2014 Preseason Award Projections: Heisman Trophy

By Charlie Campbell
Send Charlie an e-mail here: [email protected]
Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell for updates.

Heading into the 2014 college football season, WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation’s leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises, and the next fall’s stars could be the headline players next May for the 2015 NFL Draft. We also will project the winners of the postseason awards that are given out to the best of college football.

The Heisman Trophy is given to the best player in college football, even though it never goes to linemen and has hardly ever gone to a defensive player. Last year’s winner was Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.

Heisman Trophy Finalists:

Bryce Petty, Baylor

The Heisman likes eye-popping production, which has become the norm for the Baylor Bears and their prolific offense. The scary thing is the dual-threat quarterback Petty could definitely improve as a pocket passer now that he has gained a year of experience. In 2013, Petty completed 62 percent of his passes for 4,200 yards with 32 touchdowns and three interceptions. He ran for 339 yards and 14 touchdowns as well.

The Bears return good talent at the skill positions and along the offensive line, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Petty is a finalist for the Heisman. His stats should resemble a video game.

The Heisman has been awarded to college system quarterbacks in the past, so that can’t be held against Petty’s Heisman chances. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Petty won the award.

Todd Gurley, Georgia

If Gurley can stay healthy, he should put up a massive season. Gurley has the physical skill set to be a dominant runner. He has a great burst with speed to go along with size and power. Georgia has lost quarterback Aaron Murray to the NFL, so Gurley should be the bellcow of the Bulldogs offense in 2014.

When healthy, Gurley was awesome in 2013. He averaged six yards per carry for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns. The sophomore also had 30 receptions for 344 yards and five touchdowns. Gurley was phenomenal against South Carolina (30-132) and Clemson (12-154) before getting injured. He missed three games and played well after returning to the lineup. In 2012 Gurley had a superb debut to lead the Bulldogs ground game. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry while totaling 1,385 yards with 17 touchdowns.

In terms of physical talent, Gurley could have the best skill set of any back in college football. However, I think other players have a better shot at producing the massive stat lines the Heisman voters tend to prefer. SEC defenses will be selling out to stop Gurley and I think that could put a damper on his production.

Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

Gordon should have a huge 2014 season. There are a lot of great backs in college football, but Gordon is the most likely to win the Heisman. He’ll get a ton of carries and Wisconsin has some easy opponents for him to pad his stats.

The Badgers have been a consistent machine of dominant running games. With Montee Ball in the NFL, Gordon took over and brought an explosiveness to the Wisconsin offense. In 2013, Gordon averaged 7.8 yards per carry for 1,609 yards on only 206 carries and 12 touchdowns. With James White in the NFL, Gordon’s carries should increase.

Gordon (6-1, 215) has gained some more muscle this offseason to hold up under a heavier work load, and obviously Wisconsin will make him the featured player of their offense. He should rack up around 300 carries and could push for 2,000 yards.

Gordon has a rare combination of being extremely fast while having quality size. Gordon should have a prolific season if he stays healthy and he could definitely be one of the finalists for the Heisman.

Heisman Trophy Runner-Up:

Jameis Winston, Florida State

No defenses are going to be taken by surprise by Winston in 2014. Last year as a redshirt freshman Winston burst onto the scene as a prolific passing quarterback. He had huge production to win the Heisman Trophy, the second time it ever was awarded to a freshman.

Winston demonstrated a quality arm with well-developed passing ability. Winston completed 67 percent of his passes for 4,057 yards with 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. On the ground, he ran for 219 yards with four touchdowns.

With Winston, the off the field distractions have to be a concern. There are questions about his decision making after being part of a rape investigation and ridiculous threat at a Publix grocery store.

This year Winston has lost some key teammates in wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, center Bryan Stork and running back Devonta Freeman. Florida State is very inexperienced at receiver, aside from Rashad Greene.

The Heisman Trophy seems committed to not awarding the same player twice since Archie Griffin. With that being the case, I bet they go with another player even though Winston should have a great year.

Heisman Trophy Winner:

Marcus Mariota, Oregon

The Heisman Trophy has been inclined to go with quarterbacks. The junior quarterback Mariota should produce a big season and nobody would be surprised if he wins the Heisman.

The Ducks point-machine has been led by Mariota the past two seasons and there is no reason to think that he will slow down at all in 2014. Mariota (6-4, 218) has a good arm, passing skills and running ability. He should produce another prolific season for Oregon.

In 2013, Mariota completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,665 yards with 31 touchdowns and four interceptions. On the ground, the redshirt sophomore ran for 715 yards with nine touchdowns. While Mariota did a great job of avoiding throwing picks, he had some issues with fumbles. Mariota did a good job of running Oregon’s offense in 2012. The redshirt freshman completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,677 yards with 32 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 898 yards (752 net) with five touchdowns.

I think the Heisman voters will reward Mariota for playing in a harder conference even though Winston could produce a bigger stat line and play in more dominant fashion. Plus, the Heisman likes to give it to a new player and Mariota makes perfect sense.

Honorable Mentions: Offense: Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon, South Carolina running back Mike Davis, Miami running back Duke Johnson, Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates, Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook and Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Defense: Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory, USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams and Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun.

2024 NFL Mock Draft - April 23

NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

Fantasy Football Rankings - Feb. 19

NFL Picks - Feb. 12