By Brian Kalchik @BrianKalchik on July 16, 2014
Even though the season has yet to begin, it's not too early to begin looking at the Heisman Trophy contenders heading into the 2014 season. Familiar names like Bryce Petty, Jameis Winston and Braxton Miller will dominate the early discussions, but right behind them are several worthy candidates who could make a splash in 2014. These five players may not be the biggest dark horses, but these players are flying under the Heisman radar.
In his first season as the lead running back at Alabama, T.J. Yeldon gained 1,235 yards rushing and scored 14 times on the ground. Yeldon could slide down the Heisman radar early on due to splitting carries with Derrick Henry, but given that the Crimson Tide lost QB A.J. McCarron, the Crimson Tide will emphasize the run more. If this happens, Yeldon will be the main beneficiary, and could even be a factor as a receiver out of the backfield too.
In seven of his first nine games last season, South Carolina RB Mike Davis posted 100-yard rushing games, finishing his season with 1,183 yards rushing. With a new starting quarterback replacing long-time starter Connor Shaw, South Carolina might lean even more on Davis and the running game this upcoming season. That's good news for Davis' Heisman chances.
This past season, Melvin Gordon finished 10th in the nation in rushing despite having to split carries with backup James White, who is now in the NFL. He led all running backs with a 7.81-yard per carry average last season, and in a run-first offense, Gordon will continue to get plenty of touches this season. Gordon also proved that he can run against the best defenses, with 193 yards against Arizona State and 143 against South Carolina.
The past two seasons, Brett Hundley has been flying under the radar, especially with players like Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston dominating the headlines. Hundley, Oregon's Marcus Mariota and the now-departed Manziel were the only three quarterbacks in the nation last season to top 3,000 yards passing and 700 yards rushing. Those type of numbers will easily get Hundley back into the Heisman discussion.
In just his first season as a starter for the Auburn Tigers, Nick Marshall was one of the top playmakers in the nation last season. He is more known for his running ability (1,068 yards last season) than his abilities as a passer, but when he threw the ball, he was incredibly efficient last year. In his 239 pass attempts, Marshall threw just six INTs and averaged a solid 8.3 yards per attempt, meaning he wasn't just another "Captain Checkdown."
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