Kyler Murray has the opportunity to follow in Baker Mayfield's steps at Oklahoma
Baker Mayfield dominated the Big 12 for three seasons and turned into a record-setting quarterback at Oklahoma that culminated in winning the Heisman Trophy last season as the nation’s most outstanding player. Despite his departure to the NFL though, the league will have no shortage of players who could follow in his footsteps and wind up hoisting the same trophy in New York come December.
Who could make it back-to-back for the Big 12 with the Heisman? There is no shortage of budding offensive stars who could make a run at one of the most prestigious trophies in sport given the kinds of numbers being put up in the Big 12. Here are 10 candidates who can get the job done in 2018:
10. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Lamb was a freshman All-American last season after a terrific debut that saw him develop into one of Mayfield’s favorite targets. He’s in line for an even bigger role in the Sooners’ offense in 2018 and could make a run to New York as a Heisman finalist in a similar manner that Dede Westbrook did in '16.
9. David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State
Montgomery is well known to many in Big 12 country as one of the conference’s best players but the Cyclones' surprising surge in 2017 called more attention to him nationally last season. Another big year for ISU could vault him into the conversation for the Heisman and there will be no shortage of opportunities to pull off some big upsets given the schedule.
8. Charlie Brewer, QB, Baylor
The Bears won only a single game in 2017 but the program was much more competitive on the field once Brewer took over at quarterback midway through the year, completing 68 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and only four picks. If he can maintain a high level of play over a full season at Baylor and lead the Bears to a big surge in terms of wins, Brewer will turn enough heads to garner votes.
7. David Sills, WR, West Virginia
Sills' remarkable career transformation from quarterback to bona fide star receiver was one of the top storylines in the Big 12 last season as he wound up a Biletnikoff Award finalist. If he can post another stat-studded campaign in Morgantown that sees him lead the nation in receiving touchdowns, the country roads may actually lead to the Big Apple. Splitting votes with his quarterback could hamper his candidacy however.
6. KaVontae Turpin, WR/KR, TCU
Turpin (right) might be one of the explosive playmakers in the country and a threat to take it to the house anytime he touches the ball. In 2017 alone he scored via passing, receiving, rushing, punt return and kick return — only the fifth player in the past decade to do so in a season. If he can repeat that kind of effort and increase production as a pass catcher in leading the Horned Frogs to College Football Playoff contention then Turpin will turn plenty of heads in 2018.
5. Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma
Anderson figures to shoulder more of the load offensively for the Sooners but he was excellent as the lead back a year ago during a run to the Rose Bowl (1,161 yards, 13 TDs as sophomore). Good players on good teams will typically garner some Heisman love and the dynamic threat that Anderson is figures to keep him in the mix to follow his old teammate.
4. Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State
There’s no more Mason Rudolph and James Washington in Stillwater but the Cowboys do still have a star back to run the offense through. Hill has already made an impact on the ground with back-to-back 1,000-plus-yard seasons and found the end zone 16 times in 2017. Those numbers could increase even more as he embarks on his junior year and if he keeps OSU in the Big 12 title hunt he could also hear his name mentioned more and more for the Heisman.
3. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas
Ehlinger has to fend of Shane Buechele to start for the Longhorns and stay healthy for a full season but if he can do both and lead Texas back to double-digit wins then he will garner Heisman love as the quarterback for one of the sport’s true blue bloods. His rushing ability gives him an added dimension behind center and if he can improve as a passer, the sky is the limit in Tom Herman’s offense.
2. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
The trophy has a more than solid chance of remaining in Norman for another go-around thanks in part to OU’s likely starter at quarterback. Murray might have more name recognition than most top candidates as a result of both taking over for Mayfield and the fact that he’s getting paid millions of dollars as the Oakland A’s first-round pick in baseball. Make no mistake though, Murray has the arm and the legs to put up highlight reel plays all the time and he should be able to put up huge numbers in Lincoln Riley’s offense. That’s a pretty good recipe for success.
1. Will Grier, QB, West Virginia
The Mountaineers are already pushing Grier’s Heisman campaign pretty hard and that makes sense as he enters 2018 as one of the Big 12’s best players at the marquee position of quarterback. Though injury cut short last season, he still threw for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns — numbers that should shoot up on one of the nation’s best offenses. If West Virginia can exceed expectations and make it to the Big 12 title game (if not nibble at the playoff chase) then Grier (above, right) very well could find himself with a good shot at keeping the Heisman in the league for another year.
-- 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.
(Top photo by Ty Russell, courtesy of www.soonersports.com)