Heisman Watch: 7 players to watch this season

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Even without a single snap played this season an array of players, mostly across the power conferences, have been tabbed as Heisman hopefuls by a variety of media sources.

There are the typical positions, quarterback and running back, that make up 19 of the past 20 Heisman winners. Dominating the list while a few rare positions, wide receiver and a defensive end, that are being mentioned as well.

So here are seven players, in no particular order, to look for come December. Remember, I reserve the right to change my mind on a weekly basis.

1. Braxton Miller (QB, Ohio State) – Miller finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting last season after leading his bowl-banned Buckeyes to a 12-0 record. He became a true dual threat in his second season as a starting quarterback, adding more than 70 yards per game to his passing attack and a little more than 45 yards per game to his rushing impact. Heading into his second season under head coach Urban Meyer, who coached Heisman winning Tim Tebow in 2007, Miller is poised for a run to New York if the Buckeyes can roll through the Big 10 again. Possible missteps could be a week three road test against California and a road game against rival Michigan for the last regular season game.

2. Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville) – One thing Bridgewater has going for him is his momentum from last season. The Big East Offensive Player of the Year last season led his Cardinals to a nationally televised Sugar Bowl win over the No. 3 Florida Gators, completing 20-of-32 for 266 yards and two touchdowns. One thing going against Bridgewater is that one loss in the recently renamed American Athletic Conference (AAC) could end any flight plans to New York for the talented junior.

3. De’Anthony Thomas (RB, Oregon) – A dual threat out of the backfield returning for his junior campaign with other key Ducks’ skill players such as sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota and senior wide receiver Josh Huff. Thomas, who anchored his 4×100 relay team to the sixth fastest time in Oregon history last year, is thought of as one of the fastest players in college football. K-State became a victim of Thomas’ speed in the Fiesta Bowl when he took the opening kickoff back 94 yards for a touchdown in Oregon’s 35-17 win over the Wildcats. A few possible roadblocks for Thomas getting to New York in December include the other collection of threats on Oregon’s fast-paced offense and a road matchup with Stanford, who handed the Ducks their only loss last season.

4. Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M;) – If Manziel can leave all of the controversy that filled the reigning Heisman Trophy winner’s offseason off the field, then Manziel will have a chance to be the second repeat Heisman winner – Archie Griffin won back-to-back in 1974-1975 for Ohio State. Fortunately, Manziel plays under quarterback guru Kevin Sumlin, who coached passing sensation Case Keenum at Houston. The Aggies’ schedule is favorable – for an SEC schedule, that is – as they avoid games against Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. But a third week Alabama clash could be Manziel’s make-or-break chance at a second Heisman Trophy.

5. A.J. McCarron (QB, Alabama) – What better way to wrap up a nearly flawless career than a Heisman Trophy for the guy dating a model? McCarron enters this season with a 24-2 record as a starter for Alabama. His Rolling Tide are ranked No. 1 entering the season as he tries to lead them to the program’s third straight BCS National Championship and its fourth in five years. Last season, McCarron led the nation in passing efficiency (173.08) and threw a school record 26 touchdowns.

6. Tajh Boyd (QB, Clemson) – After a breakout season that included 3,896 passing yards and an ACC-record 36 touchdown against 13 interceptions to go along with 514 rushing yards, Boyd and the No. 8 Tigers are set up for a run at the ACC title. A season-opening matchup with Georgia could go a long way in determining Boyd’s Heisman fate.

7. Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina) – Nearly a lock for the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, Clowney is still a historical long shot to win the Heisman Trophy. The last defensive player to receive the honor was Charles Woodson, a defensive back and return man for Michigan in 1997.

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