2017 Heisman Watch: Week 4
A less-than-stellar performance by Lamar Jackson against Clemson last week has opened the door for some other players to creep into the Heisman conversation or boost their resume. Here’s who our analysts say you should watch out for as we enter Week 4.
Joe’s Pick: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Every year, there is one player that seemingly does something that mystifies and amazes everyone that watches him. This year, it’s Penn State junior running back Saquon Barkley, as he torched the Georgia State defense for 142 yards and a touchdown on four receptions
His game breaking ability is evident in every game and is almost on pace to become the first FBS running back to gain 1,000 yards rushing and receiving. While his first three games have been impressive, Barkley has put up his numbers against defenses that rank at least 75th in yards allowed per game. The game against Iowa is his first test against a top 50 defense, so his performance against them will determine if the nonconference numbers are real.
Hunter’s Pick: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
The wide range of offensive talent throughout the country is undeniable, but the defensive players still deserve love, right? Albeit a sophomore, Ed Oliver is a name to look out for down the road, as he has proven to be virtually unblockable during his first two seasons playing for the Houston Cougars.
Oliver has done nothing but shatter expectations, which says a lot considering he was a five-star recruit coming out of high school. In fact, he was ranked as the No. 4 overall player in the class of 2016. Listed at 6’3” and 291 lbs, Oliver has the size and agility to both terrorize quarterbacks in the pass game and stuff running backs in the rush game.
Now why does Ed Oliver have a legit chance to win the Heisman? For starters, Houston is looking to have a strong outing in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) this season. So far, they are 2-0, after coming off wins against Rice and even beating Arizona on the road. Now how did Oliver perform in those games? His season totals are currently at 17 tackles, 3 assisted tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and even a blocked kick.
In order for a defensive player to be in running for the Heisman, they must be able to do multiple things on the field. Look at players such as Jabrill Peppers, Jonathan Allen, Manti Te’o, and even the 1997 Heisman winner, Charles Woodson. If he keeps up his progression, Ed Oliver will force his way into the conversation for the Heisman trophy.
Josh’s Pick: Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
Freeman might not be the household name this year for the Heisman Trophy, but he sure is putting up Heisman-worthy numbers. In three games, he has already equaled his touchdown total of nine from his 11 games a year ago.
So far this season, he has rushed for 460 yards and has an outstanding 5.6 yards per carry. He averages three touchdowns per game, which is unlikely to continue, but for now it has catapulted his name into the Heisman conversation.
To win the Heisman, a player has to excel in each facet of the game and Royce Freeman only has six receptions in three games this year. Compared to the other running backs mentioned in the Heisman race who average three to four receptions per game, Freeman’s six total receptions are underwhelming.
That being said, Royce Freeman’s rushing stats have made up for his lack of action in the passing game. Last week against Wyoming, he rushed for 157 yards and three touchdowns. He has had 82 rushing attempts in Oregon’s three games this season and as long as he continues to run the ball effectively, he will keep his name in the race for the Heisman.
Joseph Esquivel-Murphy is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hunter Pitcoff is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Josh Starr is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.