The Heisman Trophy has been dominated by quarterbacks in recent years. There are still other players that could compete for the award, even if they are longshots. Here are the non-quarterbacks who can compete for the 2020 Heisman Trophy.
Note: Heisman odds found here.
1. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson Tigers (+2500)
Etienne has been a star for Clemson for three seasons and surprised most NFL Draft experts when he decided to go back to play his senior year of football. He has 4,038 rushing yards in his career and 62 total touchdowns. His play has consistently helped the Tigers make the College Football Playoff (CFP). With the talent on the roster again this season, Etienne can play well and the Tigers can return to the CFP.
As with every non-quarterback, there will be obstacles to overcome to win the Heisman. Etienne has the best shot out of all of them, because he plays on such a great team. With that, he’ll need to outshine his own teammate, Trevor Lawrence, which won’t be easy. His stat lines of the last two seasons are comparable to other Heisman winners, but he’ll need to have a big game in their showdown with Notre Dame to get the respect of voters.
2. Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State (+2500)
Hubbard may have entered headlines this offseason for social justice reasons, but it should not take away from what he can do on the field. He rushed for 2,094 yards and 21 touchdowns last season as a redshirt sophomore. Oklahoma State will always keep their foot on the gas on offense, so Hubbard could replicate his success. If the team plays better and they are able to compete for the Big 12 Championship, there is no doubt that Hubbard will be in contention for the Heisman.
For Hubbard to win the award, he can’t do much more than he did last season. He could have some more highlight moments in big games, but it might take the Cowboys beating Oklahoma and competing for a CFP spot to get him over the top. Even if he gets that far, he still might not be able to jump the top quarterbacks.
3. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama Crimson Tide (+4000)
Of the three running backs to win the Heisman Trophy in the 21st century, two of them have been Alabama running backs. Those were Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry. Since then, Alabama has made more use out of a running back by committee approach, but now Najee Harris will be a lead back for them. Last season for the Crimson Tide, Harris rushed for 1,224 yards and 13 touchdowns. With Alabama looking to compete for the CFP again, Harris could sneak away with the Heisman.
To win the Heisman, Harris will need to up his numbers a little bit. At least 1,600 rushing yards will be needed to win the award if not more. Alabama will also need to get back to the College Football Playoff to give Harris a good shot. That will require them finding a good quarterback to keep opposing defenses from stacking the box against Harris. If Harris can up his numbers and Alabama can get back in contention, the Heisman could be headed back to Tuscaloosa.
4. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU Tigers (+10000)
The first non-running back on this list is Ja’Marr Chase, who won the Biletnikoff Award last season as the nation’s top receiver. He had 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns, as his play helped Joe Burrow win the Heisman and the team win the National Championship. Now, he’ll have to help Myles Brennan, the new Tigers’ quarterback, to find success. If Brennan plays well, the team could have success again this season.
It will be hard for a wide receiver to win the award, as the last one to do it was Desmond Howard in 1991. Chase would have to improve his numbers over last season, hope that Brennan didn’t get more votes than him and hope the team would have success. That is a lot to ask for, but that’s probably what it would take to win the award.
5. Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami Hurricanes (N/A)
Rousseau dominated last year for the Hurricanes as a sophomore. He had 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss, which has him getting a lot of buzz for the 2021 NFL Draft. For a defensive end to win the Heisman, they may have to break the record for sacks in a season, which is 24. It will also take their team being really good, so Miami is going to have to win the ACC and possibly be in the CFP. That’s a tall order, but is possible.
The last defensive player to win the Heisman was Charles Woodson in 1997, but he returned kicks and played some on offense. Other defensive players, like Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska) and Manti Te’o (Notre Dame), have been invited to the Heisman ceremony, but failed to bring home the award. Rousseau is going to need 24 sacks, a great season from Miami, a bad offensive season for a lot of contenders and some luck, but he could play well enough to get invited to the ceremony.
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