Five SEC Heisman darkhorses to watch in 2014

Heisman Pundit released his post-spring Heisman favorites, and seven SEC players made the list.

It included six running backs – Alex Collins, Mike Davis, Todd Gurley, Derrick Henry, Jonathan Williams and TJ Yeldon – and one quarterback in Nick Marshall. Those are the frontrunners and players who will continue to get the most media love, but let’s talk about some darkhorse candidates who could jump into the discussion during the season.

Here are a few players who could jump into the discussion, including four quarterbacks and one running back:

Cameron Artis-Payne, RB, Auburn: Much like Tre Mason last year, Auburn’s featured running back will get enough carries to be in the national conversation, especially if the Tigers make another serious run at a championship. CAP showed this spring he’s ready to be the everyday and every-down back in college football’s most dominant rushing attack. He rushed for 610 yards and six touchdowns last season.

Jacob Coker, QB, Alabama: Am I guilty of helping put the enormous hype and pressure on Coker? The fact is Alabama’s offense is loaded, and several quarterbacks in the country could benefit by stepping into this situation. AJ McCarron was a Heisman finalist last year and won the Maxwell Player of the Year Award. Maybe it won’t happen and maybe he’s over-hyped, but the stage is set for Coker to instantly have success in Lane Kiffin’s offense.

Hutson Mason, QB, Georgia: In a similar situation as Jacob Coker, Hutson Mason is stepping into a beautiful situation. Granted, if UGA makes a run, Todd Gurley will almost have to be healthy and very much a factor in the Heisman race. But if Gurley can’t stay healthy and Mason leads Georgia to an SEC Championship, there’s a shot. The receivers are loaded, as is the backfield. The best thing for Mason is he doesn’t have to be Aaron Murray; he can be himself and distribute the ball efficiently, effectively and turnover free.

Maty Mauk, QB, Missouri: Maybe my favorite candidate on the darkhorse list, Mauktober is about to take over Columbia, Missouri. He plays wild and with a reckless abandon. Last year’s 11 touchdowns flashed enormous player upside and the potential for the Mizzou offense to reach a new level. Although Mauk will have to find a go-to receiver, a steady running game will help anchor the offense. He’s a bit of a gunslinger, and for that I love him.

Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: The stage is set for Dak Prescott to live up to the hype. With arguably the conference’s most favorable slate, Prescott should have big games against non-conferences foes. Every unit around Prescott is loaded with depth and impact players, and Dan Mullen’s offense has already produced a Heisman winner in Tim Tebow. Could Prescott become better than Tebow? Did I just go there? He combined for 2,769 yards and 23 touchdowns last year.

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