2013 Preseason Heisman Watch: Johnny Football Has Plenty of Competition


Johnny Manziel

A wilder offseason could not have been imaginable for Johnny Manziel, the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy and now the de facto favorite for the trophy headed into 2013. But has the off-field persona detracted from the monster that made SEC defenses tremble throughout 2012?

We can only wait until kickoff to find out whether Manziel can replicate 3,706 yards passing, 1,410 yards rushing and 47 combined touchdowns of 2012 while leading the preseason top-five Aggies.

Braxton Miller

Somehow, leading a 12-0 Ohio State team wasn’t nearly enough to get Braxton Miller a Heisman Trophy invite last season. In years past, such an accomplishment would have netted any Buckeye at least an invite, and a likely trip to the BCS title game, but on a schedule widely viewed as soft and ineligibility for the postseason, Miller was passed over.

Collecting 2,039 yards passing, 1,271 yards rushing, 28 total touchdowns again this season, when the Buckeyes are among the national title favorites, would likely put Miller’s name at the top of the heap. Let’s see if he can do it again.

AJ McCarron

AJ McCarron has the chance in 2013 to capture another national title. The man’s already been affiliated with three title winners at Alabama, after redshirting during the first of the three titles under Nick Saban in 2009. Yet, the quarterback on the best team in the nation, a position that usually nets some Heisman hype.

But despite nearly 3,000 yards passing and 30 touchdown tosses against just three interceptions, McCarron didn’t even register in the top 10 in 2012. Why can he do for an encore in 2013?

Jadeveon Clowney

Jadeveon Clowney, a defensive end with primetime Heisman potential for 2013, has been giving SEC offenses fits for two seasons. Now, after setting South Carolina records for sacks (12) and tackles for loss in 2012, the All-American has a legit shot at grabbing the Heisman trophy as a defensive player.

That would be the first time in more than 15 years that a defensive-listed player claimed the trophy, and even then Charles Woodson’s win was predicated at least partly on his ability as a return man. Could Clowney break the streak?

De’Anthony Thomas 

Cut in the Chip Kelly mold of a Oregon Duck, how will De’Anthony Thomas follow a productive 2012 season without Kelly at the helm? It’s going to be an interesting year in Eugene, but mostly because Thomas and quarterback Marcus Mariota are legitimate contenders for the Heisman Trophy.

Thomas, an all-around threat, rushed for 701 yards, had 445 yards receiving, and had 611 yards in returns. Add 18 total touchdowns and Thomas can produce all over the field. Can he produce in the Heisman race?

Others To Watch

Teddy Bridgewater

Louisville’s quarterback might have the best shot in the country of running an undefeated record, but will the lack of recognized competition on Bridgewater and the Cardinals’ schedule hurt his chances?

Aaron Murray

Just a play or two away from leading the Bulldogs to a national title game berth last season, Aaron Murray returns with the chance to break through the Alabama-LSU wall that has gone up in the SEC. Setting records at Georgia for passing yards and touchdowns was not enough last year, perhaps it will be this year.

Marqise Lee

Among the nation’s best at the wide receiver position last season, Lee enters the year as a preseason favorite for many of the receiving awards, but can he push beyond the positional trophies and make his way into the Heisman conversation?

Heisman Watch Week 14: Season Draws To A Close For Unusual Heisman Field

Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel’s redshirt freshman season was something of revelation for a conference that had already seen the likes of dual-threat quarterbacks Cam Newton and Tim Tebow dominate the nation and the conference in Heisman-winning years. But as Manziel rose to national prominence and broke the record for all-purpose yards first set by Tebow and then broken by Newton, his ability and Heisman potential was undeniable.

The 19-year-old they call Johnny Football finished with 3,419 passing yards, 1,181 rushing yards and 43 combined touchdowns — a stat line that would knock people out from a senior, but one that came from a redshirt freshman. There is little wonder so many believe Manziel is on track to become the first freshman winner in the trophy’s history.

Manti Te’o

Manti Te’o became a household name and the most visible defensive player in the country in 2012, and it wasn’t because of his nation-leading seven interceptions for a linebacker. It wasn’t his 1.5 sacks or 103 tackles, the second and third best performances in those categories in his four-year career.

No, instead, Te’o became the vocal leader of a Notre Dame team that surprised everyone by making their way from a fringe preseason top-25 to the nearly undisputed No. 1 team in the country and earning a berth in the national title. That alone — being the best and most visible player on the nation’s No. 1 team — means a lot in the Heisman race, and Te’o took advantage.

Marqise Lee

Few, if any, pegged Marqise Lee as USC’s leading Heisman hope headed into the 2012 season. But when quarterback Matt Barkley faded toward the middle of the season, Lee’s named slowly but surely crept up into the national radar. Despite his quarterback’s relatively lackluster production, Lee showed an uncanny ability to put up mind bending numbers. Capped by a 469-total-yard, two-touchdown day against Arizona,

Lee accounted for 1,680 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns — both career highs for the sophomore.

Collin Klein

Collin Klein’s season was a lot of things, but it certainly was not boring. Up and down, Klein provided the spark behind a Kansas State team that made its way to the top of the BCS rankings, but suffered such a crushing loss on national television in primetime that neither their BCS impact nor Klein’s Heisman hopes could be revived.

Still, Kansas State is on its way to a BCS bowl, and that’s thanks in large part to Klein, who was the trophy’s front-runner until a kid named Johnny Football showed up and stole the dual-threat quarterback attention of the country. Klein finished the year with 37 combined touchdowns on the ground and through the air, a season that will certainly get some Heisman attention, but will likely fall short in the end.

Braxton Miller

Braxton Miller had an unusual sophomore campaign at the helm of Ohio State. Leading a team ineligible for postseason play in a down year for the Big Ten conference, Miller was spectacular, passing for 2,039 yards and rushing for 1,271 more to go with 28 combined touchdowns. Most importantly, Miller led the Buckeyes, with little to play for but each other and their coaches, on an undefeated run through their regular season.

Sure, many discounted the Buckeyes’ 12-0 finish to the year because of their relatively weak schedule, but Miller’s dominance was undeniable at times. Though the sophomore will likely not get the trophy this year, he will certainly have a lot to say about the 2013 Heisman race.

Heisman Watch Week 13: Johnny Manziel, Manti Te’o Cap Off Strong Seasons

Collin Klein

Collin Klein and Kansas State were off this weekend, readying for a season-ending showdown that could decide whether the Wildcats can claim a BCS bowl berth or not. The Heisman, which seemed Klein’s to take if he could continue to lead the nation’s No. 1 team, slipped from the senior’s hands before Kansas State dropped its first game of the season last weekend, but truly was out of his control once Johnny Manziel appear on the scene. With one game left, Klein has still put up gaudy numbers — rushing for 20 touchdowns and throwing for 14 more while accounting for more than 3,000 yards of total offense.

Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel’s redshirt freshman season came to a close Saturday with a dominating performance against Missouri in Texas A&M’s impressive season-ending win over Missouri. In the Aggies’s 59-29 win, Manziel passed for three touchdowns and threw for two to go with 439 yards of combined offensive output. In the process, Manziel finished the 2012 season with the most total offense created by an SEC quarterback in conference history. Manziel’s redshirt freshman season bested the likes of Tim Tebow and Cam Newton, two Heisman winners in those years. Could Manziel be next on the list?

Marqise Lee

Catching passes from a quarterback other than Matt Barkley resulted in a somewhat down game from Lee in USC’s regular season-ending loss to Notre Dame. Lee went without a touchdown for the first time since a mid-October loss to Washington. His five catches netted him 75 yards, also his lowest production since the loss to the Huskies. Lee finishes the season with an impressive 14 touchdowns to go with more than 1,600 yards receiving.

Manti Te’o

Manti Te’o might not have had the best game of his season against USC on Saturday night, but his performance in perhaps the most important game the Fighting Irish have played in the BCS era will probably be enough to net him an invite to New York City for the trophy presentation. His interception on a pass from USC quarterback Max Wittek was his highlight of the night and gave him seven on the season, best among linebackers in the nation. With his season complete, Te’o can claim the title of the most visible player on the best team in the country, usually a big factor in Heisman voting.

Braxton Miller

Much like Manti Te’o, Braxton Miller helped his team cap an undefeated season with a victory over a traditional rival in a nationally televised game. Unlike Te’o, however, Miller will not get a shot at the national title game, or even a shot at a BCS bowl, given Ohio State’s ineligibility. But leading an ineligible team to an undefeated season should get Miller some real recognition. Whether that means an invite to NYC for the trophy presentation or not, it will certainly get Miller at or near the top of most watch lists for next season, along with Manziel and others. Against Michigan, Miller was an efficient 14 of 18 for 189 yards and 57 rushing yards.

Heisman Watch Week 12: Is Johnny Football Running Away With The Heisman?

Collin Klein

Collin Klein, leader of the newest No. 1 team in the BCS, came into Saturday with his grip on the Heisman race slipping. It’s certainly up for grabs again after Saturday. Sure, Klein’s three total touchdowns, two passing and one rushing, were important, but the thing that had kept Klein above the pack in the chase for the trophy — winning — went by the wayside on Saturday. Klein’s team suffered its first loss, and with it, Klein’s claim as the best player on the best team in the country is no longer true.

Johnny Manziel

The young gun in the Heisman race, Manziel took full advantage of what was offered to him Saturday — a chance to rack up some impressive statistics against a weaker opponent in Sam Houston State. Manziel did just that, putting up more than 350 yards in total offense to go with five total touchdowns against the Bearkats in Texas A&M’s big victory. Manziel was efficient, completing 14 of 20 passes for 267 yards and throwing just one pick, while racking up an even 100 yards on the ground. Manziel could be the favorite as we head down the home stretch.

Marqise Lee

Loss after loss, USC has fallen from the national title picture, but despite the losses, USC has produced a Heisman candidate producing at unprecedented levels. Marqise Lee did it again against UCLA, putting up 158 yards and a touchdown against the Bruins to burn through yet another Pac-12 defense easily. The wide receiver was not expected to vie for the trophy, given quarterback Matt Barkley and fellow wide receiver, junior Robert Woods’ prowess, but Lee has emerged as the top threat in the Trojans’ offense.

Manti Te’o

Manti Te’o might stake a claim to that title Klein has given up. The Fighting Irish linebacker may now be the best player on the best team in the country, as Notre Dame is expected to take over the BCS’s No. 1 spot when the sixth rankings are released tomorrow. Te’o was strong again against Wake Forest in the Irish’s shutout of the Demon Deacons on his senior day, recording a season-low five tackles, but also recording his sixth interception. The Irish linebacker is certainly staking a claim as the most visible defensive player in the nation.

Braxton Miller

His status grows the more the Buckeyes win, especially given Braxton Miller’s inability to lead his team to a bowl game or a Big Ten Championship Game. With their overtime victory over Wisconsin on Saturday, Ohio State moved to 11-0 on the season despite their postseason ineligibility. That in and of itself should be praise worthy for the Buckeyes quarterback. But his statistics hold up, as Miller was quiet and efficient behind center, completing 10 of 18 passes on Saturday.