The Heisman race begins well before the games start being played on the field, usually in the minutes right after the announcement of the previous year’s winner. With that in mind, and with the college football season coming up fast, we take a look at the top contenders to win the Heisman Trophy for the 2019 season.
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama QB
The Alabama signal caller’s numbers were outstanding in his sophomore campaign: 3,966 passing yards, 43 touchdowns, six interceptions. He set the FBS single-season record passing efficiency. And he did all that by throwing just 23.7 times per game, as the Crimson Tide were usually well ahead in games and not needing to go to the air. Oh, and he was dealing with nagging injuries throughout much of the season. Now Tagovailoa has something to prove after a poor showing against Clemson in the title tilt, and he comes into the season healthy and 15 pounds lighter, with a bevy of top targets back in the fold. He’s the odds-on favorite going into the campaign.
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson QB
As a freshman, Lawrence simply was outstanding, as he threw for 3,280 yards, 30 touchdowns, and just four interceptions. He ran the Clemson offense with a veteran’s efficiency against Alabama in the national title game, completing 20-of-32 for 347 and three touchdowns with no picks against one of the best defenses in the country. Now he’s back, with a year of collegiate experience under his belt and much more national attention after his championship performance. The question is how much will he need to throw the ball, especially with Travis Etienne back in the backfield coming off a 1,600-yard rushing campaign.
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin RB
Speaking of running backs, remember when the Heisman race was all about the guys who ran the ball? Taylor is the only running back in this top five, but he deserves it after rushing for 2,194 yards for the Badgers in 2018. He rushed for 7.1 yards per carry despite the lack of balance for the Wisconsin offense, which may continue with the starting quarterback job up for grabs in Madison. Taylor will put up the individual numbers, but will Wisconsin be able to win enough to give him the exposure needed to win the award?
Justin Herbert, Oregon QB
Another player who needs his team to win to gain some of the spotlight is Herbert, who may have been the top pick in the NFL draft if he didn’t decide to return to Eugene for his senior campaign. Herbert threw for 3,151 yards and 29 touchdowns, but he was relatively unknown nationally as the Ducks finished 9-4 on the season. Another Oregon quarterback, Marcus Mariota, is the last Pac-12 player to win the award in 2014, but the Ducks played in the national title game that season, bringing Mariota much of the publicity needed to gain national votes.
Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma QB
This pick has a few storylines to it. The last two Heisman Trophies have gone to an Oklahoma quarterback (Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray). Hurts led Alabama to two straight national championship games as a freshman and sophomore, then lost his starting job to Tagovailoa, though he did pass for 765 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Now he’s transferred to be the Oklahoma signal caller. The comeback story of the demoted quarterback transferring and doing well with the Sooners would certainly bring some sentimental votes, though following two straight Heisman winners could lead to raised expectations or a hangover effect of voters not wanting to make it three straight from the same school.