Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy and the first Aggie since John David Crow. With the award finally decided, I thought it would be a good time to look at some of the possible candidates for next year’s Heisman Trophy.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The Buzz: It’s hard enough just winning the Heisman Trophy once let alone twice. Only one other person – Ohio State’s Archie Griffin – has done it and that was close to four decades ago. If anyone has the best shot it would be Manziel. If Outland Trophy winner Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews return for their senior season, the offensive line could be one of the best in the country. Offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury has been mentioned for several head coaching openings, but if he returns the offense could be just as potent as it was in 2012. Sure, SEC defense will not be caught off balance with Johnny Football after seeing him for a season, but it will still be tough to stop him.
Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
The Buzz: In his first season in Urban Meyer’s spread offense, Miller was able to flourish leading the team in passing (2,039) and rushing (1,271) yards and finishing with 28 total touchdowns. The offensive line should remain pretty much intact with the only losses being wide receiver Jake Stoneburner and running back Jordan Hall on the offensive depth chart. With the Buckeyes coming off an undefeated season and a bowl ban, fans and critics alike will be expecting a lot out of Miller and Ohio State. If Meyer can continue to work with the junior to be and convince him to put the extra time in, there is no reason not to expect him to be a factor in next season’s Heisman race.
T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama
The Buzz: Injuries probably forced Nick Saban to use Yeldon a bit more than he wanted to this season, but the freshman was able to produce. He rushed for 1,000 yards on 153 carries for an incredible 6.3 yards per carry this season. One of the highlights of the year has to be his season-high 153 yards on 25 carries and touchdown against Georgia in the SEC championship game. It was his fourth 100-yard rushing game this season and the ninth game that he found the end zone. The offensive line loses some big pieces in Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack, but Saban always finds pieces to plug into the lineup. If Eddie Lacy leaps for the NFL, Yeldon will be the featured back next season and could be front and center for a run at the Heisman.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The Buzz: Much like Manziel, Mariota burst on to the scene in his first season leading the Ducks to an 11-1 record and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl. He led the team with 2,511 yards passing while completing 63 percent of his attempts. He also had 690 yards rushing as well. He finished with 34 total touchdowns in leading the Ducks high-powered offense. If Chip Kelly appears content to stay in Eugene rather than bolt for the NFL in the offseason, Mariota could have a chance to put up even bigger numbers next season. Oregon returns at least eight starters on offense and Mariota appears to be the key ingredient for the Ducks.
The Buzz: Louisville fans knew they had something special when they saw Bridgewater take the field last season. His performance was a bit unpolished, but what do you expect from a freshman. This season, he picked up where he left off and threw for more than 3,452 yards and 25 touchdowns while leading the team to a 10-2 record and a berth in the Sugar Bowl. He earned Big East offensive player of the year honors while leading the team to wins over Kentucky and North Carolina. His performance against Rutgers in the final game – where he came into the game injured and rallied the team for a 20-17 win – once just one example of why he is helping put the Cardinals back on the map.
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