The Heisman Trophy is given to college football’s most outstanding player and has been awarded annually since 1935. It is the oldest trophy for excellence in collegiate athletics, though some would argue that it does not have a real impact on who becomes an NFL star or MVP.
The “top 17 heisman candidates 2021” is a list of the top 17 Heisman Trophy contenders for the upcoming college football season. The list was created by 247Sports.
Despite the fact that the Heisman race did not completely come into focus until the 14th week of the season, there was no dispute about who should win.
Bryce Young of Alabama won the Heisman Trophy in 2021, becoming the first Crimson Tide quarterback to do it. Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones were also contenders in prior years, but Young’s finish to the season — a strong performance against Arkansas, a gutsy comeback win over Auburn, and an incredible triumph over Georgia — made him the favorite to win the award.
Many observers predicted Young would win the award before the season started, but it was definitely a winding road to get there. More shocking was how fast most of his other preseason favorites — from Clemson’s D.J. Uiagalelei to Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, Georgia’s J.T. Daniels to North Carolina’s Sam Howell — faded from consideration. Except for Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, almost every big-name Heisman candidate in August was a nonfactor in the race by midseason.
Will we be able to forecast the greatest players in college football in 2022 any better? With Young, Stroud, and a slew of other elite players back, there’s a good chance we’ll get a few more things right this time. Still, the Heisman has a history of delivering surprises, so the possibilities for 2022 range from a Young repeat to a comeback from Rattler or Uiagalelei.
Toggle between: top contenders | up-and-comers | players on the rise Stories of redemption | Dark horses | Big-name transfers
contenders for first place
Bryce Young, Alabama quarterback
It’s one of those sports tidbits that everyone knows: Archie Griffin of Ohio State is the only two-time Heisman winner, having won the award in 1974 and 1975. Three players have had a chance to repeat in the last decade: Johnny Manziel, Jameis Winston, and Lamar Jackson, but none have come close (Jackson finished third in 2017 after winning it in 2016). As a result, history implies that 2022 will not be Young’s year. However, his ability and Alabama’s offense suggest a different narrative. Young will be the overwhelming favorite to win in 2022, and it’s difficult to see him regressing much after his outstanding 2021 performance.
Ohio State quarterback Stroud, C.J.
Stroud is No. 1A on the list of anticipated Heisman winners in 2022 if Young is No. 1. Stroud, a finalist in 2021, directed what was perhaps the top offensive in the country, and he now has a year of experience under his belt. He’ll almost probably be back in New York City next season if he adds on his 35 touchdowns (to go with only five interceptions) and 71 percent completion percentage as a redshirt sophomore.
TreVeyon Henderson (OSU) is a running back for the Buckeyes.
If Stroud doesn’t win it next year, it’s possible that one of his teammates will. Henderson was the most explosive rusher in the country as a true freshman, averaging more than 7 yards per carry and piling up 19 touchdowns and 28 explosive plays. Henderson’s greatest challenge is that the Heisman is traditionally a quarterback-centric honor, and he’s in a backfield with one of college football’s finest.
Caleb Williams, Oklahoma quarterback
Williams didn’t take over as Oklahoma’s starting quarterback until Week 7, yet as a true freshman in 2021, he came close to winning the Heisman Trophy. Despite completing more than 10 passes in just seven games, Williams concluded the season with 24 total touchdowns, only four interceptions, and more than 2,000 yards of offense. The most pressing question for Williams will be about his coach. Lincoln Riley is gone to Southern California after making Oklahoma the hub for Heisman hopefuls, and Brent Venables, a superb defensive thinker, takes over the program. Will the offense be as productive if Riley isn’t on the field?
Bijan Robinson is a running back for the Texas Longhorns.
Robinson, one of the preseason favorites for 2021, had his season go apart as Texas’ offense sputtered, and an injury ruined his season after ten games. Even still, it’s easy to see why so many people thought Robinson would win this year’s award. Despite the injuries and a lack of offensive help, he ended as one of just nine Power 5 running backs with 1,400 total yards and 15 touchdowns.
Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. is a linebacker.
Despite some really eye-popping figures — 52 solo tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks, nine quarterback pressures, and two pass break-ups — he was not selected a nominee for this year’s prize, causing outrage among many analysts. Anderson was a one-man wrecking crew, sparking Alabama’s defense in the same manner that Young sparked the offense. It’s never easy for a defensive player to make a serious run at the award, but if he’s just as effective in 2022, some voters could feel he’s entitled a make-up call.
Up-and-comers are a group of people who are just starting out in their careers.
QB, Miami Tyler Van Dyke is a rapper who is well-known for his
To suggest Miami supporters are looking forward to 2022 is like to saying Ed Reed worked hard. It’s true, but that’s an understatement. Yes, new AD Dan Radakovich and new head coach Mario Cristobal are big reasons for the excitement in Coral Gables, but Van Dyke, who came on as a replacement for D’Eriq King in September and quickly blossomed into one of the country’s most prolific passers, is perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle. Van Dyke finished the season with six consecutive games over 300 yards and three touchdowns, five of which he won.
Braelon Allen of Wisconsin is a running back.
Allen evolved into a star despite receiving just 12 touches in the first month of the season, finishing with 1,109 running yards and 12 touchdowns, including a string of seven consecutive 100-yard games. Allen rushed for 401 yards and six touchdowns in two weeks against Northwestern and Nebraska. He’ll enter 2022 as Wisconsin’s undisputed starter, No. 1 weapon, and a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate.
Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina quarterback
McCall may have been a Heisman candidate this year if things had gone differently in 2021. Coastal Carolina fell by a field goal to Appalachian State, and McCall missed a two-point defeat to Georgia State in November. Because the Chanticleers dropped out of the top 25, most people missed McCall’s outstanding sophomore season, in which he topped the country in yards per attempt (by two yards!) and passer rating while throwing 23 touchdowns and just three interceptions. If Coastal can re-establish itself as a Group of 5 force in 2022, McCall may find himself in New York City.
Devin Leary, quarterback for NC State
Because the ACC’s quarterback class in 2021 was so rich, it was easy to miss Leary’s efforts in Raleigh. He returned in 2020 after fighting injuries and threw for 3,433 yards, 35 touchdowns, and just five interceptions. Even at a school like NC State, where quarterbacks like Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Jacoby Brissett, and Ryan Finley had already established a reputation, Leary’s performance stood out. He may join Rivers as the only quarterbacks in school history to win 10 games in a season if he wins the Holiday Bowl.
QB for Boston College Jurkovec, Phil
When it comes to ACC quarterbacks, Jurkovec should get a lot of preseason Heisman buzz. After transferring from Notre Dame, he was one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the NCAA two years ago, passing for 2,558 yards and 17 touchdowns in his debut year with the Eagles. In 2021, he seemed to be a dark-horse Heisman contender, but a wrist injury cut short his season in September. In November, he returned to the field, although he was never fully recovered. In 2022, if Jurkovec stays healthy, he might be a legitimate candidate to become next season’s Kenny Pickett.
The players that were so excellent in 2021 that they must be considered
Cade McNamara, Michigan quarterback, and Blake Corum, Michigan running back
Which player is more important to Michigan’s offense? Early in the 2021 season, Corum put in a lot of effort, running for more than 100 yards in each of the Wolverines’ first three games. But McNamara made significant progress in the first month of the season, and by October, he was also making plays in the passing game. Corum suffered with an injury late in the season and shared time with senior Hassan Haskins, but he’ll be the starting running back next season, and McNamara won’t have to adjust to Big Ten games for a month this time. Both players should be considered for the Heisman Trophy.
RB Syracuse Sean Tucker is a character in the film Sean Tucker
Tucker, an All-American as a freshman, established the school running record with 1,496 yards in 2021. (to go with another 255 as a receiver). He’s a strong runner with enough maneuverability to avoid tackles. Syracuse has a new offensive coordinator, and it’s unclear how dedicated head coach Dino Babers, who was formerly renowned for his up-tempo attack, would be to the ground-and-pound style that was successful in 2021. Regardless of the offensive strategy, Tucker is the finest runner in the ACC, and he should have plenty of touches.
Will Rogers, Mississippi State quarterback
Mike Leach has a lengthy and remarkable track record of producing high-scoring quarterbacks, but Rogers might be the greatest of the group. Rogers passed for 300 yards or more in 11 of his 12 regular-season games (a meager 294 yards in a victory against NC State) and 35 touchdowns. We know Rogers will have a Heisman-worthy stat line in Year 3 as the starter in Leach’s Air Raid style. The major issue is whether he can raise the Bulldogs to the point where voters appreciate the player rather than the concept.
Malik Cunningham is the quarterback for the Louisville Cardinals.
It was reasonable to argue that collegiate football had never seen somebody like Lamar Jackson five years ago. Cunningham now seems to be carved from the same mold, and he also happens to play for the same squad. Cunningham is a lightning fast runner with the same dynamic change-of-direction abilities as Jackson. He rushed for 968 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2021, making him one of the country’s most prolific running backs. All of this is before taking into account his strong passing game, in which he completed 62 percent of his passes for 18 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Only five other Power 5 quarterbacks have recorded 18 running touchdowns and 18 throwing touchdowns in the same season since 2004. Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, and Jackson won the Heisman Trophy, while the other finished second (Jalen Hurts).
The tales of redemption
Spencer Rattler, a former Oklahoma quarterback,
Rattler seemed to be the safest option for the Heisman Trophy in 2021. He wasn’t even the starter for Oklahoma until mid-October. Rattler’s performance was massively exaggerated — he was still completing 75% of his throws when he was benched — but the offense never resonated with him for some reason. He’s now on the transfer portal, and wherever he goes in 2022, he’ll be one of the country’s most gifted players.
D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson quarterback
It’s a testament to Uiagalelei that, despite substantial challenges in the face of enormous expectations in 2021, he continued going out on the field and battling for points, finally leading Clemson to a 9-3 record that, although well short of the Tigers’ usual record, was still a respectable effort. Perhaps the experience will strengthen Uiagalelei’s determination — after all, what’s a year if it doesn’t kill you? — and he’ll return in 2022 as the player we all expected him to be this year.
The quarterbacks at USC
In 2022, who will be the Trojans’ quarterback? Kedon Slovis has yet to declare for the NFL. Jaxson Dart ended 2021 with a few glimpses of his enormous skill. The transfer portal might also be a viable solution. It doesn’t matter; what matters is that Riley, the Heisman whisperer, is now coaching the Trojans, which implies whomever gets the job deserves serious consideration.
Anthony Richardson, quarterback for the Florida Gators
Gators fans expected him to start right away in 2021, but although Emory Jones oversaw a very difficult offense for most of the year, Richardson had his own setbacks. The new coaching staff and fresh start for everyone is perhaps the more important storyline. Richardson’s athleticism is undeniable, and with a clean slate in 2022, it’s conceivable he’ll bring it all together.
Georgia quarterback Daniels, J.T.
We don’t know whether Daniels will return in 2022, and as his previous two seasons at Georgia have proven, he’s far from assured to be the starter there. The transfer portal might be another possibility for a quarterback who was once one of the best prospects in the country, alongside Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, but has only started eight games in the last three years due to injuries and competition on the depth chart (all wins, by the way). Along with Daniels, a few other players, like North Carolina’s Sam Howell, Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker, and Alabama’s Jameson Williams, might be in the Heisman conversation if they surprise fans and stay for another year.
DE for Oklahoma State Oliver, Collin
Do you need a defender to compete with Alabama’s Anderson? Your best bet could be Oliver. He sparked Oklahoma State’s ferocious defense as a freshman in 2021, racking up 15 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks while making key plays down the line that almost led the Pokes to a Big 12 championship.
Cade Klubnik, Clemson quarterback
If Uiagalelei does not make the jump in 2022, the incoming freshmen may be the ones who receive the call. Klubnik is one of the nation’s best prospects, was named Texas football player of the year as a senior, and has the leadership and grit that helped the Tigers’ Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence become Heisman candidates.
Texas Tech’s quarterback
Who will it be this time? We still don’t know. The transfer portal may provide some exciting possibilities. But this remark is more about the Red Raiders’ new offensive coordinator, Zach Kittley, who helped make Bailey Zappe into a star at Houston Baptist and Western Kentucky, and now travels to Lubbock in the hopes of upping the ante even more.
The high-profile transfers
If the gateway was intended to be a place where role players might find a greater position on another club, it has swiftly morphed into a storefront for big-name talent. Former Georgia Tech running back Jahmyr Gibbs, former TCU running back Zach Evans, and former Ohio State quarterback Quinn Ewers are among the names in the portal ahead of the 2022 season. Any one of them — or a slew of others, for that matter — might make a run at the Heisman Trophy, depending on their landing sites and how fast they acclimate to their new environments.
QBs who aren’t quarterbacks
Jordan Addison of Pitt earned the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s finest receiver, but a repeat performance would need a new quarterback, making a true Heisman candidacy unlikely.
Although it’s unlikely that a tight end would win the Heisman, Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer and Georgia’s Brock Bowers all offer unique skills at the position and are coming off outstanding seasons in 2021. Yes, this will most likely be a battle for the Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end, but imagine a day when anybody, even a rugged tight end, can win the Heisman Trophy.
Deuce Vaughn of Kansas State is also deserving of a mention. He’s the Wildcats’ offensive focal point, and his ability to get yards as a rusher and receiver makes him a one-of-a-kind weapon.
If Clemson’s offense finds a fresh lease of life after a disappointing 2021 season, running back Will Shipley is likely to play a key role, placing him in the competition for the Heisman Trophy. Devon Achane of Texas A&M is arguably the fastest man in college football. He won the Orange Bowl MVP award last season, dominated the SEC on the track in the spring, and then played a supporting role in Texas A&M’s backfield in 2021, rushing for 900 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 7 yards per carry.
Because starter Isaiah Spiller is projected to join the NFL draft, Achane will likely receive the majority of the carries next season, which could be a nightmare for opposition defenses.
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The “heisman ceremony 2022 date” is the date when the Heisman Trophy will be awarded. The award show will take place on December 10th, 2022.
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