With the 2019 college football season right around the corner, it’s about that time we start to predict this year’s Heisman class.
Quarterbacks are projected to dominate the class this year, but there are a few non-signal-callers that could break their way into the class if they can have breakout seasons that overshadow their own quarterback’s potential and projected 2019 Heisman campaign.
Alabama junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Clemson’s second-year star quarterback Trevor Lawrence certainly lead the way with the ever-growing Georgia Bulldog Jake Fromm right behind them. Preseason predictions are always tenuous, but let’s take a look at the frontrunners for this year.
Trevor Lawrence, Sophomore QB, Clemson
2018: 3,280 yards, 30 TDS, 4 INT, 65.2% comp.
In his freshman season, he not only caught the eyes of the nation with his play on the field and his hair out of his helmet, but he also won a National Championship in dominant style over Alabama.
So what does Lawrence have in store for an encore? A repeat national title? A Heisman? Both are possible with him under center.
As a true freshman, he threw for over 250 yards in seven of his final nine games and in the College Football playoff against Notre Dame and in the championship against the Crimson Tide, he came through strong, tossing for over 325 yards in both games with a 6-0 TD-Int ratio with a championship on the line. He’s a favorite to lift a Heisman in his second season in college, maybe lift another national championship, and a future top NFL pick in 2021.
Tua Tagovailoa, Junior QB, Alabama
2018: 3,966 yards, 43 TDs, 6 INTs, 69% comp.
If Trevor Lawrence doesn’t win the Heisman, it will most like be Tua lifting the heavy Heisman trophy in New York City in December instead.
He posted better numbers than Lawrence through the 2018 season. But none of that mattered in the National Championship game where he couldn’t pull through, throwing for 295 yards with a pair of touchdowns and picks.
However, everyone is expecting a return to the national title game by Tagovailoa and the Crimson Tide in 2020 and an even stronger season for the junior signal-caller. He has more weapons around him than Lawrence does with an NFL-caliber wideout in Jerry Jeudy, Henry Riggs, Jaylen Waddle, and a running game expected to be carried strongly by Najee Harris.
There’s no reason, barring injury, that Tagovailoa will not be successful and at the Heisman Trophy ceremony this winter.
Jake Fromm, Junior QB, Georgia
2018: 2,761 yards, 30 TDs, 6 INTs, 64.9% comp.
Since taking over as Georgia’s starting quarterback, Jake Fromm’s biggest flaw has been his ability to win “the big one.” He could change that this season, at least, in the Heisman race.
While he has to battle two heavyweight favorites in Trevor Lawrence and Tua Tagovailoa for the Heisman, Fromm isn’t that much of a long shot in what many predict to just be a two-horse race. Fromm is easily the most under-appreciated quarterback in college football today. His biggest shadow is Alabama in the SEC and winning on the bigger stages. He led the Bulldogs to the national title game in 2017 and lost to Alabama. He then guided the team to another SEC title game, where they lost (again) to Alabama, and then lost to Texas in the Sugar Bowl.
But Fromm has shown rapid growth since taking over as Georgia’s starting quarterback and is one of the country’s most efficient passers.
Sam Ehlinger, Junior QB, Texas
2018: 3,292 yards, 25 TDs, 5 INTs, 61.9 % comp.; 482 rush yds, 16 TDs
Not many people like Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger. But whether you like him or not, he’s proved he can ball. In fact, Ehlinger’s 2018 campaign that saw him toss 25 TDs and run for another 16 puts him in pretty good college football company amongst the likes of Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota, and Lamar Jackson – ALL of whom won the Heisman trophy.
So, despite the apparent two-horse race for the Heisman, Ehlinger has a decent chance to upset everyone if the tides turn for him this season. But also keep in mind that he wasn’t anywhere close to winning it last year with another three-horse race in front of him last year in Kyler Murray, Tagovailoa, and even Dwayne Haskins.
He’ll need to put up even better numbers with a rising Longhorns team if he wants to stand a chance, but with three pure passers in front of him, his ability to score on the ground in goal-to-go situations definitely helps him sneak into the trophy night.
Jalen Hurts, Senior QB, Oklahoma
2018 (with Alabama): 765 yards, 8 TDs, 2 INTs, 62.9% comp.; 167 yards rushing, 2 TDs
Baker Mayfield. Kyler Murray. Jalen Hurts?
Hurts, a senior transfer to Oklahoma for the 2019 season, spent a lot of time backing up Tua Tagovailoa last season, but that still doesn’t take away from Hurts’ career, ability on the field, and the fact that he should be on a mission to prove himself this season.
Hurts is one of just seven quarterbacks in the FBS to rack over 5,500 passing yards, 1,900 rushing yards and 45 passing touchdowns with a passer-efficiency rating of 148 or better. He didn’t get benched due to lack of talent. He got benched for his lack of a deep ball and because he’d run out of gas toward the end of the season. throwing for less than 140 yards in the final three games of his freshman and sophomore campaigns – not that it made a big difference in Alabama’s title runs, but still worth noting.
Hurts’ transfer to the Sooners puts him in a good position for a Heisman nod. He’ll play in the Big 12 over the SEC and he’ll join the same program and staff that produced the last two Heisman winning quarterbacks, both of whom play similar to Hurts. Lincoln Riley and his staff can also help Hurts overcome any inabilities he may have as a passer to push his stats a bit more in his senior season.
Justin Herbert, Senior QB, Oregon
2018: 3,151 yards, 29 TDS, 8 INTs, 59.4% comp.
The Pac-12 conference never really gets a lot of love, even with two Heisman runner-ups in the last four years – Stanford running backs Christian McCaffery (2015) and Bryce Love (2017). Marcus Mariota won the Heisman in 2014 with the Ducks, but it always feels like a long shot for a Pac-12 player to get the same type of Heisman hype that others in the SEC or any conference toward the east coast would get.
However, there’s been a lot of eyes on Justin Herbert entering his senior season. Herbert had a solid season for the Ducks last year, tossing for over 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns in his first full season behind center for Oregon.
After something of a breakout season for him last year, Herbert can still get a heck of a whole lot better, and that’s what everyone will be looking for this season. If he can improve on his 59.4 percent completion rate, and increase his production by maybe 500 or more yards with another six-to-10 touchdowns, he could be quite the dark horse for the Heisman race.
- Travis Etienne, Junior RB, Clemson
- Adrian Martinez, Sophomore QB, Nebraska
- Jonathan Taylor, Junior RB, Wisconsin
- Justin Fields, Sophomore QB, Ohio State