2008 Top 25 Heisman Contenders
Missouri QB Chase Daniel
Missouri QB Chase Daniel
Posted Dec 5, 2007

The 2008 Heisman race should be even more interesting than the 2007 classic battle. Who are the top players projected to come back and be in the hunt? What stars are likely to leave early? Here are the top 25 (and more) Heisman candidates for next year.

By Pete Fiutak

2007 is so 2007.

Even thought the polish isn't even dry on this year's Heisman, it's already time to dive into next year's race.

Obviously the landscape quickly changes depending on who comes back and who jumps early to the NFL, but this should be another great race with most of this year's stars certain to return. Of course, it all might be over if No. 5 down in Arkansas decides to pass up tens of millions of dollars for his senior year.

Sports information departments, get ready to hype up these playmakers. Remember, the Heisman almost always goes to a skill player on a big-time team, so to keep this in the land of the real, there aren't any defensive players here.

Statistical Monsters
These stars from non-BCS teams will put up huge numbers, but will likely be ignored like Kevin Smith and Matt Forte this year.

Chase Clement, QB Rice; Nate Davis, QB Ball State; Damion Fletcher, RB Southern Miss; Chase Holbrook, QB New Mexico State; Eugene Jarvis, RB Kent State; Brian Johnson, QB Utah; Dan LeFevour, QB Central Michigan; Harvey Unga, RB BYU

The Watch List
These stars could be this year's Chase Daniel with the right breaks.

Rudy Carpenter, QB Arizona State; Jimmy Clausen, QB Notre Dame. Arian Foster, RB Tennessee; Josh Freeman, QB Kansas State; Percy Harvin, WR/RB Florida; Kellen Lewis, QB Indiana; Jake Locker, QB Washington; Ryan Mallett, QB Michigan; Stephen McGee, QB Texas A&M; Joe McKnight, RB USC; Branden Ore, RB Virginia Tech; Curtis Painter, QB Purdue; Javon Ringer, RB Michigan State; Zac Robinson, QB Oklahoma State; Matthew Stafford, QB Georgia; Adam Weber, QB Minnesota; Juice Williams, QB Illinois

Gone to the league of mercenaries
These players would be front-runners for the Heisman, or at least in the early mix, 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 will rank in the top 25 if they choose to return.

Darren McFadden, RB Arkansas
Felix Jones, RB Arkansas (ranking assumes McFadden leaves early)
Kevin Smith, RB UCF
8. Steve Slaton, RB West Virginia
9. Ray Rice, RB Rutgers
DeSean Jackson, WR California
Mario Manningham, WR Michigan
NR. James Davis, RB Clemson

25. Jeremy Maclin, WR Missouri
Second in the nation in all-purpose yards this year averaging 209 yards per game, Maclin will be Chase Daniel's most dangerous target along with being a top kick returner.

24. Tyler Graunke, QB Hawaii
If everyone else returns, like head coach June Jones and star receiver Davone Bess, Graunke will likely be the next great Hawaii passing machine. He's not nearly as talented as Colt Brennan, but he's been in the system and has a little bit of experience.

23. Matt Grothe, QB South Florida
Grothe got a little bit of national exposure this season as the offensive star on the one-time No. 2 team, and next season he'll be one of the Big East's signature stars. He's an all-purpose playmaker who could be seen as the poor man's version of Tim Tebow.

22. Willie Tuitama, QB Arizona
If Tuitama ever plays consistently, and if the Wildcat offense can ever roll week in and week out like it did this year against Washington and Washington State, the overall numbers will be there to make a big national splash.

21. Michael Crabtree, WR Texas Tech
With 125 catches for 1,861 yards and 21 touchdowns, Crabtree arrived on the college football scene with a bang. He's a premier talent who might grow into a Larry Fitzgerald-like Heisman candidate if he can light up some of the better teams.

20. C.J. Spiller, RB Clemson
... or James Davis. Assuming Davis leaves early for the NFL, Spiller, a one-time monster recruit for the program, should finally be able to show off the speed and skill that made him such a promising star in 2006. He'll get all the carries to himself, but if Davis is back, forget it.

19. LeSean McCoy, RB Pitt
The West Virginia game only showed what the rest of the Big East already knew. McCoy might be the best returning NFL running back prospect. He has it all from speed, moves, and a little bit of power. He'll be the Pitt offense.

18. DeMarco Murray, RB Oklahoma
Assuming he's able to return from the knee injury that knocked suffered on special teams in the loss to Texas Tech, he'll be a touchdown star for the Sooners. Will he have his same speed and burst? That'll be the question mark throughout the offseason.

17. Mark Sanchez/Mitch Mustain, QB USC
Fred Davis will be gone, but Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton, along with a slew of running back talent, to make the new Trojan starting quarterback shine. Sanchez will have the experience, but Mustain is better.

16. Todd Boeckman, QB Ohio State
Not flashy by any stretch, he'll be the triggerman for one of the nation's best offenses. He has to cut down on his interceptions and will be overshadowed by Chris Wells, but he'll be in the spotlight all season long.

15. Colt McCoy, QB Texas
Interceptions became a major problem in his sophomore season, but he had to fight through a bad year from his receiving corps and the loss of top target Limas Sweed. If he plays like he did as a freshman, and if he can lead the Longhorns to a big start, he'll quickly become one of the front-runners.

14. Knowshon Moreno, RB Georgia
When you do things as a freshman worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Herschel Walker, you're doing something right. He was one of the main reasons Georgia season became special, and he'll be one of the SEC's signature stars going into next year.

13. Ian Johnson, RB Boise State
On pace for a 7,000-yard career, and with the name recognition that came from his performance in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma, he'll be on the radar all season long. Playing for Boise State will keep him from ever winning the Heisman, but that doesn't mean he can't be a finalist.

12. Todd Reesing, QB Kansas
Can he be the ultra-efficient triggerman of a top offensive attack again? He might not be able to pull off a second straight near-flawless season, but he'll get plenty of publicity and won't have any problems with name recognition.

11. Jonathan Stewart, RB Oregon
A 50/50 call on whether or not he'll be gone to the pros, the only thing holding him back from superstardom, and the NFL, is his questionable durablilty. If he can stay healthy game-in-and-game-out for a full season, 2,000 yards won't be out of the question.

10. Rashard Mendenhall, RB Illinois
He'll have a decision to make on whether or not he's ready to jump early to the next level. Averaging 6.23 yards per carry, he has the speed to go along with the power to be a featured NFL superstar. If he's back, he'll rumble for around 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns.

9. Jamaal Charles, RB Texas
If he doesn't bring his breathtaking speed off to the NFL a year early, he'll get more work in the Longhorn offense. He saved the season with his epic fourth quarters against Nebraska and Oklahoma State, and if he can do that for a full 12 games, he'll be in New York.

8. Ryan Perrilloux, QB LSU
The SEC Championship win over Tennessee showed off just how talented Perrilloux is and just how much potential there is for greatness. Now he has to keep his nose clean off the field and has to make the tremendous Tiger team his from day one in spring ball.

7. P.J. Hill, RB Wisconsin
He was one of the most valuable players in the nation over the first half of the season as he carried the Badger offense, and he'll get plenty of chances, especially around the goal line. The big problem could be traffic in the backfield with several other terrific running backs in the rotation.

6. Chris Wells, RB Ohio State
When you light up Michigan for 222 yards and two touchdowns, you get on the national map. The talented focal point of the Buckeye offense will be get plenty of chances to put up huge numbers with a shot at 20 touchdowns and well over 1,500 yards.

5. Graham Harrell, QB Texas Tech
The statistics are too amazing to ignore. While the world was focusing on Colt Brennan and all he did at Hawaii, Harrell put up far better overall numbers against better competition. The win over Oklahoma proved he's more than just a product of a great system.

4. Chase Daniel, QB Missouri
The new star on the national scene, he had the Heisman won, or at least he would've finished second, if he had pulled off a great game in the Big 12 Championship against Oklahoma. He won't have all the same weapons around him next year, but he'll be an experienced triggerman who should put up the numbers to be in the chase again.

3. Sam Bradford, QB Oklahoma
Ignored in the Heisman race as a freshman, Bradford deserved more love as the nation's most efficient passer. He won't have Malcolm Kelly, who's certain to be off early to the NFL, to throw to, and he could also lose Juaquin Iglesias, but he'll still have a great line to work behind.  It's OU. There will always be elite receivers ready to step in.

2. Pat White, QB West Virginia
Assuming Steve Slaton bolts early for the big league, White will be the signature star of one of a national title contender. The question will be his durability after getting knocked out in the losses to Pitt and South Florida, but when he's on, he's as breathtaking as any runner in America. He'll also have a devastating array of receiver weapons to work with.

1. Tim Tebow, QB Florida
Tebow is becoming an all-timer of a superstar as Superman will be the unquestioned leader of the likely preseason No. 1 team. It'll be interesting to see how he matures and grows as a quarterback with far more help to carry the workload; he won't have the same numbers since he won't have to do it all himself. USC transfer Emmanuel Moody will be certain to take away touchdown runs, but that could mean Tebow turns into an even more devastating passer. The Heisman will be his for the taking.