With the 2018 college football season fast approaching, we wanted to take a minute to publish a few predictions. Last week, we released our 2018 Devy Watch Preseason All-Americans, and today, we’ll take a stab at predicting who will hoist the 2018 Heisman Trophy in December.
Brad – Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
In 2017, Taylor ran for a freshman record 1,977 yards and 13 touchdowns behind a talented offensive line. All five of those offensive lineman are back for Taylor’s sophomore campaign. In fact, tight end Troy Fumagalli is the only offensive starter not returning this season. Despite his gaudy numbers in 2017, Taylor was not invited to New York City, but a repeat of those stats and Wisconsin’s team success should be enough this season because Bryce Love is the only returning Heisman finalist.
There are only two obstacles that stand in Taylor’s way of becoming just the fifth sophomore to win the Heisman trophy: ball security and Wisconsin’s RB depth. Taylor coughed up the ball too many times last season, often around the goal line. Most, if not all of these were what I call effort fumbles. He wasn’t being careless with the ball, there were just too many defenders ripping, pulling, and poking at the ball while Taylor fought for extra yards. Also, the Badgers’ RB room is pretty deep and these guys – all the way down the list to walk-on Garrett Groshek – vultured several touchdowns last season.
Wisconsin RB coach John Settle, the man who has spent more time on the field with Taylor than anyone else, had this to say about Taylor last year – “He’s going to have an opportunity to be mentioned with whatever awards are given to running backs. It wouldn’t surprise me at some point in his career if he won them all.”
Why not now?
I know the Heisman is generally a quarterback’s award. I know only three running backs have won the Heisman since 2000, but trends change, and Jonathan Taylor will be the next running back to lift the Heisman Trophy.
Clayton – Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
If recent history is any indication, the Heisman Trophy has indisputably favored dual-threat quarterbacks, featuring the likes of Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, RGIII, Johnny Football, Marcus Mariota, and Lamar Jackson just to name a few.
Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray certainly fits that bill.
After sitting out a transfer season and playing sparingly behind Baker Mayfield in 2017, Murray finally has the reigns to the Sooners’ offense all to himself. Despite his diminutive stature, Murray is a born playmaker who is at his best improvising outside of structure. Murray highlighted his scrambling and rushing talents as a true freshman at Texas A&M, racking up 335 yards in merely 3 starts + a handful of other appearances. This included a 156 yard field day on the ground vs. South Carolina. Last season he displayed remarkable efficiency through the air completing 86% of his passes at a 17.1 Y/A clip in limited time.
With a talented supporting cast at WR, RB, and TE in arguably the worst defensive conference in football, 2018 could see Kyler Murray’s talents converge into video game numbers, giving the Sooners back to back Heisman Trophy winners.
Greg – D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
Swift is one of the most talented running backs in the country, along with that talent, he’s on a national title contending team. The Heisman award in recent memory has been awarded to the a player on a title contending team. After a final four run and the top ranked recruiting class Georgia is primed for another playoff run. With the departures of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, Swift looks to take full reign of the Bulldogs offense. Swift accounted for over 600 rushing yards and 17 receptions as a true freshman despite Chubb and Michel rushing for over 2,500 combined yards and 30 rushing touchdowns. That’s a lot of production needing replaced. Swift is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the country. Teaming his ability, opportunity, and the Bulldogs chances at a playoff run, Swift is primed for a Heisman run.
Kyle – Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
Looking back at the past ten winners, there are some consistent themes. The winner has played on a team that has won at least nine games. The winner has played on a team from a Power Five Conference that is located in the Midwest or Eastern portions of the United States. Never the West. The winner has been a quarterback or running back. So we can narrow down on who the likeliest winners may be. I debated between two guys: Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins and Millionaire Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray. I’m going to go with Dwayne Haskins. I feel confident that he will have a monster season and his squad is likely to be playing in the College Football Playoff. He checks all the aforementioned boxes, and because this is truly a media award, he has the Ohio State brand recognition that will tip the scales in his favor.
LJ – Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Prior to the spike in Heisman odds for Jonathan Taylor, I selected him as my Heisman pick on an episode of the Devy Watch Podcast. There have only been 2 RBs to win the Heisman trophy over the past decade. Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram, both hailing from Alabama and besting Stanford rushers who ultimately had better seasons but fell short in Heisman voting. Let’s take a look at what drew voters to these two backs.
Taylor had a terrific freshman season as you can see above. He finished somewhere in the middle of Henry and Ingram’s Heisman winning seasons. Wisconsin heads into the 2018 season with a more experienced Jonathan Taylor and the best offensive line unit in the country. Taylor should be able to improve on his 2017 season and if he is able to add to his touchdowns, he will be in a prime position to hoist the Heisman trophy at years end. Taylor needs a more complete output from the running back position as a pass catcher out of the backfield. It isn’t something he can’t do, more so something he hasn’t been relied upon to do. Taylor is an explosive runner with great size and elite athleticism. I think we see a running back take home the biggest award in college football once again.