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Ralph D. Russo | Associated Press | December 11, 2016

Who could win the Heisman Trophy in 2017?

  Lamar Jackson won this year's Heisman as a sophomore. Three rising sophomores look to follow suit next year.

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.

RELATED: Lamar Jackson wins 82nd Heisman | Social reactions

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.

Here are five other players who likely will be in the 2017 Heisman race:


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 tossed for 2,958 yards and 21 touchdowns in his freshman season for the Longhorns.
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.


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 was second behind Lamar Jackson in rushing yards for quarterbacks in 2016.
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.


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 DIDN'T win a Heisman in the next two seasons.

This article was written by Ralph D. Russo from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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