10 2015 Recruits Most Likely to Be Heisman Trophy Finalists
Few awards in sports are as hallowed as the Heisman Trophy, given annually to the most outstanding player in college football. The road to a championship requires constant effort from all 11 men on the field, but the trophy represents an unparalleled individual achievement on the game's grandest stage.
Past winners are as revered as the award. Players like Bo Jackson, Marcus Allen and Tim Tebow are eternally part of the Heisman lore. Long before they accepted the honor in New York City, these stars started their careers as coveted college prospects.
The 2015 recruiting class features a vast collection of athletes who could someday claim collegiate glory, from heralded 5-stars to underrated talents.
We examine players with the strongest possibilities of being invited to a Heisman Trophy presentation as a finalist at some point, giving a heavy nod to offensive playmakers based on recipient history.
QB Josh Rosen (Bellflower, California)
There is a realistic opportunity for Josh Rosen to start as a true freshman at UCLA if quarterback Brett Hundley elects to leave for the NFL following his redshirt junior season. That would set the stage for a potentially prolific career with the Bruins.
When you consider the trajectory of Jim Mora's program, there's reason to believe the team will perennially contend for Pac-12 titles. Rosen's commitment to the program increases those odds.
The 6'4", 205-pound passer completed nearly 70 percent of his attempts in 2013. He led St. John Bosco High School to a state championship, collecting 3,200 yards and 39 touchdowns through the air.
Rosen, who considered Michigan before choosing UCLA, is rated the nation's No. 1 quarterback recruit in 247Sports' composite rankings. Bruins coaches will attempt to lure top-end offensive playmakers with Rosen serving as a central part of the sales pitch, which should help create an excellent supporting cast.
RB Damien Harris (Berea, Kentucky)
Damien Harris is the top-rated running back in a class of rushers that doesn't appear to be on par with recent recruiting cycles. He has a college-ready physique that allows him to shrug off defenders and drive through traffic at the line of scrimmage, where he exhibits tremendous burst to reach the second level.
Harris churned out 2,600 yards and 42 touchdowns as a junior. His production came in bunches during a 12-game season at Madison Southern High School.
He has the makings of workhorse back for a title contender and could realistically share carries in a college backfield next fall. It remains to be seen where Harris will compete for handoffs in 2015.
He decommitted from Michigan in January, resulting in a surge of interest from across the country. Kentucky would love to keep him home, but Ohio State, Florida and Florida State are also in pursuit.
QB Kyler Murray (Allen, Texas)
Some may question his size (5'11"), but Kyler Murray could be the latest quarterback to alter people's perception of what a "prototype" quarterback looks like. The Allen High School star has pedigree, gaudy stats and a winning track record.
Murray is 27-0 as a high school starter, claiming two state titles along the way. He's dominated competition in a region known for its competitive football landscape.
His statistics help tell the story.
Murray has thrown for 5,673 yards and 63 touchdowns during the past two seasons. He complements an accurate arm with dynamic rushing skills, gaining 2,644 yards and 44 scores on the ground.
His father, Kevin Murray, was the all-time winningest quarterback at Texas A&M when his college career ended and earned induction into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame. Just like his dad, he's decided to play for the Aggies.
Texas A&M produced a Heisman Trophy quarterback with similar height "issues" just two years ago.
RB Desherrius Flowers (Mobile, Alabama)
It's hard to ignore Alabama's ability to put running backs in the hunt for a Heisman Trophy.
Mark Ingram was a two-time finalist, winning the award in 2009. Trent Richardson was invited to the presentation in 2011, and now T.J. Yeldon is viewed as a strong contender to compete for the 2014 trophy.
Desherrius Flowers is the latest in a long line of scintillating rushers headed to Tuscaloosa after committing as a sophomore. Though Vigor High School won just four games last season, he still managed to impress.
He's collected nearly 2,100 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns during the past two seasons. Flowers finds a way to explode into the open field and picks up yards in a hurry, even when he appears bottled up behind the line of scrimmage.
Like his predecessors at Alabama, he will have to be patient while waiting for his turn to step up with the Crimson Tide. When the opportunity arrives, expect Flowers to hit the ground running.
QB Ricky Town (Ventura, California)
Ricky Town would've landed on this list regardless of where he wound up at the next level. After initially committing to Alabama, he flipped to USC in January and provided first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian with a pivotal piece for his future foundation.
The St. Bonaventure quarterback exceeded 2,300 passing yards during each of the past two seasons, tossing 48 touchdowns. Town made strides as a decision-maker in 2013 and completed almost 70 percent of his passes.
The 6'4", 205-pound prospect picks apart defenses with big-time arm strength and is extremely effective when forced outside the pocket. He's more polished than most of the high school quarterbacks who've attracted national attention during this decade—setting the stage for him to challenge for early playing time with the Trojans.
When you're a star in Los Angeles, it's easy to get noticed. The program has produced seven Heisman Trophy winners, including two quarterbacks, in the past 12 years.
WR Preston Williams (Hampton, Georgia)
No wide receiver has won the award since Michigan's Desmond Howard in 1991, but if someone at the position is going to challenge for a Heisman in this class, it's Preston Williams. He's a physical freak who flies downfield with a 6'5", 200-pound frame that will grow in college.
The Lovejoy High School star is the latest receiver to emerge and make you wonder how defensive coordinators will possibly handle the challenge. His height and leaping ability alone give defensive backs fits, but when you factor in Williams' speed he ascends into another level of potential.
His junior season was nothing short of spectacular. Williams caught 59 passes for 1,388 yards and 14 touchdowns.
He is just beginning to scratch the surface as a receiver after missing a significant portion of his sophomore season due to an injury. Williams has the tools to become the top target for a college program before the end of his freshman campaign.
Tennessee landed his commitment in September, but other teams remain in the mix, including Auburn, Alabama and South Carolina.
QB Torrance Gibson (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
Depending on who you ask, Torrance Gibson is either capable of replicating the success of Vince Young or he's destined to end up switching positions at some point in college. Despite the lack of consensus, analysts agree he's an exceptional athlete who can beat opponents in a variety of ways.
Gibson will undoubtedly enter the next phase of his career as a quarterback. How he matures as a passer and a leader will ultimately determine what happens next.
The ceiling is sky-high for a dual-threat talent who stands at 6'4", 200 pounds.
Gibson led American Heritage High School to a state championship in 2013, capping off the campaign with 316 total yards and three scores in the title game. He threw for 1,789 yards, 19 touchdowns and just three interceptions as a junior—adding 1,063 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
Gibson has the skill set to flourish in an up-tempo offensive attack and can become a more accurate passer with mechanical alterations at the next level. His transition to the college game may require a period of refinement, but he has a real chance to flourish if everything comes together.
He recently trimmed his list of schools down to seven finalists. Ohio State, Auburn, LSU, Oklahoma, Tennessee, UCF and Miami each made the cut.
RB Nick Brossette (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
There's no way of predicting the future regarding injuries and everything else that can impact a player's potential, but it's hard to imagine the 6'0", 207-pound back will receive workhorse-type touches as long as Fournette remains in the picture.
That's exactly the type of role he's played throughout his career at University Lab High School.
He's carried the ball 760 times during the past three seasons, including a career-high of 279 touches in 2013. His production has been prolific.
Brossette broke Louisiana's all-time career touchdown mark as a junior. He'll be able to run away and hide with the record this fall.
Brosette gained at least 2,100 rushing yards during each of the past two seasons—averaging almost eight yards per attempt last year. His success as an every-down back will be tested in the SEC, but if he remains persistent there's a strong chance he'll become "the man" at running back before his time with the Tigers is done.
RB Taj Griffin (Powder Springs, Georgia)
A versatile offensive weapon with Taj Griffin's speed is tailor-made for the Oregon Ducks' offense. He committed to the team over Georgia and USC this spring.
It's a pretty crowded backfield in Eugene, but expect Griffin to make an impact as an underclassman. Rated the No. 1 all-purpose back in 247Sports' composite rankings, he brings an expansive skill set to the attack.
Oregon will aim to utilize his quickness in the open field by finding ways to get him the ball on screen passes and intermediate routes up the seam. Griffin is clocked at 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash, per 247Sports, and looks the part of a burner on film.
He rushed for 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2013 at McEachern High School, per The Register-Guard. Griffin is also capable of making a name for himself as a returner on special teams.
His blend of abilities makes him a candidate to develop into a jack-of-all-trades Heisman Trophy candidate with the Ducks.
LB Malik Jefferson (Mesquite, Texas)
We know, we know—defensive players don't win the Heisman Trophy. But there's always a chance, right?
Michigan cornerback and punt returner Charles Woodson is the last defender to win the award, back in 1997. Plenty of potential candidates have stated their case since then, but it simply hasn't been enough to topple the longstanding reign of running backs and quarterbacks.
Malik Jefferson is our choice as a prospect who could threaten the establishment.
The ferocious 6'2", 225-pound linebacker does so much for a defense. He chases down quarterbacks, covers the pass well and absolutely stuffs the opposing rushing attack.
Jefferson, rated No. 9 nationally among 2015 prospects in 247Sports' composite rankings, is a menace off the edge. He's the kind of defender who can put together the kind of statistics and highlight plays that force Heisman voters to pay attention.
Jefferson forced eight fumbles during the past two seasons, tallying 188 tackles and 19 sacks.
Given his list of collegiate suitors, he figures to spend plenty of time playing in the spotlight. Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas A&M are among top contenders.