Philadelphia, PA – The 2011 campaign is now a month old and the Heisman Trophy race is starting to take shape. While no one wins the award solely on their play in the month of September, a few surprise entries have thrown their names into the mix with the typical favorites.
In handicapping the race through the first month of the season, it looks like the household names will have their work cut out for them, as jockeying for position starts to unfold.
Here are the top candidates for the award heading into October.
ROBERT GRIFFIN III - Currently the frontrunner, Griffin is eyeing up the first Heisman Trophy in Baylor history. The junior signal-caller leads one of the nation's most prolific offenses (51.3 ppg, 594.0 ypg). Through three games, Griffin has thrown more touchdown passes (13) than he has incompletions (12). He has completed an impressive 85.4 percent of his throws (70-of-82) and has a ridiculous passer rating of 236.2. By the way, he is also a dual threat with the ability to make things happen with his feet. Whether he remains among the top of the list depends on how he handles the Big 12 slate, a potential killer to anyone's Heisman legitimacy.
MARCUS LATTIMORE - If Steve Spurrier is to make it back to the national title game, than this super sophomore will certainly be the main reason why. Lattimore (6-0, 232-pounds) is the best all-around back in the country. After a tremendous freshman campaign in 2010, Lattimore has shown no signs of slowing down. Through four games, he has amassed 611 yards and eight TDs, averaging 152.8 yards per game on 5.7 yards per carry. By the way, he can also catch the ball out of the backfield (12 receptions, for 139 yards and one TD), making him a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball.
RUSSELL WILSON - The former NC State signal-caller had a highly productive three-year career in Raleigh, but with the move to Madison, Wilson's numbers have improved exponentially. Wilson leads the Big Ten's most potent offense, and has completed 75.8 percent of his throws in the first four games, for 1,136 yards, with 11 TDs against just one INT. He has a 218.4 passer rating and is just getting warmed up. This week's clash against Nebraska could go a long way in determining his position in the Heisman race.
LAMICHAEL JAMES - After a slow start in which the whole Oregon team failed to put up much of a fight against now top-ranked LSU, James has made up for it with superhuman efforts over the last two games. A finalist last year for the Heisman, James is now averaging an eye-popping 9.4 yards per carry and has amassed 613 yards and seven TDs, while netting 153.2 yards per game. He had 204 yards and three scores against Missouri State a couple of weeks ago, which seemed to jumpstart him, as James topped that with 288 yards and two TDs against Arizona a week later. A dynamic home run hitter, expect the explosive tailback to remain among the favorites the rest of the way.
WAITING IN THE WINGS:
ANDREW LUCK - The Cardinal gunslinger was the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman heading into 2011, and while he hasn't done anything to tarnish his candidacy, others have wrestled the top spot away from him in September. Through three games, Luck has completed an efficient 67.1 percent of his passes, for 786 yards and eight TDs against just one interception. While he may very well be the first overall pick in next year's NFL Draft, that doesn't mean he will win the Heisman.
KELLEN MOORE - This guy has been putting up ridiculous numbers his whole career at Boise State, but seems to always be on the outside looking in on the Heisman. That very well may be the case again, as the savvy signal-caller has completed 79 percent of his throws in 2011, for 995 yards, with 12 TDs against just two INTs. A big game playmaker, the fact that he plays in a non-BCS conference hurts his chances of winning the Heisman.
DARRON THOMAS - He will lose a ton of votes to teammate LaMichael James, but Thomas has gotten the job done as well in Eugene. The Ducks' signal-caller has thrown for 842 yards and 12 TDs this season against just one INT, while adding two more scores on the ground. Still, there is little chance of two Ducks finding their way to New York for the Heisman presentation. Thomas will likely give way to James in that regard, unless something happens to drastically change Oregon's gameplan the rest of the way.
BRANDON WEEDEN - The explosive Oklahoma State offense is led by the 27-year old Weeden. A terrific athlete who played professional baseball prior to coming to Stillwater, Weeden has not disappointed in his time with the Cowboys. This season, he has thrown for 1,592 yards in just four games, with 10 TDs. He certainly benefits from the nation's top wide receiver in Justin Blackmon and a balanced offense. While he will throw for a ton of yards when all is said and done, the Cowboys may need to get to the national championship game for Heisman voters to take notice.
JUSTIN BLACKMON - Last year's Biletnikoff Award winner is the most complete receiver in the game. Oklahoma State's best playmaker, he has great size and speed and simply dominates defenders all over the field. He has 38 receptions in the first four games of the season, for 450 yards with four TDs. Still, with other quality receivers out there (Oklahoma's Broyles, South Carolina's Jeffery and Notre Dame's Floyd) Blackmon will need a record-setting season to move into the top echelon of candidates.
LANDRY JONES - The Sooners' signal-caller has been as good as any quarterback in Norman in recent memory, including a pair of Heisman winners in Sam Bradford and Jason White. Jones has completed 72 percent of his throws in the first three games of 2011 for 1,022 yards and five TDs. Jones could climb the list if Oklahoma finds itself in the national title game.
RYAN BROYLES - He is usually on the opposite end of Landry Jones' passes and the electric Broyles has already hauled in 34 balls for 367 yards (122.3 per game) and four TDs in the first three games. As dangerous as any receiver in the country, this stellar Sooner isn't likely to get to New York regardless of the numbers he puts up in Norman this season.
DERNARD ROBINSON - There is no denying Robinson's playmaking ability as he can win a game all by himself for Michigan. The problem is that he is a one- dimensional quarterback at this time. Sure he can run with the best backs in the country, amassing 552 yards and five TDs in the first four games, but his passing leaves a lot to be desired. Robinson has only completed a paltry 48.6 percent of his throws thus far, for 624 yards, with six TDs and just as many interceptions. A human highlight reel for sure, but currently not a real threat to take home the Heisman.
BERNARD PIERCE - Pierce is as good as any runner in the country and if he played for a premier BCS powerhouse he would be much higher up the Heisman list. However, playing for Temple will hinder him. The Owls are an up-and- coming program, but beating up the MAC the rest of the way won't help promote a Heisman candidate. Pierce ran for 149 yards and five TDs last week at Maryland and now has rushed for nearly 500 yards (496) with a whopping 12 TDs through four games.
RONNIE HILLMAN - Much like Pierce, Hillman languishes in southern California at San Diego State. The Aztecs are not exactly a powerhouse and Hillman may be the best back there since Marshall Faulk, but even Faulk didn't win the Heisman, losing out to Miami's Gino Toretta. Hillman is averaging just over six yards per carry (6.2) and has rumbled for 606 yards and eight TDs through four games. Still, it would take a 2,000-yard season for voters to take notice and even with that, he may not get the award.
SAMMY WATKINS - Clemson's 6-1 freshman is the main reason (along with QB Tahj Boyd) that the Tigers find themselves in the general conversation regarding national title contenders. The youngster has been unstoppable in his first four collegiate games, amassing 28 receptions, for 433 yards and six TDs. Another big game at Virginia Tech could cement his name among the darkhorses in the Heisman race.