The 2007 Heisman Race Top Candidates
Posted Dec 7, 2006

Talk about next year already? The bowls haven't started yet and everyone's still buzzing about the BCS, but with the 2006 Heisman race getting a collective national yawn thanks to Troy Smith's upcoming landslide, here's the early look at the top 2007 candidates including Tennessee QB Erik Ainge.

Troy Smith hasn't even been named the Heisman winner yet and we're already looking at the 2007 race. Yeah, it's insane, but it's also an awful lot of fun to speculate.

Obviously the landscape quickly changes depending on who comes back and who jumps early to the NFL, but as opposed to this year, 2007 should shape up to have one of the best Heisman races in years with a relatively wide open field with several great candidates. Of course, that all changes in a big hurry if No. 28 down there in Norman decides to stick around.

Sports information departments, get ready to hype up the stars ...

Gone to the league of mercenaries
These players would be front-runners, or at least in the early mix, for the Heisman, but they're almost all certain to be off playing in the National Fantasy League, uh, National Football League, next year. The number is where each would rank in the top 25 if they came back.
1. Adrian Peterson, RB Oklahoma
4. Brian Brohm, QB Louisville
7. Calvin Johnson, WR Georgia Tech
9. Michael Bush, RB Louisville
10. Ted Ginn Jr., WR Ohio State
11. Marshawn Lynch, RB California
12. Dwayne Jarrett, WR USC
15. JaMarcus Russell, QB LSU
20. Robert Meachem, WR Tennessee

26. Chase Holbrook, QB New Mexico State
He'll be next year's Colt Brennan. While he doesn't have any shot of winning, his numbers will be astronomical. In his second year under Hal Mumme, 45 touchdown passes and 4,500 passing yards are possible.

25. Andre Woodson, QB Kentucky
Very quietly, at least on a national scale, Woodson was the SEC's most productive quarterback over the second half of the season. The UK sports info department does a fantastic job of promoting its players; everyone will know who Woodson is by the start of the season.

24. Jimmy Clausen, QB Notre Dame
Pencil in here whoever the Irish starting quarterback will be. It might not be Clausen, a true freshman, right off the bat, but he'll be the front-runner for the 2009 Heisman.

23. Jorvorskie Lane, RB Texas A&M
The yards won't be there with Stephen McGee and Mike Goodson taking away plenty of work, but a 25-touchdown season is possible. With a few big games against the top teams, he might be in the hunt over the second half of the season.

22. Sidney Rice, WR South Carolina
Sensational as a freshman, inconsistent as a sophomore, unbelievable as a junior? It'll be year three under Steve Spurrier and with seasoned veteran Blake Mitchell (most likely) under center. Rice might make a Calvin Johnson-like leap into the national consciousness.

21. Willie Tuitama, QB Arizona
Can he stay healthy and can he put up numbers? At the moment, he's considered a good leader and has developed a reputation as a winner. Now he has prove he can stay on the field. He could turn into the grass roots, underground, pretentious voter's candidate if the Wildcats play well early.

20. Tim Tebow, QB Florida
Yes, he's more than just a bruising fullback masquerading as a backup quarterback. Considered the ideal fit for Urban Meyer's spread offense, even more so than Alex Smith was, Tebow should be in the thick of the Heisman hunt for the next few years.

19. Chad Henne, QB Michigan
If Michigan isn't next year's preseason number one, it'll be in the top three as long as Mike Hart returns. Henne has the potential to be in the Heisman mix as the triggerman for an unstoppable attack.

18. C.J. Spiller/James Davis, RB Clemson
Sorry for the cop-out; these two will cancel each other out. Spiller is the more dynamic, while Davis is the better scorer. If one of them gets the ball full-time for any reason, he'll be a dangerous threat for the Doak Walker Award, and maybe more.

17. Jonathan Stewart, RB Oregon
The only question is health. When he's on the field, he's as productive and talented as any back in America. Now he has to stay injury-free and learn how to play hurt through the aches and pains of a season.

16. Branden Ore, RB Virginia Tech
The unknown workhorse of a middling Virginia Tech offense, Ore will start to get more national attention for the likely ACC preseason favorite.

15. Graham Harrell, QB Texas Tech
In his second year as the starter, Harrell should be far more efficient and far more explosive even with crippling turnover in the receiving corps. The numbers will be there, so the campaign will hinge on beating the better Big 12 teams.

14. Mario Manningham, WR Michigan
If Michigan is as good as everyone will say it'll be, and if Manningham turns out to be one of the main reasons with big touchdown catch after big touchdown catch, a Biletnikoff Award and top five Heisman finish will be possible.

13. Jamaal Charles, RB Texas
Call this a bit of a projection after a strangely disappointing 2006. He's as fast as any back in America, and he'll certainly get his share of work and exposure.

12. Ian Johnson, RB Boise State
It all depends on his performance in the Fiesta Bowl. If he's sensational, he'll get the college football household name recognition Steve Slaton received after West Virginia's win over Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl. 30 touchdowns is a reasonable goal after scoring 24 this year despite missing time late in the season.

11. DeSean Jackson, WR/KR California
A blend of Reggie Bush and Ted Ginn, Jackson will make everyone's highlight reel week after week taking the honor of being America's most electrifying player.

10. Erik Ainge, QB Tennessee
Even if offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe is off coaching somewhere else and if top target Robert Meachem is off to the NFL, Ainge should still be the same ultra-efficient playmaker who made a night-and-day turnaround this year.

9. Ray Rice, RB Rutgers
He'll have the name recognition, the numbers, and the media market to be a weekly regular on everyone's Heisman list. Will he have head coach Greg Schiano to keep the team in the Big East title hunt?

8. Colt McCoy, QB Texas
McCoy was starting to get people talking about him as a Heisman candidate this year before he got hurt in the loss to Kansas State. If he's as good throughout 2007 as he was this year, and if Texas wins the Big 12 and is in the national title hunt, he'll be in New York in early December.

7. John David Booty, QB USC
He won't have Steve Smith or (most likely) Dwayne Jarrett to throw to, but he'll be a veteran quarterback for one of the nation's top three teams. Call it a hunch, but USC just might be able to find a few decent receiving prospects for Booty to throw to.

6. P.J. Hill, RB Wisconsin
Wisconsin will be really, really good next season, and Hill will be the centerpiece to revolve around. If he stays healthy, 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns are a lock.

5. Pat White, QB West Virginia
White was better than teammate Steve Slaton this year, but wasn't able to generate the same sort of Heisman buzz. Many will want to see more than just efficiency out of the passing game, but it'll be all about the wins. No BCS game, no Heisman shot.

4. Darren McFadden, RB Arkansas
Fresh off the breathtaking buzz generated off the second half of this year, McFadden will likely be everyone's front-runner to start the season. So why isn't he number one? Four of the five starters are gone from the offensive line and Felix Jones will take away several yards and big plays.

3. Mike Hart, RB Michigan
Not quite considered an elite pro prospect because of his size, or lack of it, Hart is likely to return for his senior year. As the workhorse for one of the nation's top three teams and in the spotlight all season long, he'll be on everyone's short list after a fantastic 1,515-yard, 14 touchdown season.

2. Steve Slaton, RB West Virginia
Is a 2,000-yard season possible? Maybe not with Pat White taking away so many yards, but Slaton has been a Heisman voter favorite for the last two years and should explode to yet another level next year. He has the name recognition, the hype, and most importantly, the game to be the main to beat from the start.

1. Colt Brennan, QB Hawaii
Get ready for an assault on the record books. Brennan is expected to be considered a second round draft pick by the NFL advisory board, but he loves Hawaii and is expected to return to make a run at sixty touchdown passes. All the top receivers are coming back
, and the Warriors still play in the WAC.