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SEC Heisman Candidate Series: Laremy Tunsil

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He's the best in college football at one of the most important positions. Why not him?

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Heisman Trophy is given annually to the most outstanding "player" in college football, yet, it has almost exclusively now been given to just quarterbacks and running backs. Charles Woodson, the former two-way star for Michigan, won the award back in 1997. He was the last Heisman winner who didn't play either quarterback or running back.

Suffering an even longer drought in the Heisman discussion are offensive linemen. No linemen has ever won the award. The last time the position was even recognized on the ballot was back in 1996, when Orlando Pace finished fourth in the voting. The award has continued to trend in an offensive direction, yet the O-line has still not received the credit it deserves.

The Heisman Trophy is not explicitly linked to the number of touchdowns scored in a season. The award kind of is though, and don't great lineman set up the blocks and big openings necessary for even the most talented of quarterbacks and running backs to score? In the last five NFL Draft's, the position has been taken in the top five more than both quarterback and running back combined.

Just to give you a quick example: in the 2014 NFL Draft, offensive tackle Greg Robinson out of Auburn was taken by the St. Louis Rams with the second overall selection. Robinson helped lead his team through the daunting SEC West and eventually to the 2014 National Championship game. The former tackle helped clear the way for Gus Malzahn's dynamic running attack that featured two 1,000-yard rushers, Nick Marshall and Tre Mason. Mason, behind the blocking of Robinson, tallied over 1,800 yards and 23 touchdowns on his way to being named a 2013 Heisman Finalist. The former Tiger running back was later drafted by the Rams in the third round. The NFL seems to have put a premium on the offensive linemen position, but the Heisman voters clearly don't. So why is there a discrepancy and why should this year be any different for top prospect Laremy Tunsil?

Laremy Tunsil should be a Heisman candidate. His position and play may never actually be considered Heisman candidate worthy, whether it's truly based upon actually scoring those touchdowns or enough Heisman moments. Nonetheless, Tunsil should be considered for the award. He has all the right story-lines, high NFL draft stock, and championship potential that make him one of the most outstanding players in college football.

Amongst the most intriguing story-lines surrounding Tunsil is how he will recover from fracturing his fibula just last season in the Peach Bowl. Whether he will return to form and be the offensive tackle that scouts are already salivating for is the big question. If he can return to his top draft pick billing, he would definitely be up for immediate consideration for comeback player of the year. Not just because he was able to recover from such a late in the season injury, but also because of the crop of talent that is left at Ole Miss.

The Rebels will most likely begin the football season somewhere in the middle of the top 25. This should mostly be attributed to their stout defense. On the other side of the ball, Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss will be hard pressed to replicate what they had accomplished last season with senior quarterback Bo Wallace. Though Wallace may have been turnover prone, the former Rebel QB was still a senior leader who lead them to a 9-win season and helped account for over 3,000 yards of offense.

Tunsil will really have his work cut out for him with protecting a new inexperienced quarterback. Currently, redshirt sophomore Ryan Buchanan and former Clemson Tiger Chad Kelly continue to vie for the starting gig even after the Rebels' spring game. Laremy will need to recover quickly, become a leader for the offense, and play better than he ever has before.

Tunsil will clearly not be afforded the same luxuries as most top returning players. If he can overcome these obstacles, manage the always treacherous SEC West, and lead the Rebels on a championship run, wouldn't that make his road to New York amongst the most difficult? If he can accomplish it all, why can't this potential NFL number one overall prospect be considered the first offensive linemen to be a Heisman candidate since 1996?