After passing for 4,104 yards last year while completing close to 70% of his throws and tossing 35 touchdowns, in addition to running for 1,105 yards with 12 more scores on the ground, Clemson’s brilliant quarterback Deshaun Watson was seen as the early season front-runner for this year’s Heisman Trophy, alongside Stanford’s exceptional running back Christian McCaffrey.
Both left indelible marks of the sports psyche with their bowl game performances last year.
Against Alabama in the College Football National Championship Game, Watson was transcendent, accounting for 478 all-purpose yards in the Tigers’ 45-40 loss to Alabama.
McCaffrey was equally mesmerizing, with his 368 all-purpose yards in Stanford’s 45-16 rout of Iowa in the Rose Bowl, becoming the first player in the 102-year history of the illustrious bowl game with at least 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving.
But thus far, through three weeks of the 2016 season, Watson has been supplanted in the Heisman mix by two other electrifying quarterbacks. McCaffrey, however, remains very much in contention for college football’s top individual honor.
As we all know, this list can change in a hurry. The season is a marathon, so those who have sprinted to the front of the pack have no guarantees. But at this point, the race breaks down as follows.
1. Lamar Jackson, Sophomore Quarterback, Louisville
Jackson has accounted for more touchdowns than 118 other FBS teams. His total now stands at 18 after the five he added to his resume in Louisville’s 63-20 smack-down of Florida State, a team many had penciled in as playoff contenders.
Jackson put up 362 total yards against the Seminoles’ highly-regarded defense and his season totals, through three games, are simply eye-popping, especially when considering that he only played the first half against Charlotte to open the season. Thus far, through three games, he’s passed for 913 yards and eight touchdowns while running for 464 and ten more scores.
2. Christian McCaffrey, Junior Running Back/Special Teams Returner, Stanford
McCaffrey has picked up where he left off from last year, when he broke Barry Sanders’ all-time, all-purpose yardage record, finishing the season with 3,864. Sanders’ previous record of 3,250 had stood for 27 years. Last week against USC, McCaffrey rushed for 172 yards and one touchdown. He also caught three passes for 66 yards and another score. He currently leads the nation in averaging 235 all-purpose yards.
He’s currently averaging close to six yards per carry and nearly 11 yards per reception. Through three games, he has 298 rushing yards and 106 receiving.
3. J.T. Barrett, Junior Quarterback, Ohio State
Barrett’s stock climbed high after his performance in Ohio State’s 45-24 win over Oklahoma, where he tossed four touchdown passes and gained 74 yards on the ground. In three games, he’s scored 13 touchdowns while accumulating 650 passing yards and 159 rushing.
Others in contention who could move up into the top three with a string of strong performances as the season unfolds are the aforementioned Deshaun Watson from Clemson, Houston quarterback Greg Ward, Jr., San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey, Georgia running back Nick Chubb, Michigan linebacker and defensive back Jabrill Peppers, LSU running back Leonard Fournette, Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Notre Dame signal caller DeShone Kizer.