Heisman Trophy Race 2014: Amari Cooper Catching Fire

We revisit the Heisman watch, now four weeks into the season, and already some of our candidates are in danger of slipping out of the top ten. Of course, there are plenty of others waiting to step in and take their place, and players are coming and going from our watchlist. With most conference games taking precedence, expect the attrition and increased competition to impact this list again by this time next week.

Amari Cooper, Alabama

Thanks to the strong running attack, Alabama receivers tend to flourish more as pros than in college, where their undoubted talent is used more sparingly. Cooper may be about to change all that. Not only is he Blake Sims’ favorite receiver, at times he appears to be the only receiver. The Tide have completed 92 passes this season through four games – Cooper has caught 43 of them, and put 201 yards and three TDs on Florida last weekend. Can he continue this level of play through the SEC season with inconsistent play at quarterback? If the answer is yes, expect to see him in New York in December.

2014 Stats: 43 receptions for 655 yards and five TDs; two carries for 29 yards.

Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

Abdullah has been outstanding so far this season, coming second in the nation with 625 yards and five TDs so far in the first four games, including efforts of 232 and 229 yards. He’s also two scores through the air, and helped out returning kickoffs. The Cornhuskers have looked pretty good so far, and will ride their star runner until someone stops him.

2014 Stats: 92 Attempts for 625 Yards and five TDs; five Receptions for 108 Yards and two TDs; five KRs for 115 yards.

 

Rakeem Cato, Marshall

Cato’s been one of the better mid-major quarterbacks over the last couple of years, and came in this season with some high expectations. Has he met them? Tough call. Marshall is undefeated, and look like they could still be by season’s end, but that won’t be enough to vault him into Heisman consideration. He’s been very good this season, but only looked like a game=breaker against Ohio, when he threw for 425 yards and four TDs. He’s suffering a little from “good team syndrome”, as he hasn’t been required to show his true magic as the Thundering Herd run over their opposition. He may not even be the best G5 quarterback at this stage.

2014 Stats:  69 Completions on 121 Attempts for 1163 yards and 10 TDs, with two interceptions; 24 Carries for 175 yards and four TDs.

 

Everett Golson, Notre Dame

The Notre Dame running game has been less than stellar so far this season, but luckily their quarterback and the defense have been strong in their 3-0 start. Golson looks a completely different quarterback to the one who needed to step aside in favor of Tommy Rees at times in 2012, and has been very sharp, and has yet to throw an interception. The Fighting Irish have a nasty schedule this season, and if Golson can steer them through to an undefeated season, or even one close loss, he could be in for a big reward at the end of the season.

2014 Stats: 62 completions on 96 attempts for 780 yards and seven TDs; 29 carries for 83 yards and four TDs.

 

Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

The big-play Badger may have mysteriously struggled against Western Illinois, netting just 38 yards, but he racked up a combined 393 yards against LSU and Bowling Green. With a tough offensive line in front of him, and Corey Clement on hand to share carries, Gordon could be in for a monster season, especially with a schedule that hardly screams run defense. He’s a strong runner, but his speed makes him a threat to score from anywhere, particularly against tired defenses. If he has one knock, he doesn’t play much of a role in the passing game.

2014 Stats: 46 carries for 431 yards and six TDs; five reception for 27 yards and one TD.

 

Todd Gurley, Georgia

Disappointing loss to South Carolina aside, the Bulldogs look like a good team again this season, and Gurley is a big part of that. Injuries have waylaid him in the past, but the development of some young backs this year means the star running back can take some more time off the field. He only had six carries last week against Troy, but he wasn’t needed as the young bucks took charge. If Georgia can win the SEC East with Gurley leading the way, he should be in the thick of the Heisman race at the end of the year.

2014 Stats: 41 carries for 402 yards and four TDs; five receptions for (-1) Yards; one kick return for 100 yards and one TD.

 

Brett Hundley, UCLA

The Bruin faithful took a collective gasp when Hundley got up from a tackle holding his arm, and then exited for the rest of the game against Texas, even though Jerry Neuheisel led them to the win. It’s still not 100% whether Hundley will play on Thursday night in a huge game against Arizona State that could dictate division pecking order. The junior was having a solid, but not amazing, season prior to his injury, and how this injury affects him could severely affect his Heisman chances. If he misses even a couple of games, or struggles passing, there are too many other Heisman hopefuls, even in the PAC 12 alone, ready to leapfrog him.

2014 Stats: 57 completions on 81 Attempts for 686 yards and three TDs, with one interception; 29 carries for 74 yards and one TD.

 

Marcus Mariota, Oregon

While the Ducks haven’t quite impressed outside of the win over Michigan State, Mariota has been masterful, dicing up opponents on the ground and through the air. Last week against a game Washington State squad, he completed 80% of his passes for 329 yards and five TDs, and overcoming a defense that sacked him seven times. His current level of play likely has him at the front of the Heisman race.

2014 Stats: 71 completions on 96 attempts for 1135 yards and 13 TDs; 33 Carries for 214 yards and three TDs.

 

Bryce Petty, Baylor

Petty has had a tough start the season, getting knocked out of the first game against SMU due to a back injury, and missing all of the next game. There were concerns that his play would be hampered, but he came back against Buffalo and played like he never missed a down. Leading the Bears to a 63-21 victory, he completed 23 of 34 passes for 416 yards and four TDs – just another day at the office. With a week off to heal up, he should be back to 100%, just in time for conference play to kick off.

2014 Stats: 36 completions on 57 attempts for 577 yards and six TDs; four Carries for 32 Yards and one TD.

 

Jameis Winston, Florida State

In all likelihood, Winston won’t be in the running for the Heisman at the end of the season, and it won’t be for his play. The sophomore surprised everyone by tearing up the ACC en route to leading the Seminoles to the national championship last year. Now, he can’t seem to stay off the wrong side of the press, a factor the Heisman committee will definitely take into consideration. On the field, he’s hardly lit up the NCAA so far, although there’s plenty of time left, and he’s already been missed one game for a suspension.

2014 Stats: 47 Completions on 67 Attempts for 626 Yards and three TDs with two Interceptions; 7 Carries for 11 Yards and one TD.

Rising Fast

Shane Carden, East Carolina

2014 Stats – 111 completions on 178 attempts for 1469 yards and 11 TDs, with three interceptions; 26 carries for 19 yards and three TDs.

DJ Foster, Arizona State

2014 Stats – 54 carries for 510 yards and five TDs; 11 receptions for 139 yards and one TD.

Kenny Hill, Texas A&M

2014 Stats – 97 completions on 139 attempts for 1359 yards and 13 TDs, with one interception; 16 carries for 106 yards.

Tevin Coleman, Indiana

2014 Stats – 66 carries for 569 yards and six TDs; seven receptions for 95 yards.

James Conner, Pittsburgh

2014 Stats – 109 carries for 698 yards and nine TDs; two receptions for 20 yards.

*Section Photo credit to Chuck Cook, USA Today Sports; Featured Photo (above) credit to John David Mercer, USA Today Sports