The Big 12 has been a regular on the banquet circuit at the end of the regular season and has capped off a remarkable run in New York the past few years with back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners (and eventual No. 1 overall draft picks) in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
Oklahoma’s offense no doubt has a ton to do with those players keeping the most prestigious trophy in college football planted in Norman but the conference as a whole does not lack for big-time playmakers who could follow in their footsteps and hoist the trophy in due time.
Who could make it back-to-back-to-back for the Big 12 with the Heisman? Here are 10 candidates who can get the job done in 2019:
10. Pooka Williams, RB, Kansas
Williams will need to overcome an ugly offseason domestic violence issue but voters in the past have proven to overlook such concerns if the play on the field is overwhelming. The tailback rushed for 1,125 yards and nine total scores as a true freshman last season and could be building toward an even bigger tally in 2019. There’s a lot of attention on the Jayhawks program thanks to the arrival of Les Miles but if Williams can help lead an upset or two while getting the team back to a bowl game — a miracle of all miracles given recent history — then such an accomplishment could help propel him to New York when all is said and done.
9. Austin Kendall, QB, West Virginia
Assuming Kendall wins the starting job, he’ll have a great perspective on what it takes to win the award given that he backed up the last two winners while at Oklahoma. The Mountaineers are expected to take a step back this season with all the talent they lost combined with a coaching transition but if the signal-caller can keep the team in Big 12 contention with some big plays and a hefty stat sheet, he could just make a surprise journey up the country roads to the bright lights of the big city for the Heisman ceremony.
8. Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
The Horned Frogs need to sort out their quarterback situation in the worst way this season but whoever winds up starting under center will have it pretty easy considering all they need to do is find some space to allow No. 18 to go to work. The oft-targeted wideout is one of the best in the country at attacking the ball in the air and coming down with an acrobatic catch — highlights that will serve him well when voters review the season. TCU seems due to have a great year ahead and that team success should help their outstanding receiver make a splash on the national stage.
7. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
It seemed like once a game, Lamb made a head-turning catch that few in college football could even attempt. He was still overshadowed a bit by some of his own teammates last year but he’ll have a chance to turn into the Sooners star that everybody is talking about in 2019. Provided he stuffs the stat sheet and maybe adds a dynamic return score here or there, the road to New York could be crimson and cream again.
6. Alan Bowman, QB, Texas Tech
Injuries derailed a good chunk of Bowman’s freshman season but when he was in the lineup, he put up some monster numbers and looked like the next great Tech quarterback. The incoming staff shouldn’t do anything to change his trajectory and he could benefit from a much more well-rounded perspective from new head coach Matt Wells and his staff. Should Bowman keep slinging it around the field like he was, there’s no telling what kind of campaign he could assemble from Lubbock to the Big Apple.
5. Charlie Brewer, QB, Baylor
Brewer gets overshadowed in his own hometown, state and conference but 2019 might be a little different if Baylor can keep ascending with the young signal-caller piling up the wins. A true dual-threat quarterback, the junior can really extend plays and isn’t afraid of going over the top to beat you deep either. The Bears are surprisingly deep on both sides of the ball so if they can make noise in the league and Brewer keeps showing off his moxie, he’ll get the attention of voters.
4. Brock Purdy, QB, Iowa State
Purdy was a revelation last season for the Cyclones, sparking an incredible run down the stretch to help put ISU on the map nationally in a way the program really hasn’t in a long time. Going from good to great is a big step in college football but with another year under Purdy’s belt, he and head coach Matt Campbell could have something special brewing in Ames. If the team can make a legit run at the Big 12 title and Purdy puts up some gaudy numbers, an invite to the Heisman ceremony seems like a good bet.
3. Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
The latest in a long line of productive receivers in Stillwater, Wallace is coming off a banner 2018 in which he was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award and earned numerous All-American honors. He was second in the country in receiving yards and averaged nearly 115 yards per game as an unstoppable threat through the air at OSU. He’ll be the headliner for the Cowboys’ offense again this season and if he keeps putting up big numbers, could make his way into the Heisman conversation with every highlight-reel catch he makes.
2. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
Hurts is perhaps the most celebrated grad transfer ever after going 26-2 as a starter at Alabama, winning a ring and posting a 48:12 TD-to-INT ratio over his three seasons in Tuscaloosa. People remember last season’s improbable comeback in the SEC title game he led but forget he did direct a go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter of a national championship game as a true freshman too. With time to learn from QB guru Lincoln Riley, Hurts should surprise with his play for the Sooners and if he can get them back to the playoff again, a trip to New York seems all but assured. Third time’s a charm too, right?
1. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas
After beating Georgia in the Sugar Bowl in January, he loudly said the Longhorns were back on the national stage. That kind of proclamation means increased attention and scrutiny, something that could actually serve the Austin signal-caller well when it comes to garnering national attention. He’s already playing for a blueblood, can put up big numbers through the air and on the ground in the Big 12 and has a chance to put up some monster wins over the likes of LSU and Oklahoma. It’s been a while since the 40 Acres has had a true contender for the Heisman but 2019 is shaping up to have Ehlinger front and center of the race.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.