — fall apart over the
last four games. But he still ranked ninth in FBS with 332.8 yards of
total offense per game and was eighth with 234 points responsible for.
If anyone is going to bring the Pac-12 its first
non-USC Heisman since Jim Plunkett in 1970, Mariota has the best
Miller, QB Ohio State,
Miller’s NFL decision
will come after the Orange Bowl, though Urban Meyer has voiced his
opinion, saying the QB isn’t ready to make the
The belief is he follows his coach’s advice and
comes back, allowing Miller to build off a season in which he’s shown
growth as a passer with career-bests in completion percentage (63.2) and
TD passes (22).
The favorite last summer, Miller’s
campaign was derailed by injury, but if healthy, he’ll be poised to end
the Big Ten’s eight-year trophy drought.
3. Tre Mason, RB Auburn,
Dominated by big-name QBs
in 2013, running backs will be the face of the SEC next season and
Mason will headline the group after finishing sixth in the voting.
While he ran for 1,621 yards and 22 TDs (both
SEC-highs) in carrying the Tigers to the BCS title game, that came
largely behind a strong finish as he ran for 868 yards in the last five
games. He got off to a slow start surpassing 100 yards just once in the
first five weeks.
It’s going to take more consistency
to claim the award, but if Mason is back in the fold on The Plains,
opportunities won’t be a problem considering Gus Malzahn’s love affair
with the run game.
4. T.J. Yeldon, RB Alabama,
In 2009, the Tide had a
first-year starting quarterback in Greg McElroy and the result was Mark
Ingram winning the Heisman; two years later AJ McCarron took over and RB
Trent Richardson earned a trip to New York.
new QB in Tuscaloosa once again, expect the Crimson Tide to go back to
basics offensively, which means Yeldon should be the featured weapon in
Nick Saban’s arsenal.
Running for 1,163 yards and 13
TDs — both better than his freshman numbers — those stats should be
more in line than what Ingram posted (1,658 yards and 17 scores) when he
5. Bryce Petty,
QB Baylor, RS Sr.
figure in this season’s race up until the loss to Oklahoma State on Nov.
23, Petty ranks second in FBS in pass efficiency (179.2) and seventh in
passing yards (3,844).
The numbers will most
certainly be there again in ’14, and with the Bears returning all 11
starters on offense, they should be in the playoff
But maybe the biggest thing playing in
Petty’s favor next season is that he had even his monster junior year. A
relative unknown this summer, he’ll now be on everyone’s radar.
6. Brett Hundley, QB
UCLA, RS Jr.*
In the pecking
order of dual-threat QBs, which have won the past four years in Winston,
Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton, Hundley ranks behind
Mariota and Miller on this list.
But Hundley, who
threw for 2845 yards, 22 TDs to nine INTs and ran for another 587 yards
and nine scores in ’13, could see his stock rise along with that of the
UCLA played 18 true freshmen this season,
more than any other team from the major conferences, which included two
along the offensive line. That gained experience will pay off if Hundley
returns and make the Bruins playoff contenders, only amplifying his
Johnson, RB Miami,
Averaging 115 yard of
offense, Johnson’s sophomore season was cut short with a broken ankle
suffered in the Nov. 2 loss to Florida State. But before the setback he
showed glimpses of an attribute that will prove crucial as he had five
games of at least 19 carries.
The Hurricanes will be
leaning on him with Stephen Morris off to the NFL, and while it remains
to be seen if Johnson can make it through a season of 25-30 carry
workload a game, he will be the center piece of the Miami offense in
We could be in for an intriguing battle in the
state of Florida next season with Johnson, Winston and UCF’s Blake
8. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin, RS
He fell off after an
opening seven games in which he ran for 1,012 yards and averaged 9.45
yards per carry. But Gordon is also sharing space in the Badgers
backfield with James White (1,337 yards).
White, Gordon could see a major uptick in carries, though if he returns
he’d be pushed by RB Corey Clement, who ran for 515 yards on 66 carries
as a freshman. Regardless, Gordon would certainly see the bulk of the
attempts — which he didn’t get in his first two seasons — and it could
result in a situation similar to ’11 when Montee Ball had 166 more
attempts than any other Badger and wound up finishing fourth in that
Gurley, RB Georgia, Jr.
Hutson Mason has looked strong so far, but without the record-setting
Aaron Murray, Gurley becomes the poster boy of the Bulldogs offense and
his numbers should reflect that.
He would be higher
on this list, but a lack of consistency and injury were problems this
fall. He ran for over 100 yards four times and sat out three games with a
Gurley will also have plenty of
competition at his position in the SEC from both Mason and Yeldon, not
to mention a difficult South voting region that includes those two RBs,
Johnson, Winston and …
10. Blake Bortles, QB UCF,
If he puts off the NFL,
Bortles won’t lack for cachet after leading the Golden Knights to their
first BCS game.
Because he plays in the ACC, Bortles
would seem to be playing from behind like another star from that league
who slipped away in the Heisman race in Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater.
But the Golden Knights have a schedule that would allow Bortles to be a
They have non-league games against
Penn State (in Dublin, Ireland) and Missouri, both of which should be
Top 25 teams, along with BYU.
If he takes advantage
of the spotlight games and his production is similar to that of the ’13
season (3,280 yards and 27 total TDs), Bortles will be a
Guess On Redshirt Freshman
Max Browne, USC QB, RS
It’s hard to peg the next
redshirt freshman to make a run at the award, but given Browne’s
credentials — he was Scout.com’s top-rated QB in the Class of 2013 and
No. 8 overall — and the offense new coach Steve Sarkisian is bringing
with him, Browne’s star should rise.
He’ll have to
beat out incumbent starter Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, both redshirt
sophomores, but neither has been overly effective. That opens the door
to Browne, especially when you consider Sarkisian’s up-tempo, no-huddle
scheme will be similar to what Browne ran at Skyline High School
(Sammamish, Wash.) when he was the Gatorade National Player of the