How early is too early to start looking at the upcoming college football season? It is never too early. This season will feature an unusual amount of returning Heisman candidates, which will probably make this season a little more predictable than years in the past. Here is my preseason top five Heisman candidates as well as a few sleeper candidates.
- Ronald Jones II, RB, USC
Ronald Jones is a guy that not many people are familiar with but should be by the end of this season. Last year, he set USC’s freshman rushing record, beating out 1979 Heisman Trophy winner Charles White. And how could you not consider a guy who both looks and runs like Jamaal Charles?
- Greg Ward Jr., QB, Houston
Ward was a breakout star for the Cougars last year, both through the air and on the ground. He is a very versatile player and a great fit for Coach Tom Herman’s offense. I expect big things again this season from Ward Jr.
- Jalen Hurd, RB, Tennessee
Hurd is a very big running back, measuring at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds. He does not have a great yards per carry ratio (4.7 yards) at this point in his career, but I think that will improve now that he has two years of college ball under his belt. The biggest downside to Hurd’s Heisman chances is that he splits carries with another very talented running back at Tennessee, Alvin Kamara. I would keep an eye on the Volunteers this year, a very dangerous team that I would not want to run into.
5Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cook is a guy that I have been very high on since his freshman season. He seemed to always bail the Seminoles out of a hole during their nail-biting run to the 2014 National Championship. Cook is a very quick and exciting play maker that strikes when his team needs it the most. Last season, Cook averaged 7.4 yards per carry and rushed for 19 touchdowns as well. If Coach Jimbo Fisher relies on Cook like he should this year, we should see Cook in New York City at the end of the year.
4 Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Last season’s Heisman Trophy seemed like a lock just over halfway through. Fournette was on a tear through the college football world, averaging 193 yards and over two touchdowns per game through his first seven. Out of nowhere, the incredible production came to a halt and both his and LSU’s season changed. Fournette finished the season sixth in the Heisman voting but finally regathered himself in their bowl game. He posted 212 rushing yards and five total touchdowns leading LSU to a Texas Bowl victory. If Fournette is able run like he did during the first half of last season, he will be the one lifting the hardware at the end of the year.
3Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Here is a football player that absolutely does it all. Last season, he averaged 6 yards per carry and over 14 yards per reception. Stanford uses him in every way that they can think of, and they would be stupid not to. McCaffrey found the end-zone eight times rushing, five times receiving, once on a kick return, once on a punt return, and twice passing the football last season. If you are looking for a definition of an all-around football player, you will find it watching Christian McCaffrey. Last year’s AP Player of the Year looks to upgrade to a Heisman Trophy this season.
2J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
J.T. Barrett is another one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in college football. He is also one of the best decision makers I have seen in a very long time. Running Coach Urban Meyer’s spread offense brings out the best in Barrett. Executing the read option is his strong suit and he does it better than anyone. His ability to get out of the pocket and make something happen is another trait that makes him so dangerous.
Barrett finished fifth in the 2014 Heisman voting but lost his starting position to the inaugural College Football Playoff star, Cardale Jones. When Barrett did make appearances last season, he was phenomenal, leading the Buckeyes in ways that no one else could. What separates J.T. Barrett from the rest of the college football world is his innate ability to lead his team. The stories you hear about this kid are unlike any others out there, which help make him an extremely likable person.
1Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Watson is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country and is coming off a statistically insane season. He passed for 4109 yards and rushed for 1105 yards on top of that. He became the only quarterback in college football history to eclipse the 4000 passing yards/1000 rushing yards in a single season mark. Barring injury, I see Watson topping that mark again this season and hoisting the Heisman Trophy at the end of the year.
Let me know who you would have on this list and why they deserve to be there in the comments.
Follow @ACAllAmericans for quality, up-to-date sports reporting.