2021 Heisman Dark Horses

As the 2021 college football season is quickly approaching, the rumor mills are in full swing and so are the speculations. Before the start of every season, there’s a shortlist of candidates who are pretty much locks to be involved in the Heisman trophy talks at the end. Here are some players who aren’t in the spotlight but are in highly favorable situations that could see their Heisman odds exponentially rise:

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: QB Jeff Sims

Even though Georgia Tech didn’t find the win column a lot last year, their backfield has a ton of promise. Simms is the choice here but his success will depend heavily on his sidekick, running back Jahmyr Gibbs. Both were true freshman last year and showed why they were four star and top 300 prospects.

Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dave Patenaude needs to realize that Sims is a horse and he needs to be free. When I watch the film from this past season, I see a runner who can impact the game like Brad Smith did in his Missouri days. Through the air I see a Heisman winning quarterback like Troy Smith who put incredible zip and spin on the ball with minimal effort. If the rumors of his sub 4.4 time in the 40 yard dash are true, then he could follow the RG III mold.

TCU Horned Frogs: QB Max Duggan

Back in February I predicted a strong rise for TCU coming into 2021. I feel like they will have a top five rushing attack in the whole country, mainly because of Duggan. The Heisman conversation isn’t that far out of reach considering how Kansas State’s Collin Klein was able to make it all the way to New York in 2012.

His ability to impact the run game is the base of his skill set, just like when he ran for 154 and three TDs against Texas Tech last year. He should continue to grow in the passing game and possibly reach the 3,000 yard mark. Trips to the endzone have more weight than yards in the run game, and if he can average at least one per game like last season, Duggan will have a competitive stat line for Heisman voters.

Buffalo Bulls: RB Kevin Marks Jr.

Jaret Patterson laid the groundwork for him to get the national spotlight and now it’s on Marks Jr. to follow through. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry last season as the spell back, and if you transfer over Patterson’s carries the stat sheet is wild. I easily foresee a 300+ carry season and if he maintains his average from last year, that’s eclipsing 2,000 yards.

Even in 2019 as RB2 Marks Jr. went over 1,000 yards. With a full season as the primary back I can’t wait to see the numbers. He’s a perfect blend of power and speed to be a supreme performer in the MAC.

Auburn Tigers: RB Tank Bigsby

It’s hard to find a more fitting name for a running back than Tank, but he’s so much more than that. He’s a rare blend of patience, speed and strength who will only become a more polished piece during his time in Auburn. With the new staff rolling in, head coach Bryan Harsin needs to make it a priority to get Bigsby the rock.

He had the best jab step of anyone I’ve seen in the country last season and can bounce a dive out to the edge in the blink of an eye. His stiff arm is disgusting as well, which helps him get separation and knock away defenders diving at his legs. This is a no doubt first round running back in two years.

Ohio State Buckeyes: WR Garrett Wilson

An argument could be made for both Ohio State wideouts here, but Wilson seems to float around a little bit more in regards to where he lines up. Since Justin Fields has moved on, it’s free game now on who will become the new favorite wideout, just as Fields favored Chris Olave. That Northwestern game really showed how imperative chemistry is in the passing game, and what losing the top target can do.

All signs currently point to C.J. Stroud being the starter, and the easiest way to get a new quarterback acclimated is easy completions. Wilson is basically impossible to guard in tight man coverage as he will beat the press and break off routes in the blink of an eye. He honestly is the closest thing I’ve seen to Jarvis Landry in terms of versatility and ability to play way bigger than his given frame.

Ryan Day may try and steal some packages that Alabama used for DeVonta Smith that will allow Wilson to run free and shake defenders in the open field. Just looking back at the first four games from 2020, he started on a mission grabbing 31 passes for 513 yards and four TDs.

If Ohio State can make it to the title game, and play all 15 of their games in that scenario, that pace would put Wilson at 116 catches, 1,923 yards and 15 TDs. Smith won the Heisman on almost identical numbers at 117 catches, 1,856 yards but did have more TDs with 23. The blueprint is there.

Derek Worley

Sports Analyst

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