By Dan Kelley on August 8, 2014
The winner of the Heisman Trophy is always tough to predict in the preseason. Nobody knew the names Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston before they came out of nowhere and won the award as freshmen. The only constant is that the winners always come from great teams. Seven of the last 10 winners played in the national championship game.
With that in mind, here are five dark horse candidates to break into the Heisman Trophy conversation in 2014.
The Sun Devils had one of the most prolific offenses in the country last season and they could be even better in 2014, thanks largely to the return of QB Taylor Kelly. Kelly accounted for 57 passing touchdowns and more than 6,600 passing yards in the past two seasons and added 608 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground last year.
Rashad Greene may be the most enviable WR in NCAA football. Not only does Greene have last year’s Heisman winner throwing to him, he is now the unquestioned No. 1 target for the Florida State Seminoles, following the departure of Kelvin Benjamin & Kenny Shaw. Greene was already FSU’s leading receiver, but he should be targeted even more frequently now. The fact that FSU is the odds-on favorite to win the national championship doesn't hurt either.
The main thing hurting Taysom Hill’s chances for the Heisman in 2014 is the uniform he wears. Last year, Hill accounted for 4,282 total yards, which was better than Winston’s and AJ McCarron’s totals. But unlike those two, Hill did not make the cut as a Heisman finalist. If Hill can duplicate or even improve on his numbers from last season, a trip to the award ceremony should be in his future, at the very minimum.
Trevor Knight still needs to prove that his performance against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl wasn’t a fluke, but if he can play like that all year, he will have an excellent chance to win the Heisman in 2014. A solid QB can put up huge numbers in Oklahoma's offense and Knight looks like their next great passer. Perhaps more importantly though, OU is among the favorites to make an appearance in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Derrick Henry may seem like an odd choice for a list of Heisman contenders. After all, Henry currently looks to be the second fiddle to a more obvious Heisman candidate, T.J. Yeldon. But Henry brings a fearsome combination of size (6-foot-3, 241 pounds) and speed to Alabama’s backfield and he will get plenty of touches in the offense. As a freshman last season, Henry rushed for 382 yards and three touchdowns on 10.1 yards per carry.
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