Will Spencer Rattler win the Heisman?
By: Chris Thomas
Now that the College Football season has started it won’t be long until Heisman candidates and storylines start to emerge. The Heisman is awarded to the best player in college football that season and cements a player’s legacy as one of the greatest college football players of all time.
Last year was the first time in a couple of years that there wasn’t a clearcut favorite for the award. Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith became the first wide receiver to win the award since 1991 and the fourth wide receiver ever to do so. Smith also became the first non-quarterback to win the Heisman since former Alabama running back Derrick Henry won the award in 2015.
Many great candidates could be nominated and win the award this upcoming season. Here are a few players to look out for who could take home the Heisman at the end of the 2021-22 College Football season.
Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
It is hard to start a Heisman candidates list without the face of college football Spencer Rattler. The redshirt sophomore is about to enter his second full season as the team’s starting quarterback. Rattler is already the favorite to go first overall in the 2022 NFL Draft and by many to win the Heisman. He would be Lincoln Riley’s third quarterback to accomplish both feats since he took over the program in 2017. Both Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray won the Heisman and went first overall in the NFL Draft back to back in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
Last season Rattler threw for 3,031 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions. He also rushed for 160 yards and six touchdowns on 81 attempts. That performance earned Rattler a spot on AP‘s First Team All-Big 12 and made him a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien award. He finished the year with the third-highest PFF grade among quarterbacks in the FBS with a 92.5.
This upcoming season Rattler not only has the opportunity to build upon how he played last year but potentially take the Oklahoma Sooners to the College Football Playoffs and compete for a National Championship. If Oklahoma makes it to the College Football Playoffs it would be hard to imagine Rattler not at least being nominated for the Heisman after this season.
Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
It is not a ridiculous statement to say that Bryce Hall has the potential to be the most dynamic passer Nick Saban has had during his time at Alabama. That is not a shot at Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, or Mac Jones who are all NFL starting quarterbacks. In the small sample size that Young has shown, he displayed more of a playmaker skillset compared to a distributor/point guard type like Tagovailoa and Jones or athlete that relies on mobility like Hurts.
Last season Young finished the season completing 13 of his 22 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown. In high school, Young was considered the best dual-threat quarterback in the nation and a five-star prospect.
The sophomore quarterback has a fantastic opportunity to become one of the faces of college football now that he will be the starting quarterback of the reigning national champions. Young will be leading an extremely talented roster that is considered the favorite to repeat as champions. If Young shows why he was considered such a polarizing high school quarterback at the next level in a full-time starting role he could very well win the Heisman this year.
D.J. Uiagalelei, QB, Clemson
It cannot be an enviable position to follow up Trevor Lawerence as the starting quarterback of the Clemson Tigers. Lawerence was considered by many as one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all time. The sophomore quarterback will join a line of prestigious quarterbacks to start for Clemson over the last decade including Lawerence and Deshaun Watson. Both quarterbacks have left big shoes for D.J. Uiagalelei to fill. There are a lot of expectations that come with being the quarterback for a Dabo Swinney-led Clemson team. Both Lawerence and Watson were catalysts for the Tigers winning National Championships when they were starters.
Last season he played in ten games but started two against Boston College and Notre Dame. In his first start against Boston College, Uiagalelei completed 73.2% of his passes going 30 for 41 and passing for 342 yards and two touchdowns. He also had six rushes for 25 yards and a touchdown. Then the following week against #4 Notre Dame, Uiagalelei went 29 of 44 for 439 yards and two touchdowns. Uiagalelei rushed for two yards on 13 attempts and a touchdown in that game as well. He finished the year completing 66.7% of his passes completing 78 of 117 of them for 914 yards, five touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Uiagalelei had 28 rushing attempts for 60 yards and four touchdowns. His 146.4 pass efficiency rating was fifth-best by an ACC freshman quarterback since 2002. Uiagalelei also became only the second FBS player since 2000 to throw at least 115 passes and record at least five passing touchdowns and no interceptions.
As long as Clemson makes the College Football playoffs Uiagalelei should be a Heisman contender. What he brings to the table that separates him from the rest is the combination of size and athleticism. At 6’4″ and 249 pounds he is a fantastic athlete and a threat as a ball carrier. His combination of size, mobility, and arm strength could draw comparisons to another former Heisman winner former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton who is 6’5″ and 245 pounds. If Uiagalelei plays similarly to how Newton did in his Heisman campaign in the 2010 season, he could very well win the award at the end of this season.
J.T Daniels, QB, Georgia
One player that has been trending towards being considered one of the nation’s best quarterbacks is Georgia quarterback JT Daniels. He will start his second season as a Georgia Bulldog after two years at USC. Many believe a great season from him could catapult Georgia back into the National title picture.
Daniels transferred to Georgia after redshirting his sophomore season due to a season-ending knee injury. Last season only started four games for Georgia at the end of the season. Daniels finished the year completing 80 of his 119 passes for 1,231 yards, ten touchdowns, and only two interceptions. That is an average of 307.8 passing yards, 2.5 touchdowns, and .5 interceptions a game.
He is entering his Junior year this season so Daniels is eligible for another year. However, he is gaining a lot of hype as a quarterback prospect to look out for that could potentially be a first-round pick. Daniels has a cannon for an arm which will get him on a light of highlight reels throughout the season. If Georgia makes a National title push and Daniels makes huge plays throughout the season he could have a legitimate case to win the Heisman at the end of the year.
Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Now that the Sam Ehlinger era is over at Texas the star Longhorn tasked with bringing them back to relevancy is running back Bijan Robinson. The Longhorns have needed a star on their roster who can bring them back to what they were over a decade ago. So far Robinson has shown that he has what it takes to be that guy.
During his freshman year, Robinson played in nine games, but only started six of them. He had three games last season where he rushed for over 100 yards and averaged 10.3 carries in each of those games. His best game came at the end of the year against Colorado where he rushed for 183 yards and a touchdown off ten carries. In that game, Robinson also caught two passes for 37 yards and two more touchdowns. He finished last year with 703 rushing yards and four touchdowns on only 86 carries.
Robinson has the size and strength to be a power back, but is shifty and has the athleticism to make him almost impossible to defend. He has shown that he is also a threat as a receiver. His style of play is similar to Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.
If Robinson thrives in a workhorse role for Texas gets them closer to being a national title threat he could become the first running back since 2015 to win the Heisman.
Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
Last season Breece Hall was arguably the best running back in college football. He discretely had one of the greatest seasons for a running back in college football history. He could put up similar production in his junior year at Iowa State.
After an outstanding freshman season Hall broke out in a major way his sophomore year. In the twelve games he played, Hall rushed for 1,572 yards on 279 attempts and 21 touchdowns. He led the entire country in rushing last season. He averaged 131 rushing yards per game. Hall became the first player in College Football to have 75+ yards and a rushing touchdown in all 12 games since NFL Hall of Famer and former TCU running back LaDainian Tomlinson did it in 2000. He added multiple accolades to his resume including being the first unanimous All-American in Iowa State history, winning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, and First Team All-Big 12. This performance landed Hall sixth in the Heisman voting.
He came extremely close to winning the Heisman a year ago. If Hall were to repeat his performance or even break his records there would be slim to no chance that he does not get recognized as one of the greatest running backs to ever play in college football by winning the Heisman.
Brian Robinson Jr., RB, Alabama
Brian Robinson Jr. becomes the next running back to join the fraternity of Alabama starting running backs. The Crimson Tide have had an outstanding group of players at the position over the years including Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, Derrick Henry, and Najee Harris. There have also been other talented running backs for the Crimson Tide that weren’t workhorse backs including Alvin Kamara, T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake, Damien Harris, and Josh Jacobs. So expectations are high for a player like Robinson who will now control this backfield and have a major role for this offense.
Over the last two seasons, Robinson Jr. has played a complementary role to Najee Harris. Last year he rushed for 483 yards and six touchdowns on 91 attempts. Robinson fits the bigger running back mold the Crimson Tide have been known for under Nick Saban. He has been used to run the ball outside of the tackles on outside zone runs. He has also returned kickoffs for Alabama on occasion.
This year the redshirt senior finally gets his chance to lead this backfield. If Robinson has a breakout season and is as dominant as the Alabama running backs that have come before him he has a great of a chance as anyone to win the Heisman. There has not been a more dominant position group on a college football team over the last decade than Alabama running backs. Robinson could be the third to win the Heisman since 2009.
Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
It is extremely unlikely that a wide receiver wins the Heisman in any given year. It is even more unlikely that a wide receiver wins the Heisman in back-to-back seasons. But after DeVonta Smith won last year it does open up the conversation to the position group and it is unlikely that a talent like Chris Olave isn’t considered for the award after the season.
Last year Olave broke out and established himself as one of the best receivers in college football. He almost matched his receiving yardage and touchdown total from the season prior despite having his season reduced to seven games. Olave caught 50 receptions for 729 yards and seven touchdowns. He averaged 104.1 yards per game. He was named First Team All-Big Ten after his performance. He was considered one of the best wide receivers in college football last season.
Coming into this season Olave is considered the best wide receiver in the nation. If he continues the pace that he set last season or exceeds it over a full college football season he could make it back-to-back seasons that a wide receiver wins the Heisman.