Way Too Early 2014 Heisman Look

Posted Dec 15, 2013

Yeah, take the field, but these 12 will be the preseason favorites in the 2014 Heisman chase.

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None of the players listed below are going to win the 2014 Heisman.

From Mark Ingram to Cam Newton to RG3 to Johnny Manziel to Jameis Winston, the recent Heisman winners have come from out of nowhere, and this year finalists Andre Williams and Tre Mason weren't even on the radar until late in the season.

Also, remember, it's really, really hard to win the Heisman, or even become a finalist. Marcus Mariota was among the front runners up until November and he couldn't make the cut. Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson and on and on and on – being a phenomenal player doesn't necessarily translate into winning a Heisman. Teddy Bridgewater might be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, and he wasn't in New York this year on Heisman day. < br />
So with all of that in mind, here are the top players who'll be on everyone's list of the top contenders for the 2014 Heisman. Just know that you've probably never heard of the guy who's actually going to win it.

Don't see your guy here? Don't worry; he'll probably win the Heisman.

Note: classes are for 2014.

12. QB Blake Bell, Sr. Oklahoma

He'll win the 2014 Heisman because… it seems like he's ready to come into his own. While it was an uneven and disappointing 2013 season, and he had to fight off Trevor Knight for time, he came up really, really big in the clutch against Oklahoma State in what might be the moment that could make him ready to be the next great Sooner quarterback.
He won't win because … he loses several weapons. There's going to be a bit of an overhaul in the OU receiving corps, and there's still the issue of his mediocrity. There's a reason the coaching staff went with Knight to start the season. The light has to go on for Bell, and he needs to use all the tools and talents to become a far steadier, more explosive performer.

11. QB Sean Mannion, Sr. Oregon State

He'll win the 2014 Heisman because… the numbers could be astronomical. The nation's second-leading passer averaged 367 yards per game with 36 touchdowns, and he'll be battling with Washington State's Connor Halliday to see who can lead the country in yards. He started to generated a little bit of Heisman buzz on the West Coast over the first half of the season, and he should be one of the it guys this offseason.
He won't win because … his main man, Biletnikoff winner Brandin Cooks, could be off to the NFL early. As good as Mannion was, he faltered in some of the biggest games and had interception issues, throwing ten over a key three-game stretch in November. To have any hope of getting to New York, he'll need a signature win over a big boy.

10. RB T.J. Yeldon, Jr. Alabama

He'll win the 2014 Heisman because… he'll be the best player on one of the top three teams in the nation, if not No. 1 overall. Mark Ingram won the Heisman, and Trent Richardson came close, and now it might be Yeldon's time as an explosive playmaker who'll put up big numbers. He averaged six yards per carry and ran for 1,163 yards and 13 scores, coming up large on the big stage against Texas A&M, LSU and Auburn.
He won't win because … he might not get enough work. It won't matter if he leads the nation in rushing because of the team he plays on and the big games he'll be in, but he has to at least be in the picture statistically. He might have to benefit from being a superstar pro prospect whose value goes beyond the raw stats, but that's always a tough sell. It's not easy to go from 190 touches to 250 while being just as effective.

9. QB Everett Golson, Sr. Notre Dame

He'll win the 2014 Heisman because… back from his suspension, he'll get his chance to be the leader and star of a good team that could be great with a little bit of luck. Was he the catalyst for the 2012 offense? Tommy Rees wasn't bad last year, but Golson had a magical quality to his game a few years ago throwing for 2,405 yards with 12 touchdowns while rushing for six scores.
He won't win because … the numbers might not be there. Rees really was terrific, throwing for almost 3,000 yards with 27 touchdowns, but even with wins over Michigan State and USC, he wasn't even on the radar. Notre Dame has to win and keep winning for Golson to be in the chase, and that might be asking for too much. Even if everything goes right, 10-2 probably doesn't get Golson a sniff of New York.

8. QB Brett Hundley, Jr. UCLA

He'll win the 2014 Heisman because… he'll quickly be in the mix as one of the favorites to be the first player taken in the 2015 NFL draft. With the right size, skill, background and personality, he's everything the next level scouts dream of in a quarterback – and it doesn't hurt to play in L.A. With two touchdown passes in each of his last four games before coming up with an effective 208-yard day with two rushing scores in the win over USC, he ended the regular season hot. However …
He won't win because … is he ready to put up the massive numbers needed for a quarterback to be in the Heisman chase? He'll finish the year with over 3,000 yards, and his rushing ability helps, but if UCLA isn't in the BCS championship hunt – or at least front-and-center in the Pac-12 title chase – he won't be close for the Heisman.

7. QB Nick Marshall, Sr. Auburn

He'll win the 2014 Heisman because… he'll be one of the superstars of the offseason as the leader and main man for the Gus Malzahn offense. It doesn't matter who's at running back – this is assuming Tre Mason goes off to the NFL early – Marshall got better and better as the season went on, making all the right reads and all the key plays to lead the Tigers to the BCS championship. With over 1,000 yards rushing and 11 scores on the year, and with an effective-enough 12 touchdown passes and four games with over 200 yards, he's more than just a runner. As long as Auburn is winning, he'll get his share of the credit.
He won't win because … Auburn might have to be back in the SEC/national title hunt again for Marshall to have any realistic hope of winning the Heisman. Mason became a finalist by getting really, really hot in the biggest of games late in the season, and it's asking a lot for Auburn to come up with the same big wins, much less the same magic.

6. QB Devin Gardner, Sr. Michigan

He'll win the 2014 Heisman because… Michigan is going to be better. Really. This was/is a young team that's getting better with strong recruiting classes about to mature and kick in, and Gardner will be the leader of the fun. The stats should be solid – he'll finish 2013 with over 3,000 passing yards with 21 regular season passing scores and 11 on the ground – and he'll have his share of big chances in the big games to show what he can do. Between the last two games against Northwestern, and the loss to Ohio State this year – outside of the final pass attempt – he showed off what he can do. Now he'll have the experience to go along with all of the tools.
He won't win because … he might not be consistent enough. Everything is in place talent-wise, and the team should be far better and stronger, but can he avoid the low points? The Akron and UConn games are still on the resume, and he'll have to maintain a high level well into November. Ask Denard Robinson what it's like for a Michigan quarterback to start out hot in the Heisman race.

5. QB Bryce Petty, Sr. Baylor

He'll win the 2014 Heisman because… he was close to really, really being a factor, but the Oklahoma State loss killed his chances. Even so, the stats were there, and now he knows what he's doing. Assuming he's merely competent in the Fiesta Bowl against UCF, he'll finish with over 4,000 passing yards and goes into the game with 30 touchdown passes and just two picks. If he and the Bears rock the Knights, he'll be on everyone's Heisman short list for the next eight months.
He won't win because … as shown this season, the margin for Heisman error is razor thin. Statistically, his season was almost as effective as Jameis Winston's – the side-by-side comparison, especially with the rushing scores, makes it interesting – but he still wasn't one of the finalists. There's still the concern that he's just a part of a great system – remember, Nick Florence also dominated under center – and it's not a lock by any means that Art Briles is still the head coach next year.

4. QB Braxton Miller, Sr. Ohio State

He'll win the 2014 Heisman because… it's not like Ohio State is about to take a step back. Miller deserved more Heisman love in 2012, and while he took a backseat to Carlos Hyde in the spotlight this season, there's no question who the star of the show will be next year. Despite missing a few games hurt, Miller still threw 22 touchdown passes with just five picks, and ran for over 1,000 yards with ten scores, rushing for 140 yards or more in each of his last four games. It might be his time, and the Heisman voting world might start to give him more credit.
He won't win because … for whatever reason, the Heisman voters – present company totally excluded - don't really seem to like him. He didn't get hot until it was too late this year – with seven of his rushing scores coming in the final three games – and he'll never blow up anyone with his passing arm. It's tough to keep winning and winning and winning, and one bad game in a key loss in the new and improved Big Ten East could end the campaign. Anything less than a Big Ten title ends the Heisman hope.

3. QB Jameis Winston, Soph. Florida State

He'll win the 2014 Heisman because… next year he might actually know what he's doing. It's crazy to think that he might just be scratching the surface, but if it was possible and if he was eligible, there's a chance he'd be the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. This is still going to be a tremendously talented Seminole team that should start the season somewhere in the top three, and there's a chance he could be even better after winning the Heisman in dominant fashion.
He won't win because … Johnny Manziel, Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Jason White, Matt Leinart and on and on and on. There's no reason to suggest he'll slip, but history hasn't been kind to winners who return – all he has to do is be perfect, and go undefeated. It's really, really tough to win a Heisman, and it's absolutely impossible to win two. Now the bar will be raised higher and he'll be asked to do even more to earn the honor of being put alongside Archie Griffin as the only two to double up.

2. RB Melvin Gordon, Jr. Wisconsin

He'll win the 2014 Heisman because… there's no James White to take carries away. Corey Clement appears to be the next man up in the Badger backfield rotation, but there's no questioning who the star of the show will be. The lightning fast, dynamic Gordon averaged over eight yards per carry with 1,465 yards and 12 scores, and now he'll get even more work after only running the ball 181 times. If he can stay healthy, with the way Gary Andersen's offense gets running backs in space, 2,000 yards is a reachable goal, especially in the new Big Ten West division.
He won't win because … he might not be able to handle an extra workload. He's not built to be a 30-carry back like most Wisconsin running backs, and he might be better as a 15-carry guy than a workhorse. If he doesn't put up astronomical numbers, he won't have any chance. Montee Ball was able to get to New York a few years ago, but for the most part, Wisconsin backs don't receive a whole lot of Heisman recognition – for good and bad, they're cogs in a system.

1. Marcus Mariota, Jr. Oregon

He'll win the 2014 Heisman because… he might have made the 2013 race really, really interesting if he didn't get hurt and if the team didn't fold late. Coming back for another year, even though he'd probably be a first round pick in the 2014 NFL draft, he rockets to the top of the preseason Heisman charts with his next-level combination of skills, size and speed. Even though he fell off the map in November, he still finished with over 3,400 passing yards with 30 rushing scores and just four picks, and he ran for 582 yards with nine scores. The talent is there, the name recognition is there, and the Heisman might be there if he can lead his Ducks to a Pac-12 championship.
He won't win because … it's a really strong field. Forgetting about all the candidates who'll come in from out of the blue, Winston, Gordon, Miller, Petty and the rest of the returning stars on this list are going to be worthy. Yeah, Mariota threw 30 touchdown passes and just four picks, but he didn't come close to getting a call to New York as a finalist. His Heisman success will be directly tied in to the team's success, and one loss, one mistake, one bad game on a national scale will end the hope.