2008 Spring Preview - The Heisman Contenders
Florida QB Tim Tebow
Florida QB Tim Tebow
Posted Mar 22, 2008

Which players are the real Heisman candidates? Which five will be in the hunt? Which five will put up monster numbers but won't really be in the race? 2007 winner Tim Tebow is the front-runner, but he'll have plenty of competition.

Spring Preview 2008

The 20 Big Questions - No. 3

By Pete Fiutak 

- The 2008 Big Spring Questions  
No. 20 - Top 40 Non-Conference Games
No. 16-19 - BCS Busters, Rule Changes & More
No. 15 - Ranking the Conferences
No. 14 - Who Could Be This Year's Kansas?
(breaking through big after a bad year)
No. 13 - 5 Teams That Could Tumble

No. 12 - Who Could Be This Year's Missouri?
(going from good to special)
No. 11 - Ten Coaches Who Need Big Seasons
No. 10 - The New Superstar Coaches

No. 9 - Everyone Will Be Complaining About ...
No. 8 - Everyone Will Be Buzzing About ...
No. 7 - The Pressure Is On ...
No. 6 - The Relatively Unknown Players
You'll Care About
No. 5 - Every League's Pain In the Butt Team
No. 4 - Already Known Players Who'll Go Nuclear

The call on the Heisman finalists as spring ball gets going ...

Chase Daniel, QB Missouri
Once again, Daniel will be the triggerman for a top offense that'll put up huge numbers and will lead the way to plenty of wins. Considering he was a Heisman finalist last season, the buzz will be there from the start; anything positive he does will be magnified.
He'll win it if ... Mizzou wins the Big 12 title and beats Illinois in the season opener. A win over the Illini would set the tone for the campaign, and there will be high-profile trip to Texas that could clinch at least a finalist spot if all goes according to plan. The rest of the schedule isn't that bad, and there'll be a nice buildup to the regular season finale if Kansas is half as good as last year, so Daniel should have the team, the numbers and the notoriety.

Graham Harrell, QB Texas Tech
Welcome to this year's Colt Brennan. After finally breaking through the ceiling and the stigma of Texas Tech quarterbacks just being numbers guys, he's ready to take another huge step after leading the nation in passing, averaging 432 yards per game (62 more than Paul Smith of Tulsa, who finished No. 2) and throwing 48 touchdown passes. Leading the way to two straight comeback bowl wins, and a win over Oklahoma, has softened even the harshest of Red Raider quarterback critics.
He'll win it if ... He does that again. Like Brennan last year, Harrell will have the preseason excitement generated from being a statistical superstar. Of course, Brennan became a Heisman finalist by leading Hawaii to a 12-0 regular season record and the BCS with a few tremendous comeback performances. Harrell will have to at least get Texas Tech in a position to win the Big 12 South.

Tim Tebow, QB Florida
The reigning Heisman winner is expected to be even better. The Florida coaching staff has worked this off-season on making Tebow an even more efficient passer, which is saying something considering he was second in the nation in passing efficiency behind Oklahoma's Sam Bradford. The goal is to keep the star healthier and fresher in the fourth quarter, and while his stats might not be as good, he could be a better player.
He'll win it if ... Florida is in the national title hunt until the end. It's not like there's going to be an anti-Tebow backlash, at least not any more than there was last year. He's a legit superstar and possible No. 1 overall pick in the draft whenever he's ready to turn pro, so it's not like this is a Jason White situation. Winning a second Heisman would obviously put Tebow into a god-like category, which voters weren't ready to do with White a few years ago, and if the junior leads the Gators to the SEC title, he might be deemed worthy.

Pat White, QB West Virginia
Sort of around the Heisman race over the last few years, but not really in it, this is White's West Virginia team. There's no more Steve Slaton and no more Rich Rodriguez, and while there's a slew of talent across the board to make the Mountaineers go, White will get most of the credit for a big season.
He'll win it if ... He gets the MVP vote. West Virginia lost two games last year, and it just so happened to be the two games White missed time hurt. It's not like Jarrett Brown was bad, but White was the one who made the offense special. If the Mountaineers have yet another big season and are in the BCS title chase, like last year, White, assuming he stays healthy, will at least be a finalist.

Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB Ohio State
While there's an anti-Ohio State sentiment out there, and will be all season long, Wells will be immune. After all, he only got two carries in the Florida debacle and tore off 146 yards and a breathtaking touchdown against LSU. Considered the top pro running back prospect in college football, the spotlight will be on all season long as he's expected to crank out yet another monster year, after running for 1,609 yards and 15 touchdowns, behind one of the nation's best offensive lines.
He'll win it if ... He flirts with 2,000 yards, blows up in a win over USC, and Ohio State is in the hunt for the national championship until the end. The trip to Los Angeles on September 13th has to be the defining moment since few will give much love or attention to a huge season in the much-maligned Big Ten.

Five who'll be mentioned in the race at some point this year

Sam Bradford, QB Oklahoma
He won't win it because ... Is he really ready? Fantastic when he had time to throw and when everything was working well, he struggled when times got tough. The losses to Colorado, West Virginia, and certainly Texas Tech, weren't his fault, but he didn't make things better. He's the real deal, but he'll likely be a true favorite next year.

Michael Crabtree, WR Texas Tech
He won't win it because ... He's a receiver and Graham Harrell will likely get the Texas Tech Heisman vote. Crabtree should put up astronomical numbers for a second year in a row, and he'll be the favorite to win a second straight Bilitnikoff Award, but it takes something truly special for a receiver to win the Heisman. Larry Fitzgerald and Charles Rogers set records as pure receivers and didn't win it, and it took Desmond Howard and Tim Brown to also be superstar kick returners to get the prize.

Knowshon Moreno, RB Georgia
He won't win it because ... The stats might not be there. Moreno might be the signature star on a national-title caliber Georgia team, but he'll have to split carries, at least a little bit, and QB Matthew Stafford could generate just as much of a buzz if he improves. Even so, if Georgia is in the national title chase, Moreno will be a finalist if he can be as good as he was over last year's late five-game stretch.

Todd Reesing, QB Kansas
He won't win it because ... Kansas probably isn't going to do that again. Can he throw 33 touchdown passes, seven interceptions, and lead the Jayhawks to yet another BCS season? Maybe, he really is good, but the schedule is harder this year. Much harder.

Mark Sanchez/Mitch Mustain, QB USC
He won't win it because ... USC's passing game might not be quite as good as the brand name. Being the USC quarterback now is like being the Miami quarterback in the late 1980s and early 1990s; if you're driving the car, you're going to be hot stuff. It'll likely be Sanchez, but he'll have an average receiving corps, at least by USC's standards, and the Trojans will likely lose at least one game they shouldn't ... again.

Five who'll put up ridiculous numbers but won't get a sniff

Damion Fletcher, RB Southern Miss
Fletcher will grab the title from Kevin Smith as the best running back you've never seen. All the junior has done in 26 games is rush for 2,974 yards and 26 touchdowns with 16 100-yard games.

Chase Holbrook, QB New Mexico State & Chris Williams, WR New Mexico State
The numbers should be astronomical. This is Holbrook's third season as the starter, and was been around the system for years before that following head coach Hal Mumme over from SE Louisiana. Williams was the nation's leading receiver two years ago, and was well on his way last year before getting hurt. With everyone coming back to the Aggie offense, these two should go ballistic.

Eugene Jarvis, RB Kent State
Who's the nation's leading returning rusher? Ian Johnson? Beanie Wells? P.J. Hill? It's the 5-6 Jarvis, who finished fifth in the nation with 1,669 yards and ten touchdowns while being held to under 82 just once. Now that QB Julian Edelman is back to give the offense another weapon.

Ian Johnson, RB Boise State
There are two keys for Johnson. 1) He has to stay healthy, and 2) the quarterback situation has to be settled in a hurry. Johnson ran for 1,714 yards and 25 touchdowns in his breakout sophomore season, but he wasn't right over the second half of last year.

Curtis Painter, QB Purdue
Cranking out 546 yards in the bowl win over Central Michigan got everyone to notice, but it'll take wins over the big boys to get into the Heisman picture. Six touchdowns on Eastern Illinois is nice, but he struggled against Ohio State and Michigan. He'll have his chances to bomb away all year.