2016 NCAA Football Preview: Heisman Watch

heismanThe Heisman Trophy is one of the biggest awards in football as it is given to the best football player in college football.

That is a big pool to choose from with a lot of great players all doing everything they can to be noticed.

That is the goal for every athlete in the NCAA as they all want to be the player that every NFL team wants.

They want to go out and prove that they are not just another football player but a player that can make an impact on the next level.

It is a cut throat business as only the best will survive in any sport and in football it can be especially brutal.

Every year there is a new set of NCAA players that walk through the doors of NFL teams and take out another set of professional players.

To get there and stay there players have to prove themselves on a constant basis.

A lot of that starts in the NCAA where players all look to make that impression that will get someone to notice them in the NFL and take a chance on them.

For a select few the NFL is already watching and waiting to see how their season goes before they make their final decisions on next year’s draft.

Then there are the even more elite few who are watched by everyone from the NFL to fans of any team in the NCAA.

These are the players that are considered for that ultimate individual prize in NCAA Football as the best of the best in the sport.

These players are the most talented in the nation and when watching them they are extremely impressive.

They are also the players that will be watched very closely by NFL teams as potential game breakers in the future.

Of course, the NCAA is not the NFL and the Heisman is not a guarantee of success at the top level of the game.football-sidebar

There is a long list of amazing players who won the Heisman over the years but not all are known by everyone.

Players like Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Earl Campbell, Bo Jackson, Cam Newton, and so much more all have their name on a Heisman.

These are the success stories as these players came into the NCAA and dominated the college game.

They then went on to the NFL where they also dominated, at least Newton has for now.

That is not necessarily always the case though as the Heisman is not a guarantee of success at the next level.

For every Newton, there is a Gino Torretta, Ron Dayne, or Matt Leinart who won the Heisman Trophy and couldn’t translate it to success in the NFL.

Every year the Heisman Trophy becomes one of the biggest stories in college football.

When a player is named as the best they are immediately put in the spotlight and for some that can be a bad thing.

That spotlight begins as soon as the NCAA season begins and it is up to the players in the Heisman race to overcome that extra pressure and put in a great season.

After that, they will look to be on the positive list of Heisman winners with all of the Heisman candidates likely headed to the NFL in the near future.

The NCAA constantly provides a glimpse into the future as these players will all look to prove that they are ready for the top level with plenty watching from this point and into the future to see just how good they can be.

5. Dalvin Cook, RB (Florida State)

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The Florida State Seminoles are a team that has fallen off in recent years after being in the title hunt with Jameis Winston playing quarterback. According to many, they seem to be ready to return to the national title conversation. If they truly want to compete though they will need Dalvin Cook to step up and be the superstar he can be. He was ready to start his first Heisman run last year until injuries kept his season from being a breakout one. He continually was sidelined and couldn’t get the carries he needed to truly make a run at the trophy. Still, he did show flashes of how great he could be and he hopes to continue that this year. He is not the highest profile back this year and that could hurt him but if the Seminoles do go on a deep run this year he will be seen on a big stage, which could boost his candidacy. What he might have going for him is the fact that he is different than the other backs in the league and the other backs in the running for the Heisman. He is the quick back that can make people miss and has the speed to pull away. Whether or not he can win might be based on how well the Seminoles do this year as the better they are the more notoriety he gets.

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4. Baker Mayfield, QB (Oklahoma)

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He was a late bloomer in 2015 as nobody was talking about Baker Mayfield when the season began. Then all of a sudden the Oklahoma Sooners began to make a serious bid for the Big 12 championship. They took the conference championship and with it a spot in the College Football Playoff. That rise to the top of the league put the Sooners in the spotlight and with it, their dual-threat quarterback. If he had more time in the spotlight he might have finished higher than fourth in the Heisman voting last year. Now he enters a new season and is no longer a secret as the voters will be watching to see if he can bring the Sooners back to the playoff. That is plenty of pressure on the young QB and he will need to get through that new magnifying glass to perform at a high level. He has the talent to do it as he can get things done on the ground and through the air and on the ground, although he is not more dynamic than some on the ground. The difference for Mayfield is pretty clear, how can he handle the pressure of now being a known contender. If he crumbles under the pressure and can’t lead the Sooners back to the playoff he will be overshadowed by some very good players and will be forgotten in the Heisman voting.

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3. Leonard Fournette, RB (LSU)

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When he sprung onto the scene last year it seemed pretty clear that the Heisman Trophy was headed to Baton Rouge. Leonard Fournette was not really the biggest name in the country when the season started but he quickly made people notice. After putting up 159 yards in his first game he put together a stretch of three straight games with over 200 yards. He was becoming a threat and the biggest weapon for the Tigers as they looked to be headed towards the playoff. Although the 200-yard streak was snapped he still finished his first seven games with at least 150 yards. Then came Alabama who in one game ended the Heisman hype. In that game, he could only manage 31 yards while his counterpart earned 210 yards which turned out to be a turning point in the Heisman run for Derrick Henry. It was the first of three straight losses and it was the start of the end for Fournette in the Heisman voting. His next game saw less than 100 yards and his time near the top of the league was officially over. Now he enters a new season looking to get back on track with his punishing rushing style. If he can be more consistent this year he may just make a serious run as he is sure to be given plenty of attention from the NFL in what is likely his last year in the NCAA.

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2. Deshaun Watson, QB (Clemson)

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There is little doubt that Deshaun Watson is going to end up as a top pick of the NFL Draft next year. He has the tools that every NFL team is now looking for with the advent of dual-threat quarterbacks now making their way to the professional leagues. These dual threats have been around the NCAA for years but lately with the success of quarterbacks both running and passing teams are attempting to find their version of a Cam Newton, who himself won a Heisman Trophy. Watson fits that mold as he has been one of the biggest reasons for the rise of the Tigers into a national contender. The team will go through some growing pains this year after losing some major players to the NFL and as a result, a lot more pressure is on Watson. He will look to take that pressure to the Heisman and eventually to be the top pick in the draft. The talent is there as he has already shown how great he can be and all he needs to do is continue to play at that level. Playing at his best he can be the winner but he will need to get through that pressure and the target that is now on their backs. Everyone is out to get the Tigers and any loss can end his candidacy as he now learns what it is like to be the man, not just on his campus but throughout the USA.

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1. Christian McCaffrey, RB (Stanford)

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There is one young man at the top of almost everyone’s Heisman list this year and he was one of the most debated players last year. Many thought that McCaffrey should have come into this season as the defending Heisman Trophy winner. He missed out by about 300 points in the voting when he saw Derrick Henry walk up to accept the award last year. A big reason that he did not get the Heisman was the simple fact that Stanford was not able to make the playoff along with the fact that he was relatively unknown until midway through the season. There is no danger of that this year though as McCaffrey is considered the early frontrunner for the trophy and there is a good reason for that. He is the most well-rounded player in the NCAA as a running back that does everything else. Some of his biggest highlights were his returns where he became one of the best in the nation. He added his running ability and an ability to catch out of the backfield making him a threat that you can’t avoid. The secret is out though and he has a massive target on his back as everyone wants to shut him down this year. If someone can find a way the Heisman might slip out of his hands once again but if he can be the same star or a better star than a year ago nothing will stop him from winning the Heisman.

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