It’s probably too early to talk about potential 2017 Heisman contenders. After all, some people are still processing how Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson dominated the field in 2016.
Even though Jackson posted video game-like numbers, he was far from a unanimous choice. However, Jackson will still be one of the early front runners for the award next season. If he were to pull it off once again in 2017, Jackson would be just the second two-time Heisman winner in history, joining Ohio State running back Archie Griffin, who won the award in 1974 and 1975.
Needless to say however, it’s easier said than done to go back to back. Currently, there is no obvious candidate to knock off Jackson from his Heisman pedestal. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t players who can do it. In fact there are a handful players who could emerge as threats to Jackson’s throne and there are plenty of SEC players.
Instead of listing every signal possible contender for the most coveted award in college football from the SEC, here are the top choices in no particular order:
Derrius Guice, LSU running back
Entering the 2016 season, LSU running back Leonard Fournette was seen as a Heisman front runner. However, Fournette battled injuries all season long, opening the door for sophomore Derrius Guice to strut his stuff.
I wouldn't have even tried to stop Derrius Guice, so mad respect for that kicker pic.twitter.com/2m8wjs2saA— Athlete Motivation™ (@MotiveAthletes) January 16, 2017
Guice was a big play waiting to happen. The back recorded 58.6 percent of his yards on breakaway (15-plus yard) runs. On the season, Guice rushed for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns. Those numbers helped Guice earn First-Team All-SEC. Earning that type of accolade when you are considered the backup ball carrier is nothing sort of impressive.
With Guice’s big play ability and along with LSU’s new misdirection offense, the back may see monster statistics in 2017 since he will have a full workload.
No Fournette. No problem.— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) December 31, 2016
Derrius Guice breaks a 70 yard Touchdown run vs. Louisville. pic.twitter.com/Xr7qoFjn1i
Jalen Hurts, Alabama quarterback
The freshman signal caller may not have been in the Heisman conversation this past season but his first year in college was a good one.
Hurts won the starting job, led Alabama to an undefeated regular season record and the SEC Championship while also earning SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors. The young gunslinger proved that he is one of the nation’s most dynamic running quarterbacks as well, rushing for 954 yards and 13 touchdowns. Hurts also added 2,780 yards, 23 touchdowns through the air with nine interceptions.
However, if Hurts wants to be a Heisman contender in 2017, he will need to grow as a passer. During the College Football Playoff, he barely averaged over four yards per attempt in each game. But with new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian at the helm (who is known to produce quarterbacks), we could see tremendous growth in Hurts’ sophomore season as a passer.
Kamryn Pettway, Auburn running back
This one may surprise people, but don’t be shocked come late in the 2017 season if Kamryn Pettway is garnering Heisman consideration.
After Auburn lost its top three rushers, Pettway emerged as the Tigers’ top threat out of the backfield. Once he took over, he flashed ability that made him known as the SEC’s ‘most powerful’ running back. Pettway ran through his opponents for 1,224 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 5.9 yards per attempt along the way. During a four-game stretch against Mississippi State, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, the tank of back rumbled for 770 yards.
He's not quite as dramatic about it as Fournette is, but Kamryn Pettway will run over DBs all day too. pic.twitter.com/CNWqUStcFP— David Wunderlich (@Year2) October 25, 2016
Pettway recorded those statistics in only nine games as he missed four games due to injury. Imagine what he can do if he stays healthy for a full season starting out as Auburn’s primary back.
- Jarrett Stidham, Auburn quarterback
- Whoever is Alabama’s starting running back is
- Nick Chubb, Georgia running back
- Jacob Eason, Georgia quarterback
- Shea Patterson, Ole Miss quarterback