With the 2016 college football season quickly approaching double-digit days, it’s time to learn about some of the names inside the SEC besides Leonard Fournette, Chad Kelly and Joshua Dobbs.
There is obviously tons of talent residing in the southeastern conference but much like the last four Heisman trophy winners in the SEC,(Henry, Manziel, Newton, Ingram) the player who strikes the pose this December may not even be on most people’s radars when kick-off arrives.
Check out a list of Heisman underdogs in the SEC.
For the first time in what seems like a decade the Volunteers are clear favorites to win the SEC east in large part to their starting quarterback Joshua Dobbs and other 16 returning starters. One of which happens to be junior running back Jalen Hurd. Since his arrival in Knoxville two years ago, Hurd has rushed for over 2000 yards and 17 touchdowns: numbers he could easily replicate in 2016 alone. The 6-foot-4, 240 lb. back out of Hendersonville, Tenn. is not your prototypical sized running back, but Hurd has avoided injury and is on track to have one of the biggest years rushing in Tennessee recent history. And don’t let his size fool you, he has the talent to run down hill as well as get to edge and outrun linebackers. The man handing him the ball every Saturday afternoon is one of the SEC’s best, so with a lethal one-two-combo like Dobbs and Hurd, defenses will have a tough time stopping this Volunteer offense.
There has been a revolving door of running backs for the Bulldogs ever since Knowshon Moreno left Athens seven long years ago. Even with Todd Gurley a couple seasons removed, the Dawgs have yet to have a running back rush for consecutive 1000 yards seasons since Moreno did it in 2007 and 2008. But this season, with Nick Chubb’s status still uncertain, Sony Michel is the favorite to accomplish that feat and lead the Dawgs in Kirby Smart’s first season as head coach. Michel played the backup role well before Chubb was lost for the season in Week 6, but stepped up and played the starter role about as well as anyone and helped salvage what seemed to be a lost season for the Dawgs. Michel finished 2015 with 1161 yards and in seven of the eight final games he rushed for over 77 yards. Who knows if Michel will have a Heisman worthy season, but the junior back has the talent and will-power to take home some hardware this season. And a stat working in fair of Michel: the last three running backs for the Dawgs to garner Heisman buzz(Moreno, Gurley and Chubb) have all followed the worthy buzz with a lack-luster season. Will Michel put this Bulldog offense on his back and carry himself to New York?
It’s been quite some time since a wide receiver took home the Heisman: 25 years to be exact. Before Derrick Henry’s historic season last year, the award was almost exclusively becoming just for quarterbacks. But with a talent like Christian Kirk, it’s hard to overlook the wide receiver position in 2016. Kirk burst onto the scene right away against Arizona State in the opening game of 2015, and never slowed down. He racked up 1009 yards receiving and pulled down seven touchdowns. But the sophomore from Scottsdale, Ariz. doesn’t just make a living as a receiver. Kirk brought back two punt return touchdowns and finished third in the conference with 137.6 all purpose yards per game, the most for a true freshman in the SEC since Warren Norman’s 161.8 in 2009. Kirk racked up all those numbers with fluctuating quarterbacks and an inconsistent offense. This season he has a proven signal caller under center, who has beaten some of the SEC’s elite, which should only make Kirk’s 2016 season look even brighter.
John Franklin III:
There always has to be a long shot, right? John Franklin III has yet to take a snap as a FCS quarterback, and isn’t event the starter yer, but if any team is going to produce a Heisman candidate who is coming from a junior college, it is going to be the Auburn Tigers. Franklin III stands at about 6-foot-1 and weighs a buck-175. Immediately thoughts and comparisons to Nick Marshall come to mind, but the former Florida State Seminole is out to prove he isn’t just another former track star trying to play football. Franklin created some buzz earlier this spring when he claimed he was the “fastest QB in the nation” in a video the sophomore quarterback tweeted out of him running a 4.28 forty yard dash. If the Tigers have some of that magic left in them from 2014, they could make a push for the SEC with Franklin under center.