With the inclusion of Reggie Bush, only four of the past 20 Heisman Trophy winners were not quarterbacks. With how loaded the potential 2023 NFL draft quarterbacks class will be, could a non-signallcaller sneak through and hoist the most prestigious award in college football?
The 2022 Heisman Trophy race will be a hotly-contested one with the likes of C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young battling it out at the top. Not to mention the crazy transfer portal movement of Spencer Rattler, Caleb Williams, Dillon Gabriel, Jaxson Dart, Kedon Slovis, JT Daniels, Jayden Daniels, and the list goes on and on.
There are plenty of non-quarterbacks skilled enough to come out on top. Let’s look at the five with the best chances to do so.
Five Non-Quarterback Favorites to Win the 2022 Heisman Trophy
Position: Running Back
Ever since he stepped on the field as a true freshman, Bijan Robinson has been a force. In just nine games as a freshman during the COVID-shortened 2020, Robinson ran for 703 yards and four touchdowns off of 86 attempts. Plus, he added 196 yards and two touchdowns off of 15 receptions. The man averaged 8.9 yards a touch. His 8.2 yards per carry led the Big 12 and was third nationally.
2021 was our first glimpse into what Robinson could do in a full-time role. He only delivered to the tune of 1,127 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground and 295 yards and four touchdowns receiving. That was only in 10 games on a bad Texas team.
Texas is expected to be better in 2022. The quarterback battle between Hudson Card and Quinn Ewers should be electrifying, plus that offense added a pair of talented transfers in Agiye Hall (Alabama) and Isaiah Nayor (41.5% of Wyoming’s total receiving yardage and 80% of their receiving touchdowns in 2021).
Robinson will have plenty of chances to improve upon his 2021 numbers. However, their second game is against Alabama. What better way to put the college football world on notice than to dominate a traditionally great defense en route to a 2022 Heisman Trophy?
Position: Wide receiver
School: Ohio State
According to @ActionNetworkHQ, 10 of the top 14 players with the best odds to win the Heisman are QBs.
— LWOSports (@LW0Sports) June 20, 2022
The last time we saw Jaxon Smith-Njigba, he was busy shattering the Rose Bowl record to the tune of 347 yards and three touchdowns to cap off a Big Ten-best 1,606-yard season. In addition to this, he found paydirt nine times.
The man who was the reason Jameson Williams transferred took a few games to get going. Once he did, however, it was near-impossible to cover the dynamic trio of Smith-Njigba, Garrett Wilson, and Chris Olave. Down the stretch, it looked like every touch could go the distance. This was perfectly shown in that Rose Bowl where he had touchdowns on back-to-back plays of 50 and 52 yards, respectively.
JSN is a home run threat on every play. He has the hands to contend with any defender and the speed to leave even the best in the dust. His strength is his route running. If NFL teams thought Olave and Wilson were nice, the pair described JSN as the best of them.
With a revamped offensive line and the fact he is now the number one receiver in Columbus, Smith-Njigba is going to be in consideration for college football’s top awards.
Position: Running back
School: Ohio State
TreVeyon Henderson has a bit of both of the previous two: he broke out like a madman as a true freshman and he gets to share the field with the rest of the best offense in the nation.
There was no acclimation period for Henderson. He entered the 2021 season as the third running back behind Master Teague and Miyan Williams. His first career touchdown came off of a 70-yard screen that he took to the house. From then on, it was apparent that he was the truth.
Henderson finished his first year of college football with 1,248 yards and 15 touchdowns. His 6.8 yards per carry led the Big Ten. Considering the running back pedigree in the conference, that’s saying something.
The only drawback for Henderson, which he shares with Smith-Njigba, is the fact that the Ohio State offense is too good. Last year, plenty of their stats came thanks to the fact that their defense wouldn’t have been able to stop Brutus running backward with a limp. The defense is set to be significantly better after they hired Jim Knowles. They will have to make the most of their opportunities because they may not have nearly as many.
Will Anderson, Jr.
— BamaOnLine (@BamaOnLine247) April 19, 2022
Don’t let the 2021 Heisman voting fool you, Will Anderson, Jr. was the best non-quarterback in college football last year and it wasn’t really even close. The Nagurski Award winner also brought home a unanimous All-American and SEC Defender of the Year awards.
Anderson led the nation in tackles for loss (31) and sacks (17.5). To put that into perspective, the next closest in tackles for loss was Devin Lloyd…with 22. The next closest in sacks was Andre Carter II from Army with 14.5. As a sophomore, Anderson was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. All of that to finish fifth in Heisman voting.
If you think that a player like Stroud is going to come into 2022 on fire, seeking revenge, imagine what Anderson could do. He was far and away the top defender, yet the average college football fan wouldn’t know his name. Anderson’s 17.5 sacks in 2021 were the fourth-best single-season mark since 2005.
Officially, Terrell Suggs holds the mark for most sacks in a single season with 24. Unofficially, Derrick Thomas tallied 27 for Alabama in 1988, before the NCAA officially recorded sacks as a stat. Anderson has the skill to challenge those marks. If he even breaks Suggs’ official record and has the most dominant defensive season since Ndamukong Suh, Anderson will be worthy of hoisting the 2022 Heisman Trophy.
Position: Running back
The latest in a long, long line of elite Wisconsin running backs, Braelon Allen has a shot to do what no Badgers running back has done since Ron Dayne in 1999.
Overshadowed in the Big Ten, Allen quietly had one of the best rushing seasons in the conference, just behind Kenneth Walker and Hassan Haskins, and just better than Henderson. His 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns would impress just about anyone…but they don’t even crack the top ten in top rushing performances from Wisconsin.
Of course, he was 18. Allen is coming into his sophomore year already polished and ready to challenge for the Doak Walker award. Considering the history of Wisconsin running backs, Allen could easily cement his place among the greats with an invite to New York City.
In terms of rushing defenses, Wisconsin’s schedule matches up favorably. Allen has the ability and the offense to make a case for the 2022 Heisman Trophy. If there’s going to be any player on this list that is set up for success, it will be number zero from Madison, Wisconsin.
Jahmyr Gibbs, running back, Alabama
Tank Bigsby, running back, Auburn
Jordan Addison, wide receiver, USC
Kayshon Boutte, wide receiver, LSU
Paris Johnson, offensive tackle, Ohio State
Jalen Carter, defensive tackle, Georgia
Kelee Ringer, defensive back, Georgia