Trent Richardson, Alabama
Can the junior join former teammate Mark Ingram and make Alabama the 17th school with multiple Heisman winners? Last season splitting time with Ingram, Richardson ran for 700 yards and six touchdowns on 112 carries. His 6.3 yards per carry was higher than Cam Newton’s (5.6) and Ingram’s (6.1) during their Heisman-winning seasons.
Richardson gained at least 5 yards on more than 44 percent of his carries last season, ranking third in the nation among players with 100 attempts. Of the 25 FBS players with six 30-yard runs last season, Richardson had the second-fewest attempts.
Alabama’s offense lost two first-round picks, Ingram and Julio Jones, as well as starting quarterback Greg McElroy. But the loss of left tackle James Carpenter might be the biggest loss when it comes to Richardson’s Heisman hopes. Last season when running to the left side (Carpenter’s side), Richardson averaged 8.4 yards per carry (29 rushes, 244 yards).
LaMichael James, Oregon
No Duck has ever won the Heisman. James finished third last season, and will try and join Oregon State’s Terry Baker (1962) as the state's only Heisman winners.
Last season, James led the FBS with 144.3 yards rushing per game and finished second with 21 rushing touchdowns. The average length of James' 35 career touchdown runs was 18.4 yards, including six of at least 50 yards.
Most 20-Yard Rushes, FBS Since 2009
But James is more than just a home run threat. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry inside the tackles, and gained 43.0 percent of his rushing yards after contact.
The biggest obstacle James may face is the loss of three seniors along the offensive line, including two all-conference performers. If the line is unable to create lanes for James, then Oregon may have to wait another year for its first Heisman.
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Lattimore is in position to compete for the school’s second Heisman (George Rogers, 1980). During SEC play in 2010, Lattimore ran for 112.1 yards per game, second to Newton. On Nov. 13, Lattimore ran for a career-high 212 yards against Florida, the only 200-yard rushing game allowed by the Gators during Urban Meyer’s tenure.
Lattimore gets his yards in bunches. Last season, he had 33 rushes of at least 10 yards against SEC opponents. Over the past seven seasons, only five other players accomplished that feat, all of whom were selected within the first 36 picks of the NFL draft, including four first-rounders.