It’s hard to argue that football is pass-happy and option-crazy, filled with quarterbacks that can throw for 300 and run for 100 every game. Receivers are now expected to get multiple catches for 100-plus yards on a regular basis, while running backs have been reduced to down-to-down, situational commodities. However, in this college football season, we’ve been taken back in time to remember the days of rushers that simply run through the competition, one handoff at a time. Three of them will surely have their names called on the first day of the NFL Draft, as they have dazzled all year with spectacular play after spectacular play. The age of the running back is as strong as ever during this college football season, as these three backs are in strong contention for this prestigious honor. Here are my top five candidates for the 2015 Heisman Trophy Award, ranking from fifth to first:
5. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor.
The 5’11”, 190-pound wideout has an eye-popping 18 touchdown catches (leads FBS) in just seven games so far this year. He had his first game under 100 receiving yards last week vs Iowa State, losing his quarterback Seth Russell to a season-ending neck injury. It’ll be interesting to see how Coleman fares in Heisman contention without Russell, and three consecutive statement games (vs. Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State, at TCU) on the horizon.
4. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama.
Already with 180 carries this season (172 all of 2014), the backbone of the Crimson Tide offense has been making the most of his touches, despite defenses loading the boxes to force the average Jake Coker to beat them with his arm. His 236-yard, two-touchdown outburst at Texas A&M is clearly the highlight of his season, but he has four other 100-yard games to boot. With four games this year scoring multiple touchdowns on his resume, Henry will need to keep punishing defenses on the ground to keep one-loss Alabama in the College Football Playoff race, which will push his Heisman candidacy even higher.
3. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU.
With Seth Russell out for the season, Boykin is the current active leader in passer rating amongst FBS quarterbacks this season with 180.7. The senior has been nothing short of amazing through seven games, throwing 25 touchdown passes to just five picks. Games at Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma and at home against Baylor will be make-or-break (Heisman-wise) for Boykin, who certainly has to be eliminating some doubts on the pro level for several NFL scouts.
2. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State.
The gap between this back and my No. 1 choice for the Heisman is very small, as Elliott could make a case for a dual honor. Elliott has been a handful this season, bouldering for at 100-plus yards per game and registering a 6.8-yard-per-carry average. He’s the difference between the Buckeyes being repeat National Champions or just being a very good team that meddles with the rest of the contenders.
1. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU.
No need to watch any more film of Adrian Peterson from his Oklahoma days, because Fournette has been the closest resemblance to Peterson since he went to the NFL. The 230-pound sophomore is the best running back in the country, and he could be the best player in the nation, topping 200 yards in three straight games this season—despite battling defenses stacking the box to stop him. He has his toughest test yet in Tuscaloosa against Alabama on Saturday, and another strong effort (and win) against the Crimson Tide could already convince voters to hand him the Heisman when he leaves the stadium.