Every year, the Heisman Trophy Award is given to the best player in College Football. Most of the time, that means a quarterback takes home the award, as they get all the national attention. They are almost always the top favorites to win the award, and this year is no different. Pretty much the entire Top 10 in terms of odds to win the award are all QB’s. However, you can’t rule out other positions who can and will make an impact on the field as much as any QB could. Before the 2020 season, nobody would have believed you if you said Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith would win the Heisman. They might even laugh at you for mentioning him in the category of contenders for the award. Nevertheless, he won the award in 2020, and proved that the award could be won by other positions. Let’s take a look at some of the top candidates for the award in the 2021 season.
If you are at all familiar with CFB, you would not be surprised to see Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler at the top of almost every sportsbook as the most likely player to win the Heisman Trophy. Rattler became the first Sooners QB since Sam Bradford in 2007 to earn a selection to the Football Writers Association of America’s Freshman All-America Team. That was a mouthful, but he earned it. Bradford won the Heisman Trophy in 2008 and led Oklahoma to the National Championship Game that same year, so Rattler will be looking to follow in his footsteps.
The Sooners top pass-catcher Marvin Mims was also spectacular last season, becoming the first receiver in school history to be selected as a FWAA Frosh All-American, while also setting a school record for TD receptions in a season by a freshman with nine. The best news of all of the Sooners is that this entire crew is coming back in 2021, and that is a huge reason why Rattler is the favorite to being home the Trophy next season. You can also look for Oklahoma to make an appearance in the College Football Playoff this upcoming year, with Notre Dame looking at a possible down year.
If you thought that award I mentioned that Rattler won last season was long and confusing, take a look at DJ Uiagalelei’s last name. I could put some phonetics in here to try and help you pronounce his name correctly, but it would probably be best if you just pulled up YouTube and watched his highlights from his short stint as a starter in the 2020 season. After coming in as an emergency QB after Trevor Lawrence contracted COVID-19 last season, he led the team to a comeback win against Boston College. He followed that win in his first start up with what is quite possibly the greatest true freshman performance of all-time against Notre Dame. Well, greatest since Lawrence’s 2018 Championship that is.
Uiagalelei threw for 439 yards and two TDs against No. 4 Notre Dame in a double-overtime loss for the Tigers. He immediately assumed the position of the rightful heir to Lawrence’s throne after the latter moved on to the NFL Draft and was taken No. 1 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars. WR Justyn Ross will be back next season after missing the 2020 year for surgery on his neck. With so much talent around him and a great coach in Dabo Swinney, I fully expect to see DJ at the Heisman ceremonies after next season. A date with Georgia early in the season will go a long way towards setting the tone on the type of season he could have with the Tigers.
One thing Georgia has not been known for lately is QB, where the program just hasn’t been able to find a true star at the position in some time. It was especially bad in 2020, with Jamie Newman opting out of the season due to COVID-19, which left the position to be filled by D’Wan Mathis and Stetson Bennett IV. Eventually, Georgia decided to give Daniels a shot at the top of the depth chart. Once he was finally able to play after knee surgery, he lit up the scoreboard and was extremely efficient at the position where no one else could be. That type of play down the stretch has led many to make Georgia a serious College Football Playoff contender, which is music to the ears of head coach Kirby Smart. In four starts with the team, Daniels had a 67% completion rate and passed for 1,231 yards, averaging 10.3 yards per attempt. He also had a 10-2 TD to INT ratio, rarely turning the ball over while being ruthlessly efficient with it.
If the USC transfer can take the next step in his development in 2021, the Georgia Bulldogs will be a team to be reckoned with in the SEC. Daniels should no doubt be in the discussion as a early favorite for the Heisman Trophy.
What’s funny about this one is the fact that Bryce Young is still this high in the odds to win the Heisman Trophy, yet almost the entire Alabama roster from last season has fled the coup. DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris, Mac Jones, and Jaylen Waddle are all gone, taken in the 2021 NFL Draft. As are starting offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood, Landon Dickerson and Deonte Brown. Tight Ends Miller Forristall and Carl Tucker have also left the team. Steve Sarkisian won’t be calling the plays anymore for the Crimson Tide either.
And yet, none of this even seems to matter because Alabama is Alabama and Nick Saben is still the head coach. Young is a 5-star recruit (surprise, surprise) that was the No. 1 overall player in the 2020 recruiting class. As a true freshman, he was 13-22 passing with 156 yards and a TD in very limited action with the team. Former Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien will take over the play-calling duties from Sarkisian. I know, you all think O’Brien is a clown. He was a clown as the GM of the Texans, performing in a role he clearly wasn’t qualified for. But O’Brien did help coach DeShaun Watson into being one of the most dynamic QB’s in the NFL, and he will look to do the same with Young.
Young may be, well, young, but he has all the talent in the world. On a team that is almost guaranteed a spot in the College Football Playoff every year, look for Young to be a serious contender for the Heisman.
Despite being in a similar situation as Young, where all of his top weapons around him from last season are now gone, Howell is still a top-5 Heisman Trophy contender for the 2021 season. He has limitless potential and talent leading the Tar Heels bombs away offense, and that shows by his ranking here. WR’s Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome are gone, lost to the NFL Draft, as are RB’s Javonte Williams and Michael Carter. These four players accounted for 4,189 yards and 48 TDs last season for North Carolina, yet Howell is still expected to put up crazy numbers with all of the newcomers.
Last year as a sophomore, Howell finished fourth in the nation with 3,586 passing yards, while also throwing 30 TDs with seven picks. He completed 68% of his passes while averaging 10.3 yards per attempt. He had five TDs on the ground as well, showing that he can use his legs as well as his arm. You’re probably comparing him to the last guy who sounds just like this and played for North Carolina. Who knows, maybe the Mitch curse is real, but Mitch Trubisky was great in college for the Tar Heels. This is a college football article; I can’t tell you if he’ll be any good in the pros. But he will be right there with the rest of the best in 2021.
Miami QB D’Eriq King had an unfortunate end to his 2020 season after tearing his ACL against Oklahoma State in the Cheez-It Bowl, just literal days after he announced his plans to return to the school for his extra season of eligibility. King has had a very difficult recovery period that he faced over the summer, but he is expected to be healthy enough to start the season for the Hurricanes. They will have a tough test right off the bat with Bryce Young and Alabama waiting for them, but King should be primed and ready for the big game. After Alabama, the ‘Canes should be one of the top contenders to Clemson in the ACC. King threw for 2,686 yards and 23 TDs in his first season in South Beach, while adding another 538 yards and four scores on the ground.
The uncertainty surrounding King after his injury late last season is very high, and we don’t know how prone he is to re-injury. Torn ACL’s can be a disaster for the career of any athlete, just ask Derrick Rose or Saquan Barkley. Others have still been able to thrive after the injury, just look at Adrien Peterson in 2013. His spot on this list goes to show that oddsmakers still believe in King, and that he will be contending with the Hurricanes in 2021.
We don’t even know that Stroud will for sure be the starting QB for the Buckeyes when they kick off their season, but it looks like oddsmakers do. He is a top-10 candidate to win the Heisman at most books, and it seems as though Ohio State has joined the list of teams like Oklahoma and Alabama on producing favorites at QB every year. Since head coach Ryan Day arrived in 2016, he’s mentored J.T. Barrett into becoming a productive passer, while also producing historic seasons with Dwayne Haskins and Justin Fields. His biggest task yet is now here, as he will have to develop a QB he recruited into a star, and that’s looking more and more like it will be Stroud.
Jack Miller and Kyle McCord will also get a crack at the starting job, but Stroud is the clear favorite. He ranked as ESPN’s No. 2 pocket passer in the 2020 recruiting class, while Miller was also a top 300 prospect in that class. McCord was the No. 4 pocket passer in the 2021 class, and will likely need more time to develop. Day is one of the best QB developers in the country, and Ohio State already has one of the best WR cores in the nation. Whoever is the starter, they will almost certainly be in contention for the Heisman in 2021.
Matt Corral is a relatively unknown player in CFB that many are probably wondering who he is. He is an extremely interesting prospect that plays for Lane Kiffin down in Ole Miss, and he’s also a name that you will be seeing quite a bit in 2021. In 2020, his exposure to most of the country was limited because Ole Miss was not great, but that should change in 2021. Corral threw for an insane 3,337 yards and 29 TDs in Kiffin’s quick-tempo, pass-heavy scheme, and should only improve this upcoming year. Against top competition like Florida and Alabama, he completed 70% of his throws while passing for five TDs and only one pick, showing that he is not afraid of the big boys of the SEC. Corral was unstoppable against lesser competition like Vanderbilt and South Carolina, where he passed for 925 yards and nine TDs combined against just those two programs.
He was not without his hiccups, and against Arkansas and LSU, he threw 11 of his 14 picks. He needs to shake off those types of performances and be a consistent threat against everyone, and if he does, he very well could be a huge factor in the Heisman race come the end of the 2021 season.
Unlike Corral, you probably have heard of Slovis, who commandeers the helm of the USC Trojans passing attack. He was also on last year’s list of Heisman contenders after having a record-setting freshman year at the school. He was still productive last season, just not enough to win the coveted trophy. Having five picks in your last two games of the season will bury you like that. He has two-year totals of 5,423 yards and 47 TDs, while completing an impressive 70% of his passes. Slovis plays in a very QB-friendly system under offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, and the USC receiving core is among the most talented in the nation.
The challenge will always be if he is able to get USC into the College Football Playoff, because it can be notoriously difficult for PAC-12 players to win the award because they play on the west coast, far away from most eyes. However, Slovis is in a great position to succeed, and he is playing for one of the few PAC-12 programs that people watch. USC has had seven Heisman winners, which is six more than any other program in the conference. If he is able to light up defenses and start winning games, he will quickly be on the national radar once again to win the Heisman trophy.
Last one on our list, and but by the grace of god, we have finally left the QB pool. Like I said way earlier in this article, it is very hard for a player that is not a QB to win the Heisman. It takes an extremely special year of highlights and incredible stats, paired with winning a ton of games and possibly a championship. In Texas, the attention will go to who will win the QB job now that Sam Ehlinger is out of town and Steve Sarkisian is the new head coach. However, the offense will most likely run through offensive superstar Robinson. He emerged down the stretch of last season as a big-time playmaking threat, piling on 355 yards and four TDs in his last two games, despite only 19 carries. He averaged 8 yards per carry, and his touches will skyrocket in 2021.
In Sarkisian’s system, he will most likely also be utilized as a threat catching the ball out of the backfield, or even lining up at wideout. He had a rough start to last season, but there was a reason he was the No. 3 ranked RB in the 2020 recruiting class, and he showed it as the season went on. Look for him to only get better this year in 2021, and be one of the very few players who could challenge for the Heisman that isn’t a QB.