Whole Nine Sports

Heisman Candidates You Should Know

Trevor Lawrence Heisman
Brandon Olsen
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Arguably the most coveted individual award in all of sports, the Heisman Trophy is given out to the most outstanding college football player every year. Although the college football season doesn’t start for another 2 months, it’s never too early to talk about who the top Heisman candidates are. With betting odds from BetOnline, I break down some safe bets and some dark horse candidates.

QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama +250

Tua Tagovailoa Heisman

Tua is the most accurate quarterback in college football, surrounded by the best supporting cast in college football, with one of the easier schedules in the SEC. Generally thought of as QB1 heading into this season, Tagovailoa has some high expectations. The clear favorite early on, Tua has some injury concerns with his knee that he struggled with most of last season. Expect Tua to put up similar stats to last season, except he should be even more efficient with the full offseason as a starter this year.

2018 stats: 69%, 3,966 yards, 43 passing TDs, 6 INTs, 199.4 QB rating, 57 carries, 190 yards, 5 rushing TDs.

QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson +300

Trevor Lawrence Heisman

The man commonly dubbed as “Football Jesus” is also the only QB to beat Tua Tagovailoa in 23 games. The true freshman QB has already garnered enough hype to the point where people are saying he’s the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning. One of the reasons that I could see Trevor Lawrence not winning the Heisman is that he and Clemson might be too good. Against Louisville, Lawrence went 8/12 with 59 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT and Clemson won that game 77-16. When it comes down to it, the Heisman goes to whichever player puts up the gaudiest numbers, which Lawrence can’t do if Clemson dominates everyone again this year.

2018 stats: 65.2%, 3,280 yards, 30 passing TDs, 4 INTs, 157.6 QB rating, 60 carries, 177 yards, 1 rushing TD, 1 catch, -12 yards(Didn’t start until the fifth game)

QB Adrian Martinez, Nebraska +600

Adrian Martinez Heisman

Another QB that was a freshman in 2018, Adrian Martinez managed to do what no Nebraska QB has done since Eric Crouch: make a Nebraska offense entertaining. Being a QB in the Big 10 isn’t an easy task. AJ Epenesa, Chase Young, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Kenny Willekes are all pass-rushers that reside in the Big 10. Martinez is without his top RB and WR from last year but he’s a QB that can both pass and run, something that a lot of young QB can’t claim. His dual-threat ability is exactly the kind of thing that makes Adrian Martinez a requirement when discussing potential Heisman candidates for the 2019-20 season.

2018 stats: 64.6%, 2,617 yards, 17 passing TDs, 8 INTs, 139.5 QB rating 140 carries, 629 yards, 8 rushing TDs, 1 catch, -11 yards

QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma +600

Jalen Hurts Heisman

Jalen Hurts is probably the most interesting case offensively on this list. Hurts was formerly at Alabama, where he lost his starting job to Tua Tagovailoa but now he’s transferred to Transfer U, better known as Oklahoma. Oklahoma transfer QBs hold the last two Heisman trophies and Jalen Hurts is hoping to make it a three-peat. He’s a better runner than thrower. However, if anyone can fix Jalen Hurts’ problem as a QB, it’s Lincoln Riley. In the most offensively-driven conference in the country, with a top coach in college football, Hurts has to instantly be a Heisman candidate early on.

2018 stats: 72.9%, 765 yards, 8 passing TDs, 2 INTs, 196.7 QB rating, 36 carries, 167 yards, 2 rushing TDs, 2 catches, 16 yards

QB Justin Fields, Ohio State +600

Justin Fields Heisman

Yet another 2018 freshman QB makes the list. Fields was a backup at Georgia before transferring to Ohio State and joining first-year head coach Ryan Day in Columbus. Fields is a true dual-threat that was a top recruit coming out of high school just one year ago. In a very stat-productive offense with a  strong supporting cast, Fields could be a dark horse with great odds to win the Heisman.

2018 stats: 69.2%, 328 passing yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, 173.7 QB rating, 42 carries, 266 yards, 4 rushing TDs, 1 catch, -10 yards

RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin +1500

Jonathan Taylor Heisman

We’ve now reached the point where the odds have dropped off a cliff. Non-quarterbacks have only won the Heisman twice since 2000. (That’s right Reggie Bush, you don’t count.) If there’s a non-QB that would win the Heisman this season, it will likely be Jonathan Taylor. Wisconsin tends to line up and just run it down the throats of their opponents. Taylor has 606 carries over the past two years and it’s likely he’ll continue the 311-touch average that he’s seen so far. After finishing in the top-10 in Heisman voting two years in a row, it’s likely that Taylor is looking to make a stronger case this season, but I still wouldn’t take this bet.

2018 stats: 307 carries, 2,194 yards, 7.1 YPC, 16 rushing TDs, 8 catches, 60 yards

QB Justin Herbert, Oregon +3000

Justin Herbert Heisman

With back-to-back candidates where the odds plummet, we’re brought back to the quarterback position with Justin Herbert from Oregon. Going into 2018, Herbert was thought of as the consensus QB1 but now, he’s got a lot more competition. Herbert is coming off of his least-efficient season with his highest volume so far. If Herbert can be more consistent this coming season, he could make a strong push for Heisman playing behind a top college offensive line with weapons like Juwan Johnson, Cam McCormick, Jacob Breeland, CJ Verdell, and Jaylon Redd.

2018 stats: 59.4%, 3,151 yards, 29 passing TDs, 8 INTs, 144.6 QB rating, 71 carries, 166 yards, 2 rushing TDs

WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama +3000

Jerry Jeudy Heisman

The only receiver on this list is the one that scouts have been comparing to Odell Beckham Jr. The hype for Jerry Jeudy has been building since last season and it’s currently at an all-time high. The All-American and 2018 Biletnikoff Award winner is averaging 19.3 yards per catch over his career and he’ll be looking to make that number even more absurd this season. The main issue with Jeudy having a Heisman-caliber season is that his QB, Tua Tagovialoa, is also a Heisman candidate, so for every stat Jeudy has, it’s likely that Tua would have been the one to get him the ball. Jeudy is unquestionably the best receiver in college football right now, but I think he’s a long shot for the Heisman, unless Tua gets hurt.

2018 stats: 68 catches, 1,315 yards, 19.3 average, 14 receiving TDs

QB Sam Ehlinger, Texas +4000

Sam Ehlinger Heisman

The last two Heisman winners were quarterbacks in the Big 12 and although he’s not a favorite, Sam Ehlinger could be looking to continue that trend. “Baby Tebow” is a rough and tumble mobile QB with an underrated arm, but what sets him apart is his leadership. Ehlinger seemingly breathes Texas football and when you have a QB that dedicated and that intense, anything can happen. With a returning Collin Johnson, Ehlinger kept his best receiver from last season. Ehlinger has been a fairly efficient quarterback that runs like a fullback and the last time we saw that, it was a Heisman winning National Champion from Florida.

2018 stats: 64.7%, 3,292 yards, 25 passing TDs, 5 INTs, 146.8 QB rating, 164 carries, 48 yards, 16 rushing TDs, 5 catches, 51 yards

Others You Should Know Without Odds

QB D’Eriq King, Houston N/A

D'Eriq King

The main attraction for the 2018 Houston Cougars was defensive linemen Ed Oliver. This year? It’s quarterback D’Eriq King, who’s now being paired with former West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorson. King is an electric QB that will hopefully be allowed to let loose in Holgorsen’s high-power offense. King is a true dark horse candidate that should be able to put up some jaw-dropping numbers. The biggest negative in his Heisman candidates however, is that he plays in the AAC, which we’ve seen non-power 5 QBs put up absurd numbers but the level of competition hurt their chances of being Heisman winners. (Still love you, Jordan Lynch.)

2018 stats: 63.5%, 2,982 yards, 36 passing TDs, 6 INTs, 167.0 QB rating, 111 carries, 674 yards, 14 rushing TDs, 1 catch, 12 yards

S Grant Delpit, LSU N/A

Grant Delpit

The final three candidates are top 10 football players in the nation that because of being defensive players, likely won’t be too seriously considered for the Heisman but it would be disrespectful and I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I didn’t mention them. DB1 heading into the 2019 college football season, Delpit has some high expectations wearing the prestigious #7 for LSU. A 2018 All-American, Delpit is expected to have an even stronger season than he did last year, both in coverage and against the run.

2018 stats: 74 total tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 5 sacks, 5 INTs, 1 INT return yard, 9 pass defenses, 1 FF, 1 FR

EDGE AJ Epenesa, Iowa N/A

AJ Epenesa

AJ Epenesa had 10.5 sacks last season as a rotational rusher and if that doesn’t shock you, then you must already know who Epenesa is. Given the difficulty for a defensive player to win the Heisman, it’s unlikely that an edge rusher can win the Heisman unless they have 18+ sacks against top competition. Well, I wouldn’t be completely shocked if Epenesa managed to do that. He’s arguably the best player in college football right now and this Iowa pass rush will run through him.

2018 stats: 37 total tackles, 16.5 TFLs, 10.5 sacks, 3 pass defenses, 4 FFs, 1 FR, 1 defensive TD

EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State N/A

Chase Young

Ohio State seems to just churn out pass-rushing talent at a non-stop rate and that’s not ending yet. Chase Young is next in line to be a premier pass-rusher for the Buckeyes and people are already taking notice. Finally being the guy in Columbus, Chase Young is looking to live up to the hype, defeat the odds, and be the first defensive Heisman winner since Charles Woodson, who played special teams and some offense too.

2018 stats: 33 total tackles, 14.5 TFLs, 9.5 sacks, 5 pass defenses, 1 FF