2017 NCAA Football Preview: Heisman Watch

2015 Heisman Trophy PresentationThe Heisman Trophy is one of the biggest major individual awards in North American sports handed out to the best player in College Football.

It is an award that all college football players are looking for when they start their careers but only a select few have ever been able to earn their award.

Some of the biggest names in college football have won the award and many have gone on to great professional careers.

They will always be remembered as the greatest players in the history of the sport and the NCAA but the award is not necessarily as simple as it first seems.

As the sport has grown the award has been less about pure skill and value and a lot more about exposure.

Now the award is about the player that has the skill but can also get in front of the cameras more often than the other potential winners.

There is still a lot of skill involved in the decision as a player can be in front of the cameras all season but not put up the stats and he will never win the award.

There are still a number of great players that put up amazing stats every year and are easily the most valuable players on their team but can’t get anywhere close to the Heisman.

It is a mix of being a great player, playing on the right team and getting the media coverage that can get you the votes.

It hasn’t necessarily changed too much as the award has always been about the best player with the biggest following.

The only difference is that the competition for that following has grown bigger than ever.

In the past, there were only a few big teams and all of the best players went to those few teams meaning they got the exposure on the national stage.

Now there are still some big teams but there are more of them and there are more programs that aren’t that big getting exposure.

Now teams have to actually campaign to get their players on the list to be voted as the best player in the NCAA.

Anyone playing in the Big Five could make a legitimate run at the Heisman but those players need to have already done something and then put together a great season.

Only players that can break through all of the noise can really make a push towards the Heisman.

In the preseason it helps if that player plays on one of the big programs that have a real shot at the College Football Playoff.football-sidebar

Those teams are assumed to have the biggest chance for their players to be seen against the truly great competition.

The favourites before every season come out of those big programs because people are talking about the big programs more than anyone at this time of year.

Their best players are already getting the exposure that they need to win the Heisman and now it becomes a matter of them performing up to the hype that has been built.

The interesting part about some of the more recent winners is that they are often never on the preseason watch lists.

They are the players on the outskirts that people know of but are not high enough on to rank them among the top players before the season begins.

Last year is the perfect example as many people knew of Lamar Jackson but nobody knew just how good he was going to be in 2016.

He wasn’t on any major Heisman lists before the season began but he put any doubt to rest as the season began.

He put up massive numbers to the point where nobody could ignore him and he began rising up the rankings until finally winning the Heisman.

Two years before Jameis Winston experienced the same phenomena and won his Heisman Trophy.

It hasn’t been a consistent thing though as Derrick Henry was part of the biggest program in college football right now and Marcus Mariota was considered one of the two main potential winners when he took his Heisman.

The big theme surrounding all of them is that they are all a part of big programs, some much bigger than others.

That is what is needed to win the Heisman and the main players looking to take the award this year are all part of those big programs with a good shot, but anything can happen.

barrett

It has been an interesting time in Columbus for J.T. Barrett who came into Ohio State as a top-ranked dual-threat quarterback. After sitting for a year as a redshirt he quickly took over the starting role only to lose it to Cardale Jones. The battle between the two became a story for a number of years and all the while either was mentioned in the Heisman barrett-statsTrophy race at some point. For Barrett, his closest season was in 2014 when he finished 5th overall and helped the Buckeyes to an 11-1 record on the season. The next year he played more of a back-up role on the National Championship team then took over the starting role again in 2016. He has been up and down due to injuries but last year was his comeback season and now he is getting some recognition for that season. Now he returns for his final season in college football looking to end things in the perfect way. He has all of the talent to win the Heisman as a legitimate dual threat with an offence that is among the best in the NCAA. He is also a part of one of the biggest programs in the country as Ohio State has been among the playoff teams for two of the three CFP years and they get the exposure that a player needs. Barrett will be a top pick in next year’s draft and all of those factors put together make him a good bet to win the Heisman this year. He just needs to follow through and show his talent if he wants to get there. All of the pieces are available for him but the expectations are going to be high and he will need to exceed them if he wants to win the Heisman this year.

darnold

There may be no school with higher exposure for potential Heisman Trophy winners than the University of Southern California. They are the team that everyone in the media wants to win because they are one of the biggest programs in the country. They dominate the Western market and they know that they have to be good every year. So every year darnold-statsthey continue to add great players from around the country and despite not being a part of the playoff since it began they continue to have great players. That includes Heisman hopefuls in what seems like every single year as the USC continues to get top talent and they continue to get massive exposure. For the last few years though the Trojans have not been able to find that one star with Marqise Lee marking the last true Heisman contender from the school in 2012. They may have their best shot since that time in Sam Darnold who truly came on the scene in the Rose Bowl last year when he threw for five touchdowns. After a great year in relative anonymity in 2016, he looks to break out in 2017. It is clear that the talent is there for Darnold but an offence lacking some of the top talent from a year ago could be an issue. Along with the fact that he will not be hiding anymore as everyone knows who he is and his campaign has already begun. Dealing with that pressure is going to be a big issue and dealing with that pressure with some of the biggest stars of the team a year ago now in the NFL is only going to make things tougher. For a second year QB, it might be too much but Darnold is at USC and that has always been a part of the deal.

barkley

Running backs have not had the greatest time over the last few years with the NFL moving further away from feature backs. It has made the position less desirable for the pros and that has only come from an evolution in the college game. The NCAA has seen a boom in offences that rely heavily on the passing game and the quarterbacks. As many barkley-statsteams begin moving to those pass heavy offences they are forgetting about the running back. More often than not they are either kept in as an extra blocker or they are used as another receiver eliminated what they were originally meant for in an offence. The shift has left backs as an almost extinct position in the game despite the fact that they used to be the motor in every offence. Not every offence has switched completely though as there are still some great running backs out there. The Heisman Trophy voters know this and there is always a few backs in consideration including 2015 Heisman winner, Derrick Henry.  Running backs will always get a chance but they have to do some spectacular things in order to outdue those dual threat quarterbacks that have been dominating over the past few years. The latest to take on that challenge is Saquon Barkley who is likely the top back to go in next year’s draft. Barkley is by far the best back in the country and is one of the strongest backs to come out of college in a very long time. He will be the motor of the Penn State offence this year much like he was last year and if he can put up big numbers he might be able to get that Heisman Trophy. That is the challenge though as he will need to put up some serious numbers to take the award.

jackson

This season was never really supposed to happen for Mayfield as the Texas Tech transfer was done with his eligibility in the NCAA. That was until he launched a battle against the NCAA rule that requires players to sit out a year when they transfer from one school to another. Mayfield argued that because he was a walk-on at Texas Tech that the rule jackson-statsshould not apply to him and after a three-year battle he finally won establishing the “Baker Mayfield Rule” that allows transfers that were walk-ons and without a written scholarship offer to transfer without sitting out that year. As a result, he got one year of eligibility back from that transfer year and so he returns for his final year with his final shot at the Heisman Trophy sitting right in front of him. For the last two years he has been among the favourites for the Heisman and last year he took second place in the voting just behind Jackson. Now in his final year, he has a better chance than ever as the senior statesman in the Heisman watch list. He returns with a great offence in a big conference and the plenty of good opponents to test himself against. What he will really need to do will be to get going on the ground a little more this time around. A year before he rose above 400 yards while last year he only rushed for 177 yards and in this day rushing and passing will mean the difference. For Mayfield, this is his best shot that he has had and after finishing just short of the goal last year he is looking to go out on top to take his first Heisman Trophy and follow through on the promise he has shown in the last few years.

Capital One Orange Bowl - Clemson v Oklahoma

This season was never really supposed to happen for Mayfield as the Texas Tech transfer was done with his eligibility in the NCAA. That was until he launched a battle against the NCAA rule that requires players to sit out a year when they transfer from one school to another. Mayfield argued that because he was a walk-on at Texas Tech that the rule mayfield-stats.jpgshould not apply to him and after a three-year battle he finally won establishing the “Baker Mayfield Rule” that allows transfers that were walk-ons and without a written scholarship offer to transfer without sitting out that year. As a result, he got one year of eligibility back from that transfer year and so he returns for his final year with his final shot at the Heisman Trophy sitting right in front of him. For the last two years he has been among the favourites for the Heisman and last year he took second place in the voting just behind Jackson. Now in his final year, he has a better chance than ever as the senior statesman in the Heisman watch list. He returns with a great offence in a big conference and the plenty of good opponents to test himself against. What he will really need to do will be to get going on the ground a little more this time around. A year before he rose above 400 yards while last year he only rushed for 177 yards and in this day rushing and passing will mean the difference. For Mayfield, this is his best shot that he has had and after finishing just short of the goal last year he is looking to go out on top to take his first Heisman Trophy and follow through on the promise he has shown in the last few years.

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