Does Alabama have three legitimate Heisman candidates?

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Exiting spring, Heisman Pundit has six SEC players on the Stiff Arm Trophy list. Most notably, two players from Alabama are on the list in quarterback AJ McCarron and running back TJ Yeldon.

But there’s one player who was left off the list who is very much Heisman worthy.

Let’s get a quick review:

Amari Cooper, WR (SO)

2012 stats: 59 receptions, 1,000 yards and 17 touchdowns
The Skinny: Amari Cooper was the third Heisman-worthy candidate left off the trophy watch list. Cooper exploded onto the scene last season, and he’s just as explosive as Maryland’s Stefon Diggs and USC’s Marqise Lee. Cooper is the only Bama freshman receiver to register 1,000 receiving yards. Even Julio Jones didn’t accomplish that feat. Cooper will headline what could be the best receiving corps in Alabama history. It’s tough for any strict receiver to win the Heisman without returning punts or kicks, but there’s not doubt Cooper is on my radar for the Stiff Arm Trophy in 2013.

AJ McCarron, QB (SR)

2012 stats: 211 of 314 for 2,933 yards, 30 TDs, 3 INTs
Career stats: 460 of 690 for 5,956 yards, 49 TDs, 8 INTs
The Skinny: AJ McCarron’s evolution from the biggest liability on offense to the biggest playmaker on offense has been fascinating to watch. He was strictly a game manager in 2011, leading Alabama to his first national championship, but he was a decisive downfield threat in 2012, notching his second title in as many years as a starter. If Alabama makes yet another title run with McCarron at the helm, it could be his trophy to lose, unless someone explodes onto the scene like Johnny Manziel did last season. McCarron will go down as Alabama’s best quarterback in the history of the program.

TJ Yeldon, RB (SO)

2012 stats: 175 carries for 1,108 yards and 12 TDs
The Skinny: What more is there to say about TJ Yeldon? He’s the perfect mix of explosiveness, power, speed, agility and humbleness of any player in the country. And running behind a developing Alabama offensive line and carrying the load like his three predecessors Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy bodes well for Yeldon to make a serious push for the Heisman in 2013. He could legitimately notch 1,700 to 2,000 yards next season, assuming he stays healthy and Alabama gives him the touches.

Who should be the favorite of the three? I’m going with the face of Alabama football, AJ McCarron. His leadership, toughness, grit, determination and willingness to buy into Doug Nussmeier’s offense could produce back-to-back-to-back national championships. That’s just unheard of. If he accomplishes that feat, it would be tough for anyone to leave McCarron out of No. 1 on their ballot.

Photo Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

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