Three SEC players are considered serious contenders for this year’s Heisman Trophy, with a few more candidates waiting in the wings.
Louisiana State running back Leonard Fournette was the favorite for much of 2015 before a poor showing against Alabama in early November. Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly put up gaudy numbers while his team faltered down the stretch, and Georgia running back Nick Chubb watched much of the season from the sideline after a severe knee injury derailed his Heisman campaign.
This summer, the trio stands above the rest of the SEC pack in Bovada.com‘s latest projections. Let’s take a look at the board and then break down the candidates:
- Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB (+350)
- Leonard Fournette, LSU RB (+400)
- Christian McCaffrey, Stanford RB (+500)
- JT Barrett, Ohio State QB (+1000)
- Chad Kelly, Ole Miss QB (+1200)
- Dalvin Cook, Florida State RB (+1200)
- Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB (+1200)
- Nick Chubb, Georgia RB (+1400)
- Josh Rosen, UCLA QB (+1600)
- Royce Freeman, Oregon RB (+2000)
- Samaje Perine, Oklahoma RB (+2000)
- Calvin Ridley, Alabama WR (+2500)
- Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee QB (+2500)
- Brad Kaaya, Miami QB (+3300)
- Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech QB (+3300)
There’s plenty of reason to believe that the SEC can win its second Heisman in as many years. But two of last year’s three finalists — Clemson’s Watson and Stanford’s McCaffrey — are favored to put up giant numbers again.
Here’s a closer look at why your favorite player will win the award … and why he won’t.
Leonard Fournette, LSU RB (+400)
Why he’ll win… Running backs dominated last year’s race, and Derrick Henry proved that a power back with strong — not all-time great — numbers can win the award in a crowded field. Fournette is considered the best traditional back in the country, and the game plan will revolve around him in Baton Rouge. He’ll likely get the numbers he needs to end up in New York.
Why he won’t… The Tigers are not a stable contender. Coach Les Miles nearly was fired last season, and few believe that LSU will be able to mount an elite passing attack this year to help take the pressure off Fournette. It’s tough to see his Heisman campaign ending much differently than it did in 2015.
Chad Kelly, Ole Miss QB (+1200)
Why he’ll win… He’s one of the country’s best quarterbacks — the position that typically wins the award — and he showed he could put up big numbers last season, throwing for 4,042 yards and 31 touchdowns. He’ll need to boost those numbers a bit, but 2015 put him firmly on the Heisman radar. If the Rebels win the West, Kelly will be the primary reason, and voters will reward him.
Why he won’t… Much of last year’s offense is gone, including Kelly’s two tackles and his top receiver, Laquon Treadwell. Ole Miss also has plenty of off-field distractions; if the NCAA hands down a postseason ban, then you can count Kelly out.
Nick Chubb, Georgia RB (+1400)
Why he’ll win… With a big question mark at quarterback, the Bulldogs will be counting on Chubb to carry the offense this season. He’s shown a consistent ability to put up big numbers, and will ride a big Heisman wave if Georgia can surprise people in the East.
Why he won’t… Chubb is coming back from a serious injury, and that does not tend to bode well for running backs. He’s also conceding touches — and important stats — to backup Sony Michel. Oh, and Georgia is sunk if its eventual starting quarterback can’t make big plays.
Calvin Ridley, Alabama WR (+2500)
Why he’ll win… He might be the best wide receiver in the country, and Lane Kiffin has proved to be a pass-happy coordinator when the Crimson Tide have an advantage through the air. Ridley also has the tendency to make tough plays on deep balls, and those SportsCenter highlights — combined with Alabama’s omnipresence — will help him maximize his star power with voters.
Why he won’t… Receivers have only won the Heisman twice in its 81-year history, and the last time it happened was 25 years ago (Michigan’s Desmond Howard). If Amari Cooper couldn’t win it during his dream season in 2014, then there’s little hope for Ridley, especially because Alabama is unsettled at quarterback, and whoever wins the job will have plenty of other receiving options.
Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee QB (+2500)
Why he’ll win… He’s a dual-threat quarterback that is primed for a breakout season. The stats will be there, and the wins will likely be there, as Tennessee is considered a lock for a Top 15 spot in the preseason polls. Throw in the academic narrative — he’s an aerospace engineering major — and the Volunteers’ recent struggles, and voters have an easy guy for which to root.
Why he won’t… There’s so much pressure on the Tennessee football program this season that Neyland Stadium might split in two. Butch Jones might need to halt Florida’s 11-game rivalry winning streak and win the East if he wants to keep fans happy, and Dobbs is second in command. Even if the Vols go undefeated, he’ll likely be splitting votes with star running back Jalen Hurd.
Don’t forget about…
Jalen Hurd, Tennessee RB… Speaking of Hurd (above), the 6-foot-4 junior has already crossed the 2,000-yard and 20-touchdown marks on his career, and has the potential to be the SEC’s most productive runner this season.
Bo Scarbrough, Alabama RB… He’s been listed as a preseason Heisman candidate in some Vegas books, despite the fact that he’s never started a game. Filling Derrick Henry’s shoes will be a tough task, but no one in their right mind is counting out Scarbrough, a former 5-star recruit who could be just as punishing as his predecessor.