Heisman Trophy lists a year in advance are silly. Given what has gone down the last few years, you’re better off doing an NFL mock draft (we’ve got one coming Thursday!). The last four Heisman Trophy winners were on nobody’s radar prior to the season:
2010: Cam Newton
2011: Robert Griffin III
2012: Johnny Manziel
2013: Jameis Winston
You couldn’t have gotten odds on any of those guys to win the Heisman before the season. They all came out of nowhere to become the best player in the country, and two of them (Newton and Winston) guided their teams to the BCS Title game. Newton came from a junior college; RGIII was coming off an injury; Manziel and Winston were redshirt freshman.
So what’s the point of doing a 2014 list? Well, people love lists, and it’s also fun to check back on predictions a year late to see how right or wrong you were.
So here are my Top 5, and I’m omitting a 2nd straight Heisman for Winston, because with Tebow and Manziel, we’ve seen just how difficult that is. and it should be noted that A) I didn’t look at any other lists that went up over the weekend, B) given what we’ve seen the last four years I intentionally took longshots, c) yeah, yeah, yeah, I put a certain guy 5th because I wrote a story about him a few weeks ago.
Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State. Starred as a true freshman for the Nittany Lions, and next year, if he’s going to surge into contention, October will be the month: in Ann Arbor, bye week, home to Ohio State. Two opportunities to shine against Top 20 teams. Ended 2013 in style with a 339-yard, 4-TD, 0-turnover, 70% completions effort in a win at Wisconsin.
Max Browne, QB, USC. Redshirted or simply didn’t play (it’s unclear based on ESPN/LA Times reports) with the Trojans and will have an opportunity to win the starting job. He’s from Washington; new coach Steve Sarkisian recruited him hard to the Huskies, but ultimately lost out. Was the top QB in the high school Class of 2013. Won’t be throwing to Marqise Lee, unfortunately.
Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor: Thirty touchdowns against just two interceptions! Started hot, but didn’t top 60% in completions in the final five games after defenses studied him (and injuries mounted).
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: Was a leader for part of the 2013 season, and probably starts next year as the leader. We know what he’s capable of, but can the Ducks actually beat Stanford this year?
Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn. Gus Malzahn is the latest college football coach to get the ‘offensive genius’ label. Marshall has a great story of redemption, and his entire offensive line could return if nobody leaves for the NFL. His top two WRs are back, too. His best RB, Tre Mason, should return for his senior season, too.