Heisman Trophy under the radar contenders

NCAAF


We know the big names getting Heisman buzz. Tua Tagovailoa is running away with the award early, while Kyler Murray and Will Grier and Dwayne Haskins are all patiently waiting for the Alabama offense to have something approaching a bad game. Even a few long shots such as Trace McSorley, Ed Oliver, Jonathan Taylor and McKenzie Milton have made some noise. But dig a little deeper and there are some off-the-radar candidates who deserve some serious love (and no, we don’t mean Bryce Love). So, nearing the halfway point of the season, here’s a quick look at a few candidates worthy of a lot more Heisman consideration than they’ve gotten.

RB Darrell Henderson, Memphis

There’s a good case to be made that no player in the country has been more dominant than Henderson, whose numbers through six weeks are utterly eye-popping. Henderson leads the nation in rushing average at 11.8 yards per rush. The next-best mark, among backs with at least 50 carries, is 2.7 yards per rush less. Henderson has scored 12 touchdowns on the ground, one for every 6.6 carries. He has already topped 170 yards rushing in four games. He has scored at least once in every game in which he has played. Oh, and did we mention his impact isn’t limited to just running the ball? He has also caught a pass in every game this year, has two more touchdowns through the air and does a little kick returning on the side. He’s one of only 10 players nationally with 100 yards in the rushing, receiving and kick-return columns, and he leads the nation in all-purpose yards with 1,223.

WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford

The Cardinal’s two-game losing streak has taken some luster off his candidacy, but don’t overlook how good Arcega-Whiteside has been. He has faced off against three teams ranked in the top 40 in defensive efficiency, and in those games he caught 19 passes for 359 yards and four touchdowns. In the red zone this year, he has been targeted eight times. He has caught seven of those passes, with six going for touchdowns. He’s a matchup nightmare, and he has done it with a lackluster ground game, as Love has battled injuries and inconsistency.

RB Travis Etienne, Clemson

Love was supposed to be the big-play back getting all the Heisman hype, but that never materialized. May we suggest sending those votes Etienne’s way? The sophomore effectively saved Clemson’s season with a monster second half against Syracuse, then exploded with touchdown runs of 59 and 70 yards against Wake Forest. For the year, his 11 touchdowns are second among Power 5 backs, his 761 yards are third and his 9.2 yards per carry average is the best for a P5 back with at least 50 carries. So far this season, just nine of Etienne’s runs have been stopped for a loss or no gain, while 28 percent of his runs go for 10 yards or more, the best rate in the Power 5.

QB D’Eriq King, Houston

Sure, Houston has this other guy they’re pushing for the Heisman, and Oliver is really good. But don’t overlook the work of King, who stepped into the starting QB role late last season and has been terrific. His 25 total touchdowns trail only Murray and Haskins (26 apiece) so far, his mobility has translated into just one sack and he’s one of just three players in the past decade (along with Marcus Mariota and Geno Smith) to have at least 25 touchdowns and no more than three turnovers in his team’s first six games.

DT Gerald Willis III, Miami

Entering the year, Miami’s biggest concern on defense was the interior line. Willis has offered an emphatic answer. The Florida transfer has dominated opposing linemen to the tune of 12.5 tackles for loss — second-most nationally — while anchoring a defensive that ranks seventh nationally in stopping the run.

WR Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado

The knock on Shenault is that he has not faced particularly great competition, but the numbers speak for themselves. He’s averaging better than 10 catches a game, which would be the second-highest rate of any receiver in the past six years over a full season. He has topped 125 receiving yards in four of his five games, scored in each and chipped in with another four touchdowns rushing.



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