Looking ahead to 2019 Heisman Trophy contenders

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Sam Ehlinger
Texas QB Sam Ehlinger could make a run at the Heisman Trophy in 2019 (Photo: Parker Waters)

Except for one game, the College Football Playoff Championship, we are about to drop the curtain on the 2018 season. The ’19 college football campaign is expected to be loaded with exciting plays and exciting players, of course. Here are the players that I believe will be the headliners and the Heisman Trophy favorites.

Oregon’s Justin Herbert is no secret. Yes, must admit, I was a bit taken back when the 6-foot-6, 240 pound native of Eugene, Oregon decided skip the NFL draft and return for his senior season with the Ducks. He was ticketed to be the first QB selected, if not the top overall pick.

Playing for his home team means something to Herbert, who may get some emotional votes in the Heisman race because of his loyalty.

This season, Herbert tossed for 2,985 yards, 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions. At one point, he threw 250 passes without an interception. In his career, he has accounted for 6,904 yards through the air with 62 touchdown passess. Herbert has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 27 consecutive contests.

Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa will be a junior in ’19. The Ewa Beach, Hawaii product suffered late season injuries which likely cost him the Heisman this past season. Tua did throw for 3,353 yards with 37 touchdowns and only four picks with five more scores as a runner. Despite the presence of the capable Jalen Hurts as another Bama QB option, Tua is still the heart and soul of the Crimson Tide offense.

Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, the 6-6 gunslinger, was the top rated recruit in the 2018 signing class. He prepped at Carterville (Georgia) where he broke the state passing record held by DeShaun Watson by passing for 13,902 career yards with 161 touchdown passes. As a true freshman this season, Lawrence had 2,606 yards through the air this season with 24 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Lawrence’s teammate will undoubtedly be able to rack up some votes in 2019. The star Clemson running back was named first-team All American this season as a sophomore. The Jennings, La. native who had tallied 8,864 career yards and 115 touchdowns as a prepster compiled 1,572 yards (8.3 yard average) with 22 touchdowns this season for the Tigers. Despite those gaudy high school numbers, Etienne was the last player to commit to Clemson for their ’17 class. He was ranked as the fourth best player in Louisiana. Humble and shy off, Etienne is a blur on the field with a 4.32 forty time. Some scouts consider him the best overall running back prospect in the 2020 NFL draft.

Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor is the latest in a line of Badger workhorse backs. In his freshman campaign in 2017, he became only one of seven true freshman to reach 1,000 yards rushing in the first seven contests of his FBS career joining Marshall Faulk, Adrian Peterson and Emmitt Smith. He broke Adrian Peterson’s freshman college football rushing mark with 1,966 yards. Fast and strong, Taylor boasts a 4.42 forty and 10.49 hundred meters while power cleaning 315 pounds. This season he finished with 2,194 yards (7.1 yards) and 16 touchdowns. Taylor, who set the New Jersey high school single season mark as a senior with 2,510 yards and 35 touchdowns, hopes the join former Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne who captured the Heisman in 1999.

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger is an Austin native born to be a Longhorn. He had 3,123 yards passing for the ’18 season with 25 touchdowns and just five interception including six consecutive 200-yard games (only the fourth time that has been done in school history). He had 349 yards in an upset of Oklahoma this season and set a Big 12 record with 308 consecutive throws without an interception. Ehlinger, the seventh player in ‘Horns history to surpass 5,000 yards passing, wrapped up ’18 with a stellar performance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl in a 28-21 Texas win over Georgia.

Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins from LaGrange, Texas is next. With a pair of star Buckeyes teammates – running back Mike Weber and quarterback Dwayne Haskins – likely headed to the NFL, Dobbins will be the focus of the offense. He is only the fourth freshman in Buckeye history to exceed 1,000 yards rushing and only the sixth true freshman at Ohio State to start a season opener, joining offensive lineman Michael Jordan, running back Maurice Clarett, linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer, quarterback Art Schlichter and offensive tackle Orlando Pace.

Dobbins is a complete back, running for 1,403 yards and seven touchdowns in ’17 and 1,029 yards with nine scores this season. He also has 45 catches for 383 yards and three more TD’s. Dobbins battles for the tough yards and is good blocker.

Boston College’s A.J. Dillon is a 245-pound bruiser in the backfield. The New London, Connecticut product originally pledged to Michigan. His grandfather, Tom Gatewood, was an All-American wideout at Notre Dame in 1970 and played five seasons with the New York Giants. This power back ended up in Boston, where he had 1,589 yards and 14 scores in 2017 and added 1,108 yards and with 10 touchdowns this season. Although nursing an ankle injury this season, Dillon played through it as the centerpiece of the Eagles offense.

Georgia freshman running back D’Andre Swift came down south from Philadelphia and tallied 186 yards against Auburn this season. Former Alabama and NFL star runner Shaun Alexander was impressed with Swift after viewing him. Many more analysts marvel at his explosiveness. SEC analyst Greg McElroy called Swift one of the the top four players he saw in 2018. Swift finished with 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns for the season in a shared backfield.

Washington’s Jacob Eason transferred from Georgia after he lost the QB battle to Jacob Fromm. Eason was a 5 star recruit in the 2016 class who is a good fit for the Huskies as a drop back, pocket passer. In 2016 at Georgia, he did account for 2,430 yards and 16 touchdowns with eight interceptions. He’ll step in for departing starter Jake Browning.

Ordinarily, UCF’s McKenzie Milton would have been a candidate in the group, but the star quarterback will be considered a long shot following his injury this season. If the 5-11 magician can pull off a miracle recovery from a gruesome leg injury, he will jump into the competition. In 11 games in 2018, Milton threw for 2,663 yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions. For his career , he has 8,683 yards 72 touchdowns and 22 picks while also rushing for 1,078 yards and 20 touchdowns. He will have a tough rehab road ahead.

Receivers are long shots to capture the coveted Heisman, but Purdue freshman Rondale Moore is special. With 4.33 forty speed and incredible burst, he was named first-team All American and captured the Paul Hornung Award after catching 103 passes for 1,164 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Boilermakers. The New Albany, Indiana native originally committed to the Texas Longhorns before shifting direction.

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