The Heisman is an award typically dominated by quarterbacks; 13 of the previous 14 winners, as well as the most recent five, have all been signal callers.
However, that trend just might fall by the wayside this season. Although we’re obviously still very early in the college football year, 2015 is shaping up to be the Year of the Running Back.
We’ve seen a number of standout rushing performances through two weeks, and they haven’t only been delivered by popular preseason Heisman candidates Nick Chubb and Ezekiel Elliott (although they both have been great).
In Week 1, Alabama’s Derrick Henry burst onto the scene with a 147-yard, three-touchdown performance. In Week 2, LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook threw their names into the ring with monster showings.
The Tigers running back smashed Mississippi State’s defense with powerful run after powerful run en route to a 159-yard, three-touchdown performance.
Leaving Davis Wade Stadium with a victory was crucial for an LSU team that has high expectations this season, and Fournette made sure they did just that.
LSU quarterback Brandon Harris had just 74 passing yards in the contest, but it didn’t matter with how well Fournette ran. The 230-pound back scored two touchdowns in the first quarter, the second being an impressive 26-yard score, to help the Tigers jump out to a 14-0 lead. He then added another score in the middle of the third quarter, pushing LSU to 21 points, a total that would prove to be insurmountable for Mississippi State.
Fournette carried his team to a victory, a feeling all too familiar for Florida State’s Cook on Saturday. The sophomore gashed the South Florida defense to the tune of a historic day, as he rushed for 266 yards, the second-most prolific single-game performance in school history.
Cook added three scores on the ground, the first of which might have the best play from college football’s second week. He put FSU on the board in the opening quarter with a 76-yard touchdown run in which he showed off his speed, power and moves.
Cook’s other scores were fairly long runs as well – he took it to the house from 24 yards out on FSU’s opening drive of the second half and from 37 yards out with 1:55 left in the contest to put the Seminoles’ lead even more out of reach.
Through two games, Cook has amassed 422 yards rushing, the highest mark in the country against FBS teams. He also has five touchdowns, which has him tied for the second-most in the country.
The top quarterbacks need to look out; Elliott, Chubb, Henry, Fournette and Cook are coming for their shine. Don’t count on them slowing down, either. These guys are truly special talents and will continue to put heat on the quarterbacks all year.
Three dark horses to watch:
Will Fuller, Notre Dame, WR
Fuller has been a nightmare for opposing cornerbacks through two games. He racked up 12 catches for 266 yards and four touchdowns against Texas and Virginia. Perhaps more importantly, he kept the Fighting Irish’s championship hopes alive with a game-winning 39-yard receiving touchdown against the Cavaliers.
Chad Kelly, Ole Miss, QB
Let’s be honest: The Rebels have played two teams who aren’t even near their level to open the year. Still, Kelly absolutely dominated them. He lit Tennessee-Martin and Fresno State up for 557 yards passing and eight total touchdowns, as Ole Miss scored more than 70 points in each contest. Time will tell if Kelly’s great play is simply a product of Ole Miss’ opponents or if he’s actually a top quarterback. But at this point he deserves our attention.
Tanner Mangum, BYU, QB
Mangum’s stats won’t wow you. He threw for 420 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions against Nebraska and Boise State. However, Mangum’s candidacy is about more than the stats. He led the Cougars to two remarkable wins, throwing game-winning Hail Mary touchdowns in each of them. We always talk about players needing “Heisman Moments.” Well, Mangum has two through two games and the Cougars are a ranked team now. The key for Mangum will be keeping BYU undefeated. If they drop one, his Heisman chances will undoubtedly be eliminated.