Just two months after a national championship victory on the heels of 347 passing yards and three touchdowns, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is not the frontrunner in the 2019 Heisman Trophy race. That slot would belong to the quarterback that Lawrence outplayed in the said championship game, Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama.
Tagovailoa was the favorite to win the Heisman last season even before being announced as the Crimson Tide’s starter prior to the 2018 season. The 6-foot-1-inch, 218-pounder from Hawaii was magical all season until he suffered a sprained ankle in the SEC championship game. The injury allowed Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray to overtake Tagovailoa and capture the 2018 Heisman.
The Alabama quarterback’s toughest competition will surely come from Lawrence, who helped lead Clemson to a perfect 15-0 campaign and that national title. After taking over the starting job in Week 5 of the season, Lawrence 65.2 percent of his passes for 3,280 yards and 30 touchdowns. He came up big when the Tigers needed it most throwing for 674 yards and six touchdowns in the College Football Playoff. Clemson, as well as Alabama, will be a strong favorite to repeat its 2018 season, which would have a lot to do with who wins the 2019 Heisman.
Clemson returns a load of stars including RB Travis Etienne (1,658 yards rushing, 24 TDs) and starting wide receivers Tee Higgins (59 receptions, 936 yards, 12 TDs) and Justyn Ross (46 rec., 1,000 yds., 9 TDs). Tagovailoa is in a similar situation at Alabama where he will have his top three receivers back. They are led by the Biletnikoff Award winner, Jerry Jeudy (68 receptions, 1,315 yards, 14 TDs),
While Tagovailao and Lawrence will get most of the preseason Heisman hype, there are plenty of other candidates out there that could challenge. One is Tagovailoa’s former teammate Jalen Hurts. Remember, it was Hurts that Tagovailoa replaced in the 2017 national title game leading Alabama to a victory over Georgia in overtime. Hurts has transferred and will play in 2019 at Oklahoma. The past two Heisman Trophy winners have been Oklahoma quarterbacks (Murray and Baker Mayfield).
Adrian Martinez is turning some heads at Nebraska where he led the Cornhuskers to a 4-2 finish last season. Martinez, who was hurt early in the season, finished with 2,617 passing yards, another 629 on the ground, and 25 total touchdowns. Nebraska looks for a big turnaround in Year 2 of the Scott Frost regime.
Another possibility in this coming year’s Heisman race is new Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. The former No. 1 recruit in the nation transferred from Georgia and was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA. He could flourish in the Buckeyes offense as potential first-round draft pick Dwayne Haskins did a year ago.
Of the last 13 Heisman Trophy winners, 11 have been quarterbacks. And, while quarterbacks dominate the preseason Heisman race, no quarterback (excluding Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung in 1956) has ever won the award playing for a team with more than three losses. So, while Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond and Arizona’s Khalil Tate are interesting sleeper candidates, their fate lies in the hands of their teammates.
The most interesting non-quarterback candidate might be Purdue’s, Rondale Moore. The 5-9, 175-pound sophomore had 114 catches last year for 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also ran the ball 21 times and averaged over 10 yards per carry and scored twice more.