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Handicapping the 2009 Heisman Race

Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Having just returned from vacation in Las Vegas, I thought it only fitting to handicap the 2009 Heisman Trophy race. So, if I were a betting man (a role at which I failed miserably last week), here is how I would break down the early field for this year's top individual prize.

FAVORITES:

TIM TEBOW (FLORIDA) - Tebow has to be the early favorite to take home yet another Heisman. He won the thing as a sophomore, was a finalist last season and now has two national titles under his belt. Urban Meyer has now tweaked the offense, as well as Tebow's delivery, to showcase him as an NFL-caliber QB. Is there any reason to think this won't work? Tebow will once again put up great numbers and a third national championship is within grasp. A second Heisman could also be in the cards.

SAM BRADFORD (OKLAHOMA) - Also seeking a second Heisman Trophy is Oklahoma's outstanding QB. Bradford has put up ridiculous numbers in his two seasons in Norman and that trend isn't likely to change this year. A pure passer, Bradford led an offensive juggernaut that averaged over 51 points per game last year. He completed almost 68 percent of his passes for 4,720 yards with 50 TDs. Those numbers will be difficult to match this year, but anything close will keep Bradford at the top of any Heisman list.

Sam Bradford has put up ridiculous numbers in his two seasons in Norman.
COLT MCCOY (TEXAS) - Some thought that McCoy would bolt for the NFL last season, but the talented Longhorn's return to the college ranks has to make him a favorite to win the Heisman, doesn't it? He led his team to a huge win over then top-ranked Oklahoma, and ended the 2008 season with a victory over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. McCoy had a remarkable campaign, passing for nearly 3,900 yards and 34 TDs, while adding over 560 yards rushing and another 11 scores. The supporting cast in Austin looks to be stellar once again, and that should help propel McCoy to a Heisman-worthy campaign.

TERRELLE PRYOR (OHIO STATE) - At some point in his collegiate career, Pryor should end up in New York for the presentation of the Heisman. So why not this year? Only a sophomore, Pryor evokes Tim Tebow in a lot of ways. A versatile weapon under center (just like Tebow), Pryor is heading into a sophomore campaign where he will need to carry his team to greater heights (just like Tebow). Flashes of brilliance as a freshman will lead to huge outings as a sophomore. Only time will tell if he can take home the most coveted piece of hardware in only his second season in Columbus (just like Tebow).

SECOND TIER:

JACQUIZZ RODGERS (OREGON STATE) - This guy was perhaps the Pac-10's most explosive player in 2008, and that is saying a lot considering he was just a freshman and missed time due to injury. This talented Oregon State tailback shredded a good USC defense for 190 yards and eclipsed the 100-yard mark in seven of eight games last year, finishing with over 1,250 yards and 11 scores, Staying healthy all season could catapult Rodgers into the top tier of Heisman candidates as the 2009 season winds down.

ZAC ROBINSON (OKLAHOMA STATE) - A dual-threat star who has been overshadowed in the Big 12 by the likes of Bradford and McCoy, Robinson returns along with a full arsenal after completing 65 percent of his passes in 2008, for 3,064 yards and 25 TDs in 2008. He added another 562 yards rushing and reached the end zone eight more times. With the return of studs at running back and wide receiver, increased numbers are expected in 2009. If that occurs, Robinson may just have to be mentioned among the conference's elite signal callers, which in turn puts him among the nation's best.

MAX HALL (BYU) - The top non-BCS player resides in Provo in the form of Hall. Despite his team faltering against the likes of TCU and Utah last year, Hall is as good as it gets under center. Last year, Hall completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, for almost 4,000 yards and 35 TDs. Expect big numbers from BYU's gunslinger again in 2009, although the Cougars will need to run the table for those numbers to mean anything in terms of Heisman consideration.

JAHVID BEST (CAL) - A relative unknown east of the Rockies, Best is a dynamic playmaker that will always keep California in games. In his final two games of the 2008 season, Best ran for an eye-popping 512 yards and two TDs. He played through several nagging injuries last year, but still rolled up 1,580 yards on the ground with 15 TDs. He won't fly under the radar this season, but even defenses that focus on stopping him may not be up to the task.

LONGSHOTS:

Dez Bryant (Oklahoma State WR - 87 receptions, for 1,480 yards, 19 TDs, two punt returns for TDs in 2008); Todd Ressing (Kansas QB - 66.5 percent completion percentage in 2008, for 3,888 yards and 32 TDs); LeGarrette Blount (Oregon RB - 1,002 yards rushing and 17 TDs in 2008); A.J. Green (Georgia WR - 56 receptions, 963 yards, eight TDs in 2008); Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State RB - 1,555 rushing yards, 6.5 ypc, 16 TDs in 2008); Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan QB - 66.8 percent completion percentage in 2008, for 2,784 yards and 21 TDs, with 592 yards rushing and six TDs).

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.
Scott Haynes

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