- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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You know you love it -- way too early Heisman hype is here!
Somebody out there agrees with you. And it is none other than HeismanPundit.com, which analyzes the top candidates every year and does a pretty good job to boot. He is already out with his early 2012 Heisman candidate list and ranks Smith at No. 4 and Austin at No. 14.
To no one's surprise, they are the only Big East players on the list.
The expectation, of course, is for Smith and Austin to be even better in 2012, in Year 2 under coach Dana Holgorsen. We only saw flashes of their true potential in 2011 as the offense struggled for any measure of consistency. But if the Discover Orange Bowl is any measure of what is to come, then watch out, America.
Smith accounted for seven touchdowns in the 70-33 win over Clemson and threw for over 400 yards. His performance allowed him to break the Big East single-season passing mark, with 4,385 yards. Meanwhile, Austin had 280 all-purpose yards against the Tigers, and ended the season as the national leader in that category, with an average of 198 yards a game.
Of the top 10 all-purpose players in the nation in 2011, only three players will be back for 2012 -- Austin, Sammy Watkins of Clemson and Montee Ball of Wisconsin. Ball ranks No. 3 on the Heisman Pundit list, while Watkins ranks No. 8. While I understand Watkins has shown flashes of greatness, based on what I saw in the Orange Bowl, how can Watkins be considered a better overall player than Austin? What could hurt Austin is sharing the ball with Stedman Bailey. There is no equivalent at Clemson, so that could mean bigger numbers for Watkins.
One other point to note: West Virginia is not the only team with a duo on this list. Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint are on the list for Michigan, and Watkins and Tajh Boyd are on the list for Clemson.