Heisman Hopeful Roundup

ESPN's Heisman Trophy Set

The Wall of Heisman Trophy Winner Portraits on the set of ESPN's Virtual 2020 Heisman Ceremony © Kelly Backus / ESPN Images

Two weeks into the 2022 college football season and the sport has hit the ground running with seemingly enough amazing finishes and major upsets for an entire year.

As the college football media world starts to evaluate and polish its pre-season prognostications, updates from all over are coming on early-season Heisman hopefuls.

We must start with our defending winner, junior Alabama QB Bryce Young, who channeled himself from last year’s Iron Bowl by orchestrating a late fourth-quarter comeback to lift the Crimson Tide to a 20-19 win at Texas.

His numbers were modest (27-of-39, 213 yards, one TD, 38 yards rushing), but it was this clutch run late in the fourth quarter that set up the Tide’s winning field goal.

That said, the Tide dropped a spot in the rankings after their close call as defending national champion Georgia ascended to No. 1 behind senior quarterback Stetson Bennett.

Bennett has opened the season with a pair of 300-yard games and the early success has him prominently listed on many early-season lists. 

2021 Heisman finalist C.J. Stroud moved Ohio State to 2-0 with a 45-12 win over Arkansas State in which he threw for 351 yards and four scores.

Texas junior running back Bijan Robinson, who spent much of 2021 in many sportswriters’ Heisman Top 5s, is garnering attention again. He had three receptions for 73 yards and 57 yards on the ground with a score in the Longhorns’ near upset over Alabama.

USC QB Caleb Williams was another whose name circulated quite a bit in Heisman hopeful articles in 2021. But that was as a Sooner. Now at USC with fellow first-year Trojan in head coach Lincoln Riley, Williams is off to a strong start, leading USC to 2-0 and a 41-28 road win over Pac-12 foe Stanford. He threw for 341 yards and four scores on 20-of-27 passing.

In this new Heisman tracker, ESPN writer Bill Connelly gave the top Heisman-worthy performance to Williams this week with Young second and Houston defensive lineman third. It’s worth a read to dig into the method. 

But there are plenty of others making early noise.

Arkansas signal caller KJ Jefferson has the Razorbacks 2-0 with a combined 385 passing yards and 129 rushing yards and a combined 6 TDs.

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd’s “Heisman Hype” Top 5 sees Williams No. 1 with Stetson No. 2, Kansas’ Jalon Daniels No. 3, Young No. 4 and Sanders No. 5.

Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker, who threw for 3,561 yards as a first-year starter in 2021, has the Vols 2-0 early with a combined 546 passing yards and four TDs without an interception.

Like Robinson, Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman saw his name among top 10 Heisman lists for much of 2021. After missing the 2022 opener, he debuted Saturday with 300 yards passing and a quartet of TD passes.

If Clemson, coming off a down (for it) season, continues its fast start, QB DJ Uiagalelei’s Heisman hopes will follow. The junior has led the Tigers to a 2-0 start with 441 yards passing and three scores to go with 55 yards rushing and another score.

This New York Post summary includes Bennett with Hartman, Stroud, Williams and Young in its top 5.

Alabama LB Will Anderson hasn’t put up huge numbers yet, but let’s not sleep on last year’s No. 5 finisher just yet.

And how about Oklahoma first-year QB Dillon Gabriel, who has replaced Williams in Norman. He has led OU to a 2-0 start with 529 yards passing and five TDs

If we’re looking at dark horse candidates — and in Week 2 there are tons — maybe start with Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., who has been on the receiving end of Stroud passes (including this one) 12 times for 240 yards and three TDs, most recently posting a seven-catch, 184-yard effort Saturday.

While we’re talking receivers, there’s last year’s Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison, who transferred from Pitt to USC and is now teammates with Williams. He had 172 yards receiving on seven grabs with two TDs against Stanford and has 12 catches for 226 yards and 4 scores so far.

It’s barely mid-September and the fun is at full throttle.