To start speculating early, who should be the top candidates for the 2020 Heisman Trophy?
This piece was solid three years ago when the Baker Mayfield Would Win call connected, and two years ago it was full of right ideas, wrong applications, and a whole slew of whiffs.
To be fair, the calls of Tua Tagovailoa, Trevor Lawrence and Jonathan Taylor as top options were hardly crazy, but …
Joe Burrow? Come on.
Justin Fields? He was still a Georgia Bulldog.
Jalen Hurts? He was still on the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Chase Young? Really?
And now in the world of the high-end grad transfer quarterback, the entire shape of the 2020 Heisman Trophy race won’t be close to figured out until the season kicks off.
But that’s not going to stop a few darts being thrown at the wall.
First, we don’t know what we don’t know …
1. Will Lincoln Riley still be the Oklahoma head coach? The Sooner QB gig will still be a big deal no matter what, but the machine might slow a wee bit if Riley is on the Dallas or Cleveland sidelines next year.
2. Who’s going to be that right fit grad transfer, and who’s not going to work out? Yeah, Tate Martell was a key part of last year’s early list … as an Ohio State Buckeye. He was high on the list later last summer when he had declared he was going to Miami, too.
3. Who’ll take over the starting quarterback gigs at … Oregon (Tyler Shough? Super-recruit Jay Butterfield?), LSU (left-handed freshman Max Johnson?), Washington State (Cammon Cooper? Gunner Cruz?). There are plenty of others to get into in a moment.
4. And then there’s the NFL Draft thing. Let’s just assume that Ohio State DE Chase Young, Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa, most of the top Alabama receivers, Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard, Alabama RB Najee Harris, Washington QB Jacob Eason, Georgia RB D’Andre Swift, Boston College RB AJ Dillon, Ohio State RB JK Dobbins, Clemson RB Travis Etienne, and Florida State RB Cam Akers are taking off for the league of mercenaries.
So let’s start with this …
2020 Heisman Trophy Watch List: Names As Fliers … Just In Case
Call this the Joe Burrow Should’ve Been Here Last Year list. It’s a mix of players who could leave early for the NFL and crazy reaches that don’t seem to have a prayer of winning the Heisman … like Joe Burrow.
It’s in alphabetical order, and keep in mind that this is a quarterback award, at least to win it. Go ahead and throw in your favorite running back, receiver, or defensive player in here, but he’s almost certainly not going to win.
QB Ian Book, Sr. Notre Dame
He’s way better than Irish fans give him credit for. He moves the chains, he threw for 33 touchdowns with just six picks, and if hangs on to the gig, he’ll be a three-year starter.
QB James Blackman, Jr. Florida State
Mike Norvell quarterbacks throw for a bazillion yards and make a whole lot of big plays. If the FSU offense makes a quick jump up, Blackman could be a statistical superstar.
QB Charlie Brewer, Sr. Baylor
Will Matt Rhule still be the head coach? Is there any shot that Baylor comes up with the same magic, and Brewer runs for ten scores, throws for 20, and leads the program to within a game of the College Football Playoff again?
QB Micale Cunningham, Jr. Louisville
One of the nation’s best bombers, if he can take the job and make it all his, he’ll average close to 12 yards per pass and put up massive numbers after throwing for 20 scores and averaging 11.4 yards per throw.
QB Jett Duffey, Sr. Transfer Portal
Does he have a team in mind to transfer to? He was one of the interesting names to pop up on the portal after growing into the Texas Tech offense. It all depends on where he goes, but he’ll be in the mix for one of the big offense openings.
QB Jake Fromm, Sr. Georgia
Is he really going to leave early for the NFL? He should, but if he doesn’t, he’s not an automatic top ten guy on the list – the stats aren’t going to be all that amazing. However, he’ll be a four-year starter at the highest of levels on a preseason top five team.
QB Dillon Gabriel, Soph. UCF
It’s a good thing to be Josh Heupel’s starting quarterback. It’s a good thing to be the UCF starting quarterback. If the lefty goes off in the opener against North Carolina and lights up Georgia Tech, he’ll at least be talked about.
QB Hendon Hooker, Soph. Virginia Tech
If you’re looking for your big sleeper who really might be a hit in the Heisman hunt, here you go. It stepped in and was brilliant as a freshman, and now the offense should be all his to run. 30 touchdown passes and ten rushing scores isn’t asking for a whole lot.
QB Brock Purdy, Jr. Iowa State
He threw for almost 3,800 yards and 27 touchdowns with eight rushing scores as one of the most fun quarterbacks in college football – and didn’t get a sniff of the Heisman race. It’s the Big 12, though. He’ll have even better numbers in 2020.
RB Jonathan Taylor, Sr. Wisconsin
He’s insane not to turn pro, but Taylor is a different sort of guy who’s all in on the college experience. Before the Rose Bowl against Oregon, JT23 is just 1,045 yards away from passing Ron Dayne as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher.
If he comes back, he’ll obliterate the record and gets pushed to No. 1 on this list – Dayne, Ricky Williams, and Tony Dorsett were all Heisman winners when they set the mark. Taylor is here because he can’t pass up the NFL … maybe.
QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Jr. UCLA
What happens if this is the year the offense clicks together under Chip Kelly? DTR progressed in a big way, and he could blow up in his third year as the starter.
QB Kyle Trask, Sr. Florida
You would’ve laughed at the idea of Joe Burrow being on this list last year at this time, too. Trask was better than you think, stepping in and throwing for over 2,600 yards with 24 scores and just six picks.
QB Jarren Williams, Soph. Miami
Miami was blown off and forgotten about mainly because it was so mediocre. There’s a chance this all turns around fast under Manny Diaz, and his sophomore signal caller – who had a strong first year when he wasn’t banged up – would be the reason why.