It hasn’t even been a week since Clemson rolled over Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, and it’s just been a little more than a month since Kyler Murray won the Heisman Trophy. Sounds like the perfect time to start thinking about next season.
And certainly the right time to look at five early contenders for the 2019 Heisman Trophy. Here we go.
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
After the way Lawrence performed down the stretch of the 2018 season, and especially in the College Football Playoff, the soon-to-be-sophomore should be the frontrunner among early Heisman favorites for 2019. In the final five games of the season, including the playoff, Lawrence threw for 1,436 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. That resulted in both a 156.2 passer rating and a national championship for the Tigers. Now, we’ll see if Lawrence, who threw 30 touchdowns and just four interceptions during his first season, can get better with age.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
The Heisman runner-up in 2018, Tagovailoa is again among the early Heisman favorites for the upcoming season. His performance against Clemson in the CFP title game was forgettable, but aside from the finale, where he was not 100 percent healthy, Tua’s 2018 season was remarkable from a number of standpoints. His 43 touchdown passes ranked second in the nation, and his 199.4 passer rating is a FBS record. He also did not throw his first interception of the season until Nov. 3. With Jalen Hurts seemingly no longer in the picture and the sting of a national championship miss on his mind, Tagovailoa should be relaxed and motivated for 2019.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
While the Badgers severely underachieved in 2018, Taylor enjoyed another stellar season, even though he had trouble hanging on to the ball at times. When all was said and done, Taylor was the only FBS player to reach the 2,000-yard rushing mark (2,194), and he also led the nation in average rush yards per game (168.8). Five times Taylor ran for more than 200 yards, including 205 against Miami (FL) in the Pinstripe Bowl and a career-high 321 at Purdue on Nov. 17.
Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Lawrence’s teammate will be back as one of the Heisman favorites to try and build on a stellar 2018 sophomore season. Etienne rushed for 1,658 yards, averaged a nasty 8.1 yards per carry and scored 24 touchdowns on the ground. Perhaps most impressive was that Etienne delivered when the games mattered most this season. He rushed for 203 yards and three touchdowns when Lawrence was hurt against Syracuse, had 156 with two scores in the ACC title game versus Pitt and totaled four touchdowns in the CFP semifinal and national championship game.
Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
The Bulldogs’ undisputed No. 1 quarterback managed to improve on a strong freshman season by throwing six more touchdowns and one fewer interception, as well as by completing a higher percentage of his passes. Unfortunately for Fromm, Georgia did not achieve the same type of success as in his first season. Perhaps 2019 will be better. He’s not in the same class at Tagovailoa, but is certainly worthy of being one of the early Heisman favorites.