Top Heisman hopefuls for 2020

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Clemson is the measuring stick in college football today.

If you turn back to preseason 2019, the front-runners for the Heisman looked something like this:

Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama) +250
Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) +300
Adrian Martinez (Nebraska), Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma) and Justin Fields (Ohio State) +600
Jonthan Taylor (Wisconsin) and Sam Ehlinger (Texas) both at +1500
Justin Herbert (Oregon), Jake Fromm (Georgia), Jerry Jeudy (Alabama), Travis Etienne (Clemson), Shea Patterson (Michigan) and D’Andre Swift (Georgia) were others to come next in the listed odds.

If you looked way down the list, you might have been able to find Joe Burrow. As far as the typical conversation, the eventual Heisman winner was essentially in the impossible category.

You just don’t know who might emerge in 2020. There will be a handful of individuals who will grab the headlines and separate themselves from the pack.

We already have a handle on who will be the early season front-runners, but expect a few dark horses to emerge.

Heisman odds:
Ohio State QB Justin Fields-7-2
Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence 4-1
Georgia QB Jamie Newman (Wake Forest transfer) 10-1
Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler 12-1
Texas QB Sam Ehlinger 20-1
Miami QB D’Eriq King (Houston transfer) 20-1
Alabama QB Mac Jones 20-1
Clemson RB Travis Etienne 25-1
LSU QB Myles Brennan 25-1
Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard 25-1
LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase 100-1

TOP CANDIDIATES:

Fields (6-3, 223) led the fourth best offense in the nation in 2019 as the Buckeyes produced 530 yards per game and the fifth best rushing attack (266.8 yards per). He led the Buckeyes to a 13-1 mark, throwing for 3,273 yards (67.2%), 41 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Fields added 484 yards rushing and 10 scores.

Lawrence (6-6, 220) is 25-1 as a starter for the Tigers. The dual threat passed for 3,665 yards (65.8%) 36 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He ran for 563 yards and nine touchdowns. Clemson’s offense produced 528.7 yards per game last season.

Newman (6-4, 230), a grad transfer from Wake Forest, is expected to make the Georgia offense more dynamic. The Deacons perhaps quielty enjoyed the 15th best offense in the country with 464 yards per outing. Newman threw for 2,868 yards with 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He added 574 yards and six touchdowns as a foot soldier. Some are calling Newman this season’s Burrow.

Ehlinger (6-3, 230) helped the Longhorns to a 8-5 mark in 2019 as the offense averaged 465.8 yards per game with 289 yards through the air. He threw for 3,663 yards (65.2%), 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and rushed for 663 yards and seven scores. When he travels to LSU on September 12th, Ehlinger will be looking to stake his Heisman claim like Burrow did last year in Austin against his ‘Horns.

Rattler (6-0, 198), a redshirt freshman, was a five-star was the top QB nationally in the 2019 signing class. Head coach Lincoln Riley has a history of producing superb quarterbacks like Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts.

King (5-11, 194) posted 4,925 passing yards, 50 touchdowns and 10 interceptions (61.8% completions) at Houston. The dangerous dual-threat ran for 1,421 yards (5.6 average) and 28 touchdowns. The new Hurricanes offensive coordinator is Rhett Lashlee, previously at Auburn, who feels like King has some Burrow-like qualities.

Jones (6-2, 205) played in 10 games last season for Crimson Tide, passing for 1,503 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions. The former four-star prospect in 2017 will be pushed by a 2020 arrival, five-star talent Bryce Young.

Etienne (5-10, 210), a Jennings, La. native, racked up 1,614 yards (7.8 yards/carry) and 19 touchdowns last season while adding 37 catches for 432 yards and four more touchdowns. His career 4,038 rushing yards and 56 touchdowns are worth noting. Etienne has produced consecutive 1,600 rushing yard seasons and earned the ACC Offensive Player of the Year honor both seasons. Being a teammate of Trevor Lawrence may hurt both in any Heisman pursuit.

Brennan (6-4, 212) saw enough playing time in 2019 for 353 yards (60%) with a touchdown and an interceptions. He will be blessed with an abundance of weapons surrounding him in a familiar offense that was the envy of college football last year. Brennan holds the Mississippi prep record with 16,168 passing yards and 166 touchdowns through the air. He has a cannon for an arm and chance to shine.

Hubbard (6-1, 207) dazzled last season at Oklahoma State with 2,094 rushing yards (6.4 average) and 21 touchdowns. He runs a 10.55 hundred meters so he shows abilities as a big play threat and a workhorse runner. He tallied 296 yards vs. Kansas State and 256 yards (with three touchdowns) against Tulsa. The product of Sherwood Park Alberta, Canada dreams about running in the Olympics for his native country. The schedule for 2020 shakes out well for the Cowboys. They could be 6-0 before traveling to rival Oklahoma on Oct. 24th for a showcase game versus Rattler.

Chase (6-1, 207), 2019 Biletnikoff winner, comes off a season with 84 grabs, 1,780 yards and 20 scores. A wideout hasn’t won the Heisman since Tim Brown in 1987 but the Archbishop Rummel will put up monster numbers this fall.

DARKHORSES:

Minnesota junior QB Tanner Morgan (6-2, 215) helped the Gophers beat Auburn, 31-24, in the Outback Bowl to finish 11-2. He threw for 3,253 yards, 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Head coach P.J. Fleck has the Gophers “Rowing the Boat” in the right direction, meaning national exposure will only grow for Morgan, the first QB in school history to exceed 3,000 passing yards and 30 touchdowns.

Memphis sophomore Kenneth Gainwell (5-11, 191) also plays for a program now demanding national attention. The Tigers posted a 12-2 record in ’19 despite dropping the Cotton Bowl to Penn State, 53-39. This season, Memphis could be 9-0 before a key test on road against SMU. Last season, that matchup was on ABC in primetime when the Mustangs won a shootout, 54-48. Gainwell rushed for 1,439 yards and 13 touchdowns and made 51 catches for 510 yards and 3 scores. His highlight game was at ULM when he rolled to 209 yards and 2 touchdowns. Along with QB Brady White and wide receiver Damonte Coxie, opponents won’t be able to solely concentrate on Gainwell. If the Tigers can go unbeaten, he could soar to major awards.

North Carolina sophomore QB Sam Howell (6-1, 225) set an FBS true freshman NCAA record with 38 touchdown passes. The Tar Heels suffered a one-point loss to Clemson and a three-point defeat in six overtimes to Va. Tech. Mack Brown has recruited well already in his second stint with UNC, and Howell has a chance to shine as the Heels try to compete for the ACC title. Howell faces Auburn on September 12th so an early showcase game awaits. Brown has tutored some intriguing college quarterbacks including Vince Young and Colt McCoy while at Texas as well as Ronald Curry at Carolina and Alan Risher at LSU.

USC’s Kedon Slovis (6-2, 185) emerged last year as the Trojans battled to a 8-5 record in 2019. He tossed for 515 yards and four TD’S in a 52-35 win over rival UCLA in a season where he managed 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns. with nine interceptions. He collides with Alabama on Sept. 5th at AT&T Stadium in a major test where he can surely capture the attention of Heisman voters with a big effort.

Brock Purdy (6-1, 210) led the Big XII in passing despite fighting injuries in 2019. The Iowa State signal caller threw for 3,982 yards, 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions while running for eight more scores. He was ranked among the top 10 college quarterbacks last year and has broken 21 school records as a two-year starter. If the Cyclones can stay in the conferencr title race, Purdy will attract plenty of attention.

Shane Buechele (6-1, 207), a Texas transfer, had 3,929 yards passing last season with 34 touchdowns and 10 interception in SMU’s spread passing attack. He was sacked only 17 times since he’s smart and very mobile in the pocket. Buechele gets the offense out of a bad play. The Mustangs were seventh in nation in scoring offense last year, averaging 41.8 points per outing. There’s no reason they can’t duplicate the feat.

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Rene Nadeau

Rene Nadeau

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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…

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