In this era of college football, winning the Heisman trophy as a wide receiver has proven to be challenging.
When it comes to voting, offenses and their top playmakers are significantly valued, just not receivers. Quarterbacks receive the credit for teams having elite passing attacks and running backs for teams having elite running games.
There hasn’t been a non-QB/RB Heisman winner since 1997, and the drought for receivers has been even longer, dating back to 1991 with winner Desmond Howard.
It’s going to take an out-of-this-world special receiver to break that trend.
Baylor receiver Corey Coleman just might be that guy.
Simply put, Coleman is an athletic freak. He’s got the speed, leaping ability and hands to make life a nightmare for opposing defenses. With a 20.3 yards per reception average, Coleman is an absolute game-breaker. When the Bears need a big play, they rely on Coleman to make it.
Coleman isn’t just putting up great numbers, he’s recording some of the most insane stats we’ve ever seen from a receiver.
Coleman has posted 58 receptions, 1,178 yards receiving and 20 touchdowns receiving through eight games this season. Yes, 20 touchdowns. That not only leads the country, it does so by a whopping six touchdowns. He broke Kendall Wright’s school record for receiving touchdowns just six games into the season and has posted at least two scores in every game since the team’s season-opener.
Coleman's already among the top-10 all-time for most touchdowns receiving in a season, and Troy Edwards’ record of 27 receiving scores for Louisiana Tech is within reach.
Still, as would be expected given the history of the Heisman, Coleman was largely outshined in the award race by his star quarterback Seth Russell for much of the season.
However, Russell suffered a season-ending injury in Week 8. While that was terrible news for Baylor and the college football world, it does make Coleman’s Heisman chase more interesting.
Coleman is now the lone Heisman contender on an undefeated team, putting himself in position to get the type of credit normally reserved for a quarterback or running back.
Regardless, Coleman would obviously need to continue producing at an elite level without his top quarterback to remain in the hunt. It’s not an easy task, but it’s one Coleman is doing so far.
In his first and lone game without Russell, Coleman posted season highs in receptions (11) and receiving yards (216). He also made his usual two appearances in the end zone during the Week 10 contest against Kansas State. Talk about not missing a beat.
Coleman is now a borderline top-five candidate in a race that seems more wide open than ever after Leonard Fournette’s showing against Alabama in Week 10.
At times, this season has appeared to be the Year of the Running Back, with guys like Fournette and Alabama’s Derrick Henry receiving much of the Heisman hype. At other times, it's seemed like quarterbacks, such as TCU's Trevone Boykin, Clemson's Deshaun Watson and Russell before the injury, have been poised to take over the race.
But is it possible this season ultimately becomes about one special receiver stealing all of their shine? Don’t completely rule it out.
Corey Coleman is coming.
Fournette slips, Henry takes advantage
Through the first nine weeks of the season, Leonard Fournette appeared to be the overwhelming Heisman favorite. He had rushed for an absurd 1,351 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns while on an undefeated LSU team.
However, things took an unfortunate turn for Fournette and his Tigers in Week 10. On a huge stage against Alabama Saturday night, LSU laid an egg. The Crimson Tide manhandled the Tigers and, more importantly for this article’s purposes, completely shut down Fournette. This game was Fournette’s opportunity to prove he could continue putting up elite numbers even against a top defense, and instead he rushed for just 31 yards on 19 carries. Ouch.
Fournette still remains among the top Heisman candidates – his overall season numbers are still ridiculous -- but he’s not the favorite anymore. That honor would go to the Crimson Tide’s very own running back, Derrick Henry.
The bulldozer back hammered the LSU defense to the tune of 210 yards rushing and three touchdowns on Saturday, giving him 589 yards rushing and seven scores in just his last three games. His season totals are now up 1,254 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns.
Henry is hitting his stride at the right time for a team that appears poised to make a College Football Playoff run. He’s the new top dog.