Ten of the last 11 Heisman winners have been quarterbacks, and Charles Woodson is the only non-offensive player to win the Heisman since 1950.
We’ve seen SEC players who have made HeismanPundit’s watch list. And for the most part, the list was on par and close to the general consensus around college football.
But SDS is going to make a stab at some other players not mentioned in the dark horse category as well.
First, here are six major contenders on the watch list, in order:
1. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (SR): Overall, Tyler Wilson is the best quarterback in the SEC. We’ve only seen him play one full year, and everyone is excited to see what he can do for an encore in 2012. Wilson has thrown for 4,378 yards and 31 touchdowns in his very short career. He’ll likely be a top-five draft pick in next spring’s NFL Draft. He has a top receiver returning and a very good running game to help alleviate some pressure and keep defenses honest. Wilson should have a fabulous year. He’ll be competing with his teammate Knile Davis for the award, too.
2. Aaron Murray, Georgia (JR): All Aaron Murray has done throughout his career is put up gaudy numbers at Georgia. He has thrown for over 6,100 yards and 59 touchdowns in his two seasons in Athens, including 22 interceptions. But yet, it hasn’t been enough to bring Georgia an SEC Championship. Murray returns in what could be his final season – assuming he forgoes his senior year for the NFL – and has fine receivers to work with. If Murray can complete 65 percent of his passes (he’s at 60 percent for his career) and hover around his 35-touchdown mark of a year ago, he’ll have a great shot to head to New York as a finalist.
3. Knile Davis, Arkansas (JR): It’s hard to argue Knile Davis isn’t the favorite to win the Heisman in the SEC. He is probably the top running back option in the SEC because of the questions about Marcus Lattimore’s knee. Coming off a sick 2010, he was very much in the forefront of college football last year until a preseason ankle injury kept him out the entire season. Davis has 1,485 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in his career. Look for him to have his best season yet. I think he’s a serious Heisman contender for the SEC.
4. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina (JR): If I had to pick one running back in the SEC to be on my team, Lattimore would be the guy. I love his attitude and his playmaking abilities. He’s a decisive runner, with nothing fancy about his game. He hits the hole and chews up yardage. Not only is he a great runner, but Lattimore can give you an option as a receiver out of the backfield. He’s a weapon any way Steve Spurrier uses him. Lattimore has 2,105 rushing yards and 27 career touchdowns. But his chance at a Heisman depends on how he recovers from his knee injury. Let’s hope he returns 100 percent.
5. Tyler Bray, Tennessee (JR): Tyler Bray has the most upside of any quarterback in the SEC. We’ve really only seen him play one full season between his freshman and sophomore years. He only started the last five games of his freshman year, and he was out five games last year with a broken thumb. Still, he’s put up some numbers while on the field, with 3,832 passing yards and 35 touchdowns in his short career. He is a 3,000-yard passer with the best receiving corps in the country. Look for him to put up some very crooked numbers in Knoxville this season.
6. James Franklin, Missouri (JR): James Franklin enters year one of the SEC already being the top dual-threat quarterback in the conference. He had a great season numbers-wise last year, and I think everyone is intrigued to see what this kid can do against better defenses. Franklin threw for 2,865 yards and 21 touchdowns last year, and ran for 981 yards and 15 touchdowns. He could have played in the Big East and 36 total touchdowns would still be impressive.
Here are four dark horse contenders few are talking about:
7. Christine Michael, Texas A&M (SR): Coming off of season-ending knee surgery, Michael is not really being talked about by anyone. I think everyone respects his game but are discounting him because of his injury and the fact TAMU has no proven quarterback. Teams will stack the box against the Aggies. But Michael has been making plays ever since he set foot in College Station. He’s racked up 2,374 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns. You can’t just discount what he’s accomplished. But, again, let’s keep an eye on the Aggies entering the SEC.
8. Eddie Lacy, Alabama (JR): I think the SEC will be surprised at how well Eddie Lacy performs this year. It’s always been a running back by committee at Bama under Nick Saban, often playing three running backs in a year. Lacy is a tough, hard-nosed back who runs like Trent Richardson. He can get the tough yards when called upon and shows some good speed on the edge. We know Bama will feature a running back, and it will be the junior Lacy. He has 1,080 career rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Look for him to have similar numbers this year.
9. Odell Beckham, LSU (SO): Beckham is quite possibly one of my favorite players in the SEC. Beckham is a reach for the award, but the guy is a playmaker. He wasn’t intimidated by the big stage last year as a freshman, either. He caught 41 passes for 475 yards and two touchdowns, with virtually no passing quarterback on the team. It’s going to take a lot better receiving year, but losing Tyrann Mathieu actually helps Beckham because he will be the everyday punt returner who can break a few long returns for touchdowns. Beckham is an exceptional athlete who will take his game from good to great this year. LSU finally has a quarterback who can get the football to him, early and often.
10. Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia (SO): The only reason Mitchell is even mentioned as a dark horse is because he will play both ways this year. Mitchell became the team’s biggest deep threat and playmaker in 2011. He caught 45 passes for 665 yards and four touchdowns, while sitting out several games because of a hamstring injury. The coaching staff has already expressed he’s ‘probably the best corner on the team’. That gives him a better chance to even be mentioned for the award than just being a receiver. If, and only if, he can rack up some Champ Bailey-type numbers (52 tackles, 3 INTs, 744 receiving yards, 5 TDs, 261 kickoff return yards and 49 punt return yards), then he has a chance. Sure, there’s a chance it could happen, but it’s not likely.
Zach Mettenberger, LSU (JR): Mettenberger is stepping into the premier position in the country with a veteran offensive line, one of the best running back groups in the country and potent wide receivers who are difference-makers. All of the pieces are around Mett to take him from a good year to a great year. But let’s withhold judgment until he actually takes a snap as a starter.