This morning I kicked off my 2011 college football preview content on Examiner.com by listing my 2011 Heisman Trophy hopefuls. It was pretty easy to tab some of the favorites, with three of last year’s finalists all returning to the field in 2011.
Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Oregon’s LaMichael James, and Boise State’s Kellen Moore are all back this season but before you place a favorite label on any of these guys don’t forget about Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Oklahoma State’s talented duo of quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Blackmon may be the top wide receiver in the game this fall.
While a preseason list is fun to read and critique I always love looking out for the players who nobody is talking about who come out of nowhere to make a case for the Heisman Trophy, one of the 100 reasons we love college football. Last year I think that player was Denard Robinson, who lit up opposing defenses early on in the season, but once Big Ten play got underway he was started to get figured out and defenses were able to limit the damage done by him.
So who will that player be this season? Any guesses?
I listed South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore on my list under notable players to watch, and I think he has potential to be a Heisman candidate before his college days are up. He may be a long shot this season when all is said and done but if South Carolina duplicates their success form last season then don’t be surprised to see if Lattimore in the discussion into November.
I’ll take a stab at a player we may be talking more about by the end of the season (someone I left off my list of Heisman hopefuls). Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel takes over the offense from Christian Ponder, who many felt was worthy of Heisman hype before being injured. I have made no secret of the fact that I believe Florida State is on the rise and will be in the BCS picture as a title contender as early as 2012, but if Manuel can get on track early and lead the Seminoles to a key non-conference win at home against Oklahoma in mid-September and make sure Florida State avoids a let-down in the ACC schedule (on the road at Clemson a week after Oklahoma is tough) then Manuel and Florida State could be in store for great things this season.
There are probably a number of players that have the potential to make a surprise run at the most exclusive sports fraternity in the country. Take a look at some of the sophomores around the country this season. Are there any that stand out to you as the kind of player who can make a run? It is now not unheard of to see a sophomore in the conversation (we just witnessed three consecutive sophomores win the award between Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford and Mark Ingram).
Let me know what you think about this year’s Heisman race at this early stage.