In today’s fast-paced and information saturated world, it’s never too early for anything. So months before the college football season is set to begin around September, let’s look at the ACC’s first few Heisman hopefuls of 2015:
Justin Thomas – QB – Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Thomas showed what’s so special about him in his performance at the Orange Bowl. He stymied the once staunch Mississippi State Bulldogs’ defense by cutting through running lanes and carving their secondary for 121 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. He completed just shy of 60 percent of his passes, but his mechanics looked much improved from what we saw for most of 2014. Now that Russell Wilson has broken the mold for aggressively mobile quarterbacks, look for an emulator such as Thomas to garner more attention in this year’s Heisman heat.
James Conner – RB – Pittsburgh Panthers
Conner defeats defensive fronts in the same way he shatters records — powering through the first layer, and then separating himself from the pack. In 2014, Conner distanced himself from Pittsburgh legend Tony Dorsett, breaking three of Dorsett’s long-standing records. In 2015, expect Conner to hunt down the Heisman as stubbornly as he usurped Dorsett’s place in the Panthers’ record books.
Dalvin Cook – RB – Florida State Seminoles
If Dalvin Cook can successfully implement ball security into his portfolio, then his stock will pay dividends for both himself and the Florida State Seminoles. Cook was the most outstanding freshman not named Brad Kaaya in the ACC’s 2014 season. He created a rivalry with an established back in Karlos Williams and notched priceless big-game experience. If he can just hold on to the ball, he could be holding on to a Heisman.
Of course this list will change, expand, turn over and evolve, but as it is early, these are the precocious Heisman trophy front-runners. The ACC is a dynamic conference, and with its talent no longer centered in Tallahassee, it should be interesting to see who emerges from the ether.