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Who Will the SEC's next Heisman Winner Be?

Whether Tim Tebow plays against LSU or not, it's going to be difficult for him to win the Heisman this year. He's simply not putting up monster numbers, and the run heavy game plan the Gators used against Kentucky portends that he won't be passing enough when healthy to have eye popping stats. An Eric Crouch-style Lifetime Achievement Heisman is always possible, but as long as Colt McCoy stays healthy and doing his thing, it's probably his trophy to lose.

So if Tebow doesn't win it this year, it's unlikely anyone else from the SEC will. You generally have to be well known for a season before you get a chance to vie for the statuette. The only other SEC players besides Tebow who really have that kind of recognition are Jevan Snead, whose campaign basically exploded in the hangar last week, and Eric Berry, who was a long shot as a defender anyway and whose team isn't good enough for him to win it.

On the other hand, the quarterback from Cincinnati (!) is currently fourth on several Heisman polls, so anything is possible this year. Then again, Tony Pike did get some publicity for leading the Bearcats to a BCS bowl last year, so the point probably still stands. But who has a decent chance in future years?

A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

He's now got one fifth place vote on each of the ESPN Heisman tracker and the Heisman Pundit poll. The ESPN hype machine has also got a hold of him too, and once that happens, you've got a much better chance. He's clearly the best player on one of the SEC's marquee programs, and he's only going to get better as time goes along.

Chances: Not that great. Wide receivers basically have to be punt and/or kick returners too in order to have a chance at the Heisman. Maybe Green can make up for that in blocking more field goals, but if fantastic pure receivers like Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson can't do it, Green will be hard pressed to pull it off.

Greg McElroy, QB, Alabama

Alabama has famously not ever had a Heisman winner, and an anti-Southern bias has been cited as the reason why. Considering that LSU, Auburn, South Carolina, Georgia, and all three major programs in Florida have Heisman winners, that's not terribly likely. It's got more to do with Bama historically winning with defense and adequate offense, and great offensive players are generally who win it.

That brings us to McElroy. He's third in the country in passing efficiency and has a 7-1 touchdown to interception ratio. He's behind some of the other top guys (like Pike and McCoy) in passing yards, but his yards per attempt is sky high. He'll be held back some in the Heisman race by Alabama's reputation as a run-first team, but as he grows he'll get to do more and it doesn't hurt that he gets to throw to Julio Jones.

Chances: Decent. He's a clean cut, white quarterback from a power school, just like seven of the last nine Heisman winners (and this year's too if it's McCoy or Tebow). If Alabama continues its dominant play this season, he'll get some love for next year.

Any Running Back, RB, Any School

I'm just going to go ahead and cover them all now: no. They will not win Heismans. None of them. Not Mark Ingram, not Trent Richardson, not Bryce Brown, not Onterio McCalebb, or anyone else you can think of. In order to win the Heisman as a running back, you pretty much have to break the all time rushing record or run for over 1,900 yards in a season (unless you're Reggie Bush and the media annoints you the winner in the prior off season). The record got Ricky Williams and Ron Dayne the hunk of bronze, and going over 1,900 yards is what got Eddie George and Barry Sanders theirs.

The issue is that I don't think anyone is going to reach that high a plateau. Every team that emphasizes rushing in the conference does so with a platoon. The current conference rushing leader, Montario Hardesty, is only on pace to rush for 1,455 yards this season. That's a nice total for sure, but it's not Heisman territory. Even after Hardesty graduates, Bryce Brown will probably share carries with David Oku and whatever other stud running backs they recruit to Tennessee. And even if someone does get that high a rushing total, it's not a guarantee. Donald Brown, Kevin Smith, Garrett Wolfe, and Darren Sproles can all back me up on that.

Chances: Non existent. You can't play in a rotation and win the Heisman unless you're Reggie Bush, and he's on the Saints now.

Anyone Else?

It's too early yet to say who else could have a shot. Julio Jones is the only other player with the name recognition required, but as McElroy's star rises, Jones' chances fall. There's no way a Heisman electorate with a consistent historical preference for quarterbacks is going to pick a receiver over the guy throwing to him.

John Brantley might get some speculative votes early next year simply for being the Florida quarterback, and I'll bet that some of the running backs (especially Ingram) will get some too. For right now though, Green and McElroy look like the safest bets.