It is difficult, three weeks before the start of the college football season, to find much preseason hype for Heisman Trophy candidates who compete for Texas schools.
Two different odds-makers, Bovada Sports book and SportsBettingDime.com, have published pre-season odds for Heisman hopefuls and neither site has a player from a Texas school among its top 15 candidates. The best odds assigned to a local player were given to Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes, a 33-1 pick by Bovada.
That puts the junior from Whitehouse in a three-way tie for No. 16 on their list. The only other mention goes to Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight, a transfer from Oklahoma who received 50-1 odds from Bovada to take home the Heisman. Beyond that, it’s a shutout for the Texas schools as the preseason spotlight falls on three established frontrunners: Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey.
In other words, it’s unusually quiet in August on the Heisman front for local players … much like it was in 2012, the last time a player from a Texas school claimed college football’s top individual honor. That year, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel burst from August anonymity to become the first freshman recipient in the award’s history.
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Below is a look at five Heisman hopefuls from the Lone Star State who deserve more national attention than they are getting:
Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders’ quarterback led the nation in total offense last season (393 yards per game), throwing for 36 TDs and rushing for 10 others in his first full season as a starter. He’s capable of improving those numbers and, if that accompanies an improvement on last year’s 7-6 record, Mahomes may create some national buzz in November.
Myles Garrett, Texas A&M: Yes, the Heisman traditionally is an offensive award. But it’s supposed to go to the “best player in college football’ and, in the estimation of multiple NFL scouts and college coaches, that phrase describes Garrett. The junior from Arlington Martin led the SEC in sacks (12.5) and tackles for losses (19.5) last season. Garrett is draft-eligible and, as the possible first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, may be heading into his final college season. Regardless of preseason odds, Garrett could play his way into an invitation to the Heisman ceremony in New York if he collects enough sacks and the Aggies emerge as SEC contenders.
Greg Ward Jr., Houston: The Cougars’ quarterback is undersized (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) but produces big results. He threw for 2,828 yards and rushed for 1,108 last year in leading Houston to a 13-1 record and a No. 8 spot in the final AP poll. Ward, a senior, and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, the 2015 Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award winner, were the only Division I quarterbacks to top the 2,000/1,000 marks last season. Ward enters the season with a 19-2 record as Houston’s starting QB.
Kenny Hill, TCU: The transfer from Texas A&M made some early ripples as a Heisman hopeful in 2014 before things went south for him at midseason in Aggieland. Projected by most observers to be the Horned Frogs’ starting quarterback this season, there is a reason Hill was selected by media members as the 2016 Big 12 preseason newcomer of the year.
Seth Russell, Baylor: Much of the supporting cast around him has changed since Russell last took the field as the Bears’ starting quarterback in a 2015 victory over Iowa State. Russell suffered a season-ending neck injury in that contest. But in seven starts last season, he led the team to a 7-0 mark and owned a 189.7 passing efficiency rating (2,104 yards, 29 TD passes, 6 interceptions). Russell also rushed for 402 yards and 6 TDs. If he can recapture that form this season while remaining healthy, he’ll be in the mix for postseason honors.