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Athlon takes an entirely too early look at the top Heisman threats for 2011.
Tonight was the first BCS Championship game-winning field goal. Congrats to Auburn, by the way, for the great game So, it seems perfectly natural to take a look at 2011 Heisman ballot, right?
What have you done for me lately Gene Chizik?
The NFL still looms very large for some of athletes, so assuming that most of the biggest names leave for greener pastures, here is what my very early ballot would look like for the 2011 Heisman.
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
How much did the pending CBA negotiations play into Luck's decision? He was already the best football player not receiving a paycheck, but can he prove his worth without offensive savant Jim Harbaugh calling the plays? Stanford will most likely start No. 2 in the Pac-10 — that means mark your calendars for Palo Alto on Nov. 12, 2011.
2. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Adrian Peterson is to the NFL what Lattimore is to college football. He is simply the most physically gifted runner of the ball in the country. Very rarely does a talent come along like this, so sit back and enjoy it Gamecock fans — and hope Stephen Garcia doesn't mess it up.
3. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
The words are "College Football's Most Outstanding Player." There aren't any better than this Eagle linebacker. The soon-to-be three-year starter has 329 total tackles in 25 games, leading the nation's No. 1 rushing defense this fall. BC was second in the ACC against the run last season and 14th nationally. (And as you will notice, I think more defensive players deserve mention on these lists.)
4.. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State
He will likely finish as the NCAA's all-time winningest quarterback (Colt McCoy - 45) and should finished with possibly the most efficient TD:INT ratio in history (99:19 currently). He has lost one conference game in three years, so will Georgia, Tulsa, Nevada, and Fresno State be enough to impress voters? There are still plenty of open dates on that schedule. Somebody step-up.
5. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
It would have been fun to see James at full strength against Auburn. There are few humans on the planet who can get to full speed as fast as James. His numbers are huge, and he will, once again, be the focus of the nation's top offense. However, the development of quarterback Darron Thomas will actually hurt James' Heisman candidacy.
6. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
A very easy case can be made that Griffin is the single most valuable player in all of college football. No one person means more to his team than the engaged, fourth-year junior to-be. His athletic ability and skill set are nearly unparalleled. Other than his 2-8 career mark in Big 12 South play, he is a Waco hero — but luckily (I think?), there is no more Big 12 South.
7. Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon
Wildly underrated passer — second to Luck in Pac-10 and 18th nationally in passer efficiency — who got very little help from his offensive line and running game in the title game. With such a plethora of weapons to hand the ball to, Thomas should explode and surpass even his gaudy 2,881 yards and 30 TDs (against only 9 INTs) of this season. He also rushed for 492 yards and five scores as well. Did I mention it was his first year as the starter?
8. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
Its nearly impossible to argue with the numbers: Sooner starting quarterbacks have averaged 3,946 yards and 37.5 TDs per season over the last four, with two of those being Jones himself. New names, same Sooner attack.
9. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan
No player has ever had a 1,500-1,500 season in college football history. Shoelace went into the 2,500-1,700 club. Seriously, Dave Brandon? Okay, maybe 0-6 against Michigan State and those guys down south doesn't fly. Can Robinson excel in a new system? And most importantly, what does field turf taste like?
10. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
How will losing his elite play-makers and stud play-caller hurt his numbers? A win over OU sure wouldn't hurt the ageless veteran.
Next On The List:
Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State
Even though he is the most gifted QB in the nation, a Heisman would be an upset considering he will miss the first five games of 2011 due to a suspension.
Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson
Explosive back could post huge numbers as focal point of the offense — if he can stay healthy.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Depth will still be an issue with the Men of Troy, but he is Andrew Luck-NFL talented — if that makes any sense.
Montee Ball or James White, RB, Wisconsin
They might both actually get enough carries to be near this list at season's end. Seriously.
Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
Being a "Three-Time All-American" is a good thing, right?
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Nick Saban never really got the ground game going this fall like in '09. Expect a return to normalcy in '11.
Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
If the Dawgs make it to Atlanta next fall, it will be because of his play.
Montel Harris, RB, Boston College
If he can stay healthy — and hold off hard charging Andre Williams — he should post big numbers.
Jake Heaps, QB, BYU
Really started to come on at the end of his first season: 252 yds/game, 13 TD, 2 INT and a 4-1 record.
Davin Meggett, RB, Maryland
Randy Edsall + NFL pedigree = Lots of yards.
Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
A full season of a fully healthy Hightower would be nice. And scary.
Jared Crick, DL, Nebraska
Welcome to the Big Ten: Wisconsin and Ohio State to start, then Michigan State two weeks later.
Robert Woods, WR, USC
Do-everything player was national high schooler of the year as a senior and proved it as a freshman last fall.
Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas
True freshman will be first elite — as in nation's No. 1. — tailback recruit since Ricky? A mini version of A.D.
Justin Houston, LB, Georgia
Dynamic athlete who plays all over the field — second year in the 3-4 will help everyone around him too.
Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma
Returning to Norman for his final season after what has already been a championship career.
Michael Dyer, RB, Alabama
It was the physical, down-hill running of Dyer that won the National Title, not Cam Newton's arm.
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
The next great — 6'6" 238 — athlete to take snaps for Frank Beamer. The "757" has been good to him.
Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida
His decision to return to Gainesville makes him arguably the best cover man in the nation.
Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
Mr. Hosley would have something to say about what I just wrote about Mr. Jenkins above.
-by Braden Gall