Johnny Manziel made history last Saturday night as the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy. And he still has three more years of eligibility left in his career at Texas A&M to win another one – but the future doesn’t bode well for repeat Heisman winners, as Ohio State’s Archie Griffin has been the only two-time winner.
So, let’s take a way-too-early look at five contenders from the SEC next season, in alphabetical order of course:
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (JR): The league’s terror at defensive end returns for his junior season at South Carolina. Clowney racked up an SEC-leading 13 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss. With yet another season of getting stronger in the weight room and a more explosive front step, he’ll be overwhelming next season. And seeing how good Manti Te’o fared in this year’s Heisman as a solely defensive player, one can conceive a defensive player winning it within the next five years. Clowney will be the best defensive player in the best defensive conference.
Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia (SO): The SEC’s premier running back as a freshman, Gurley set the world on fire in Athens. He led all running backs with 1,260 yards and 16 touchdowns, averaging just less than 100 yards per game. Can you imagine Gurley another year stronger and able to take more physical punishment? He’s only 18 years old and running through arm tacklers like it’s Pee-Wee football. Running backs win this award more times than not, and other than Johnny Manziel, Gurley may have the best chance to bring home the hardware.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (SO): Think of all the past Heisman winners to never win two trophies in a row: Tim Tebow, Matt Leinart, Ty Detmer. Success in America makes you a target, not the favorite, and Manziel will have a target on his back from the get-go. He took the SEC by storm with his record-setting 4,600 yards and 43 touchdowns. Manziel had the good fortune of staying healthy this season, too, but can he take another year of pounding from SEC linebackers? Is Manziel really the favorite to repeat? Because history doesn’t exactly bode well for two in a row.
Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (SR): Assuming Aaron Murray returns for his senior season, he’s the classic career senior to be in the Heisman talks, but unfortunately until he beats a ranked team, he’ll be knocked for it. Murray is the only quarterback in SEC history to throw for three straight 3,000-yard seasons. Murray has thrown all over teams in his first three years, and the offense will once again be so explosive with Murray at the helm. Murray is currently second in the country in passer efficiency rating.
TJ Yeldon, RB, Alabama (SO): Between Gurley and TJ Yeldon, one of these two has to win a Heisman in the next three years. While I think Gurley is the best back in the SEC right now, that certainly doesn’t mean that Yeldon won’t be better in the future. Yeldon rushed for 1,021 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 6.5 yards per carry as a freshman. Yeah, he benefited from a superior offensive line, but Yeldon possesses all the speed, quickness, power and vision that a future top round NFL pick would possess. What a great looking player.
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