Five likely to stand in Jack­son’s way of a Heis­man re­peat

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY RALPH D. RUSSO

Do not ex­pect La­mar Jack­son to join col­lege foot­ball’s most ex­clu­sive club.

Louisville’s sopho­more quar­ter­back will be the 10th player to re­turn to school af­ter win­ning the Heis­man Tro­phy since Archie Grif­fin be­came the only two-time win­ner in 1975.

Seven of those re­turn­ing Heis­man win­ners have come since 2003 and most have not even come close to re­peat­ing.

Billy Sims of Ok­la­homa won the Heis­man in 1978 and then fin­ished sec­ond be­hind Charles White of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia in 1979. Other than that no Heis­man win­ner has done bet­ter than third in the vot­ing the fol­low­ing sea­son.

So, tak­ing Jack­son out of the equa­tion, who will be the next Heis­man win­ner? Ok­la­homa quar­ter­back Baker May­field, who fin­ished third Satur­day night be­hind Jack­son and Clem­son’s De­shaun Wat­son, prob­a­bly will be the only other fi­nal­ist to re­turn to school next sea­son. May­field has al­ready said he will not en­ter the NFL draft.

Michi­gan’s Jabrill Pep­pers, a ju­nior, is wait­ing to make his de­ci­sion on the NFL, but is likely to be a first-round pick if he leaves early. Ok­la­homa re­ceiver Dede West­brook is a se­nior.

Among the other top-11 vote-get­ters, Washington sopho­more quar­ter­back Jake Brown­ing, who came in sixth, is the only one guar­an­teed to be back next sea­son to chal­lenge Jack­son.

Five more play­ers who likely will be in the 2017 Heis­man race:

SAQUON BARKLEY, RB PENN STATE: Nit­tany Lions quar­ter­back Trace McSor­ley will gar­ner plenty of hype head­ing into 2017, but Barkley could be the best re­turn­ing run­ning back in the coun­try. He played through some bumps and bruises this sea­son and it held his car­ries down to 19 per game. He still rushed for 1,302 yards and scored 19 touch­downs. He is a solid re­ceiver, too, and the likely cen­ter­piece of an of­fense that could be one of the best in the na­tion.

SHANE BUECHELE, QB, TEXAS: Tom Her­man takes over as coach, and he ben­e­fits from Char­lie Strong hav­ing left be­hind a tal­ented quar­ter­back. Buechele threw for 2,958 yards and 21 touch­downs as a fresh­man. Her­man’s of­fense helped turned Greg Ward Jr. into a star at Hous­ton. Buechele does not have ideal mo­bil­ity for some of Her­man’s scheme, but the coach’s track record sug­gests he gets the

most out of his quar­ter­backs.

SAM DARNOLD, QB, SOUTH­ERN CAL­I­FOR­NIA: Only Ohio State and Notre Dame have had more Heis­man win­ners than USC’s six so gar­ner­ing at­ten­tion on the West Coast should not be a prob­lem. Darnold should en­ter next sea­son as the most-hyped player in the Pac-12. As a red­shirt fresh­man he re­vived a Tro­jans team that was on the verge of spi­ral­ing to a ter­ri­ble 2015 sea­son. Darnold be­came the starter in game four and passed for 2,633 yards and 26 touch­downs. He is not your typ­i­cal USC drop-back passer, giv­ing him some of that dual-threat good­ness Heis­man vot­ers love.

QUIN­TON FLOW­ERS, QB, SOUTH FLORIDA: The best sea­son that no­body seemed to no­tice in 2016 was turned in by the Bulls’ ju­nior. The only quar­ter­back to run for more yards than Flow­ers’ 1,425 was La­mar Jack­son. New USF coach Char­lie Strong would be wise not to mess with Flow­ers and the Gulf Coast of­fense.

JALEN HURTS, QB, ALABAMA: Hurts is on his way to be­com­ing the first fresh­man quar­ter­back to lead his team to the na­tional cham­pi­onship since Jamelle Holieway of Ok­la­homa in 1985. He is al­ready a game-chang­ing run­ner (841 yards and 12 touch­downs) and solid passer (2,592 yards and 65.3 com­ple­tion per­cent­age). He wasn’t the best player on the best team this sea­son, but there is a good chance he might be in 2017 and that’s a good way to win the Heis­man. It would be sur­pris­ing if Hurts win a Heis­man in the next two sea­sons.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Louisville quar­ter­back La­mar Jack­son will be the 10th player to re­turn to school af­ter win­ning the Heis­man Tro­phy since two-time win­ner Archie Grif­fin in 1975.

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