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Heisman Watch: Ranking the Top 10 Candidates for 2019

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama Crimson Tide Football

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama Crimson Tide Football

College football's 2019 Heisman race won't lack for intrigue. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa finished second to Oklahoma's Kyler Murray for the award last fall and begins 2019 atop the list of favorites. However, Clemson's Trevor Lawrence isn't far behind. Lawrence capped a stellar freshman season with a huge victory over Alabama in the national championship. Tagovailoa and Lawrence are the heavy favorites to win this award in 2019, but names like Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor, Clemson's Travis Etienne, Ohio State's Justin Fields and Texas' Sam Ehlinger will all be in the mix.

Heisman Watch: Ranking the Top 10 Candidates for 2019

1. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Tagovailoa was spectacular as a sophomore, posting numbers that would have won him the Heisman Trophy in almost any other season. Despite rarely playing in the fourth quarter, he threw for 3,966 yards, averaged 11.2 yards per attempt (second nationally to Heisman winner Kyler Murray) and threw for 43 touchdowns (second to the other Heisman finalist, Dwayne Haskins) with only six interceptions. With a star-studded cast of receivers back, expect more gaudy numbers from Tua in 2019.

2. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

The highest-rated quarterback prospect of the Internet recruiting era lived up to the hype in his first season on campus. Clemson struggled in Lawrence’s first start — a 27–23 win in Week 5 over Syracuse led by backup Chase Brice (Lawrence was injured late in the second quarter) — then proceeded to win the next 10 games, including two in the College Football Playoff, by an average of 36.1 points. For the season, the Georgia native with the flaxen locks threw for 3,280 yards, averaged 8.3 yards per attempt and had a 30-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio. He figures to be the among the best players in college football the next two seasons.

3. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

Can a 2,000-yard season fly under the radar? If so, that was the case in 2018 for Taylor, who led the nation with 2,194 yards on a 7.1-yard average while playing in an offense that struggled to throw the ball. Taylor, who topped 200 yards five times last season, has rushed for 4,171 yards in two seasons.

4. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

Herbert is back for his senior season at Oregon despite reports that he would have been among the top QBs in the 2019 NFL Draft class. The Eugene native threw for 3,151 yards with 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions as a junior, his first season starting more than eight games.

5. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas

Ehlinger beat out Shane Buechele for the starting assignment last fall and guided the Longhorns to their first 10-win season since 2009. He was efficient as a passer (64.7 percent, 3,292 yards, 25 TDs, five INTs) and ranked second among all QBs nationally with 16 rushing touchdowns. A big season by Texas will make Ehlinger a strong candidate to reach New York.

6. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

While most of the national attention focused on quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Clemson’s dynamic defensive line, Etienne quietly went about his business and rushed for 1,658 yards (on an 8.1-yard average) and led the nation with 24 rushing touchdowns.

7. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia

Fromm has shown steady improvement in his two seasons at Georgia. As a sophomore, he completed 67.3 percent of his passes, averaged 9.0 yards per attempt and threw 30 touchdowns with only six interceptions. He will be working with a new offensive coordinator and a retooled crop of pass catchers in 2019.

8. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma

Hurts, the SEC Offensive Player of the Year as a true freshman at Alabama in 2016, will be the quarterback for a school that has produced the last two Heisman Trophy winners. That’s enough to earn him a spot on this list.

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9. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

The top quarterback recruit in the Class of 2018 has made the move from Athens to Columbus and figures to thrive in an Ohio State offense that has led the Big Ten in yards per game in five of the past six seasons. Fields was used sparingly in his one season at Georgia, completing 69.2 percent of his 39 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns while adding 266 yards and four scores on the ground.

10. Adrian Martinez, QB, Nebraska

Nebraska is a program on the rise and should be squarely in the mix to win the Big Ten's West Division in 2019. Martinez had a stellar debut in Lincoln last fall. He threw for 2,617 yards and 17 touchdowns and ran for 629 yards and eight scores over 11 appearances. With another offseason to work under Scott Frost, look for Martinez to take another step forward in his development and easily improve on last ye

11. Shea Patterson, QB, Michigan

12. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

13. Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame
14. D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

15. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

16. AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College

17. Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue

18. Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona

19. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

20. Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State

21. Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M

22. K.J. Costello, QB, Stanford

23. Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State

24. Kelly Bryant, QB, Missouri

25. Cam Akers, RB, Florida State