If a quarterback or running back probably needs to be on a top-10 team to have a shot at the Heisman, then it's a absolute necessity for someone playing a position that doesn't consistently produce contenders for the award.
Those would be anyone who isn't a quarterback or a running back. Since 1950, only three non-QBs and non-RBs won the Heisman (Tim Brown, Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson).
So, really, it's unlikely any of these guys will win the Heisman. But if there's to be a surprise candidacy, it could easily come from this list. And remember, this is not a ranking of talent or quality, but merely the chances a player can blend skill, stats and team success well enough to wind up on the Heisman radar.
1. WR Julio Jones, Alabama. He'll be on a high-profile team and most voters already know who he is. Who cares if he only had 596 yards receiving last year? If he has a breakout season, he could easily be the most notable receiver in the Heisman race. The best in the SEC? That would be. ...
2. WR A.J. Green, Georgia. Green will be at the mercy of another new starting quarterback in Athens, so that's a bit of a concern. But he'll be one of the focal points of the Bulldogs' offense, and should Georgia make a run to an SEC title (not impossible with Florida losing so much), he could be in the Heisman discussion.
3. DT Jared Crick, Nebraska. Thanks to former teammate Ndamukong Suh, folks might actually pay attention to Nebraska's defensive players from the start of the season this year. That means Crick, who had 9.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss to go with 73 overall tackles, could receive some Heisman hype if the Blackshirts continue their revival in Lincoln this fall and make a run at an unbeaten season.
4. WR Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma. Educated guess: Broyles will have the most statistically imposing season of any wideout. He had 1,120 yards and 15 touchdowns a season ago, and with quarterback Landry Jones a year older, Broyles could be on the receiving end of the most lethal pitch-and-catch combo in the country. If Oklahoma does contend for a national title, either Broyles or Jones could be touted for the Heisman; should Broyles match his 89 receptions from last year, here's betting he's the guy who generates attention.
5. DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina. So many Tar Heels to consider. Quinn, with his 11 sacks a year ago, is probably a better bet ahead of Bruce Carter, Quan Sturdivant or Deunta Williams. At the very least, consider him the preseason favorite for ACC defensive player of the year.
6. WR Jon Baldwin, Pittsburgh. If the Panthers air it out more with a new quarterback, Baldwin could benefit. He had 1,111 yards and eight touchdowns last year, but teammate Dion Lewis will probably run his way into the discussion before Baldwin. Nonetheless, he's a guy to watch if the Panthers can beat Utah and Miami early and then make a run at a Big East crown.
Six more also considered: LB Bruce Carter, North Carolina, DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa, WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame, LB Greg Jones, Michigan State, WR/KR James Rodgers, Oregon State, WR/KR Titus Young, Boise State
Coming tomorrow: Half-dozen nonconference games more than worth the price of admission