Heisman Watch: Top candidates to win college football's most prestigious award in 2019

With the college football season right around the corner, it’s never too early to look ahead to the sport’s most heralded award: The Heisman Trophy. Last year, it was Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray who took home the Heisman by surging past Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa late in the season. With Murray off to the NFL, Tagovailoa is one of the favorites entering 2019, but there are plenty of others who will be in the mix.

Favorites

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (+175): After racing past Kelly Bryant to take the starting QB job after four weeks, Lawrence led Clemson to a national championship as a true freshman. The 6-foot-6 Lawrence threw for 3,280 yards, 30 touchdowns and just four interceptions while completing 65.2 percent of his passes.

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama (+225): Tagovailoa, who threw for 3,966 yards and 43 TDs last year, was the heavy favorite to win the Heisman for much of the 2018 season, but he sputtered a bit late in the year to allow Murray to run past him in the voting. Tagovailoa worked on his body and decision-making throughout the offseason in an effort to avoid the issues that plagued him late in the year.

Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State (+1400): Fields was the No. 2 recruit behind Lawrence in the 2018 class. He began his career at Georgia, but transferred out after just one season of backing up Jake Fromm. Fields then transferred to Ohio State and was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA. Fields and new OSU head coach Ryan Day should keep the Buckeyes operating at a high level after the departure of Dwayne Haskins.

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Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma (+1400): Hurts was Alabama’s starting quarterback in 2016 and 2017 before losing his job to Tagovailoa. Hurts had some big moments in relief of the injured Tagovailoa last fall, but opted for a graduate transfer to Oklahoma for his final season of college football. Could he be the third transfer QB to win the Heisman at OU?

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin (+1800): Taylor finished in the top 10 of Heisman voting (6th in 2017, 9th in 2018) in his first two seasons of college ball after rushing for 1,977 yards as a freshman and 2,194 yards as a sophomore. Wisconsin had a down year last year. If the Badgers rise back to the top of the Big Ten West standings, will we see Taylor at the Heisman ceremony in New York City?

Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (23) has rushed for more than 4,000 yards in two seasons. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Adrian Martinez, QB, Nebraska (+2000): Martinez fought off an injury early in his freshman season before showing why Scott Frost brought him to Lincoln. As a true freshman, Martinez threw for 2,617 yards and 17 touchdowns while also gaining 629 yards with eight scores on the ground. His sophomore season should be even better.

Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson (+2200): Lawrence had quite a safety valve at running back with Travis Etienne. As a sophomore, Etienne rushed for a whopping 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns, averaging 8.1 yards per carry. Through two seasons, Etienne has rushed for 7.8 yards per attempt.

D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia (+2200): Swift’s first season as UGA’s top running back was a good one. He rushed for 1,049 yards and 10 touchdowns while catching 32 passes for 297 yards and three more scores. Swift’s versatility has made him a valued NFL prospect, but can he help the Bulldogs win the SEC?

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon (+2500): Herbert may have been the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft had he decided to leave school. Instead, he’s back in Eugene for his senior season — his fourth as the Ducks’ starter. If he leads the Ducks back to Pac-12 prominence, he could find himself in the Heisman mix.

Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas (+2800): Ehlinger threw for 3,292 yards and 25 touchdowns while adding 482 yards and 16 scores on the ground. Now a junior, if Ehlinger can help the Longhorns surpass Oklahoma in the Big 12 and into the CFP mix, he will undoubtedly get some Heisman love.

Best bets

Najee Harris, RB, Alabama (+4000): Alabama had a running back by committee approach last fall, but Harris is in line to be the lead back for the Tide in 2019 after rushing for 783 yards last fall. Harris split carries with Damien Harris and Joshua Jacobs throughout 2018, but now will be relied upon heavily by the Tide, especially after the injury to five-star freshman Trey Sanders.

J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State (+6000): Dobbins rushed for 350 fewer yards on 36 more carries last year compared to his freshman year, when he put up 1,403 yards. That drop-off in production has Dobbins motivated for a big junior year. At 60/1 odds, he could be worth throwing a few bucks on.

Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona (+6000): Around this time last year, Tate was considered a Heisman favorite after he rushed for 1,353 yards, including a record 327-yard effort, in 2017. But injuries and a new offense under Kevin Sumlin set Tate back in 2018. If Tate has improved as a passer and is healthy, he could be in line for a huge season.

Sleepers

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson (+5000): With Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne in the Clemson backfield, there will be plenty of chances for big plays for the wideouts. Higgins caught 59 passes for 936 yards and 12 scores as a sophomore. He and Justyn Ross (46 catches for 1,000 yards) are worth a look.

Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State (+8000): Benjamin was a workhorse for Arizona State last fall, rushing for 1,642 yards and 16 scores on 300 carries. ASU coach Herm Edwards told Yahoo Sports that Benjamin worked on adding more refined pass-catching abilities to his game this summer.

Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M (+10000): Mond showed marked improvement last fall in A&M’s first season under Jimbo Fisher, throwing for 3,107 yards and 24 scores while rushing for 474 yards and 7 TDs. With the Aggies’ difficult schedule, Mond will have the chance to showcase his skills in some big-time games.

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