5 Defensive Players Who Should Be in the 2013 Heisman Trophy Mix

Lisa HornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterDecember 13, 2012

Dec 8, 2012; New York, NY, USA; A detailed view of the Heisman Trophy during a press conference before the announcement of the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner at the Marriott Marquis in downtown New York City.  Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Now that Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o came oh-so-close to winning the 2012 Heisman, the prospect of a defensive player winning the Heisman next year looks even more intriguing. 

It could actually happen. Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh came close in 2009, finishing fourth in the Heisman race—Te'o finished second in this year's balloting.

We're slowly getting there—not since 1997 (Charles Woodson, Michigan) has a defensive player won the Heisman. 

There are five defensive players who could finally hoist the Heisman next year. Who are they and why should they be included in the Heisman conversation?

Some obvious choices are Jarvis Jones, Sam Montgomery, Bjoern Werner and Eric Reid—but it's doubtful any of them will return.

Playing linebacker, defensive back or defensive end does tend to give one a better shot at being considered for the Heisman, since the position is easier to track by the naked eye as opposed to positions like interior lineman. For that reason, tackles and guards won't be considered for our purposes. 

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney played as a true freshman last year and was named the SEC Freshman of the Year by the league's coaches.

2012 proved to be even a better year for Clowney: He was tied for first nationally in total sacks, led the SEC in total sacks and was second in the country in tackles for loss. Clowney also finished sixth in this year's Heisman voting. 

TCU's true freshman defensive end Devonte Fields was named the AP's Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year. The conference's coaches also made Fields a unanimous selection as their Freshman Defensive Player of the Year. Fields led the league in tackles for loss and was second in sacks. 

Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti, if he is granted a sixth-year of eligibility, would be an ideal Heisman candidate. His leadership during a tumultuous time at Penn State was impressive, but so were his numbers: Three interceptions, 95 tackles, three forced fumbles, and 2.5 sacks. The linebacker has had two knee surgeries and he reportedly injured his knee again in early November.  

Florida strong safety Matt Elam will probably come back if current rumors are true and that bodes well for not only Gator fans but Heisman pundits as well. Florida had the fifth-best total defense this year and its passing defense only yielded an average of 186 yards per game. Elam led his team with four interceptions.

USC's true freshman defensive end Leonard Williams was selected to FOXSports Freshman All-America First Team and was also named the Pac-12's Freshman Defensive Player of the Year. Williams had 7.5 sacks and 50 tackles, 13 of them for loss.

He needs to keep his temper under control—he was ejected in a game against Colorado for punching another player—but because he plays on a high-profile team, he has to be in the Heisman mix if he continues to progress. 

Is 2013 the year we see a defensive player hoist the Heisman? Probably not since Johnny Football will be scampering across fields next fall.

But if a defensive player does win it, one of these five guys may be the one who strikes the pose.