College football season is just around the corner, which means that this is the time of year where fans spend their free time trying to figure out which team has the best shot at holding up the crystal trophy College Football Playoff trophy in January. The Playoff trophy is one of the most coveted team awards, but it is not the only coveted piece of hardware in college football.
The Heisman Trophy is given annually to the best player in college football. It is often referred to as a team award, and most players will not show any kind of desire for the individual award. However, have you ever seen a Heisman winner that was not gleaming with joy after hearing his name called?
Vernon Hargreaves will enter the 2015 season as arguably the best defensive back in the SEC. Hargreaves was named a second team All-American in 2014 after finishing the year with 50 tackles, 13 pass breakups, and three interceptions. Those are not Heisman winning statistics, but we won't rule out Florida's best defensive player.
Demarcus Robinson, WR
Demarcus Robinson was essentially Florida's only wide receiver last season. He rounded out the year with 810 receiving yards on 53 receptions. The next closest receiver finished with 353 receiving yards on 21 receptions. Robinson's numbers will only get better under Jim McElwain. Last year, McElwain coached Rashard Higgins. Higgins led the nation in receiving yards (1,750) in 2014.
Kelvin Taylor, RB
Kelvin Taylor, son of former NFL running back Fred Taylor, exploded onto the scene when he ran for 197 yards and two touchdowns in an upset win over Georgia last season. He will likely put up nice numbers this season under his new coach, who has worked with the likes of Mark Ingram. Taylor has the potential to be just as good as, if not better than, his father.
Nick Chubb, RB
Nick Chubb could be the best player on this entire list. The upcoming sophomore stepped up big for the Bulldogs after Todd Gurley was suspended, and later injured, during the season. Chubb finished with 1,547 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. He averaged over seven yards per carry and had eight consecutive 100-yard performances. Chubb may just the best running back of Mark Richt's tenure.
Sony Michel, RB
Nick Chubb is great, but his backup isn't too shabby either. Sony Michel managed to rack up 410 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in a backup role. He ran for 155 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 carries against Troy. In other words, Chubb is Secretariat and Michel is American Pharoah. Mark Richt will give both running backs an opportunity to show off their skills.
Malcolm Mitchell, WR
Despite missing the first four games of the 2014 season due to an injury, Malcolm Mitchell still managed to finish fourth in receiving yards (248) for Georgia. Mitchell was also third in receptions (31) and receiving touchdowns (3). Although he has been plagued with injuries, Mitchell should be Georgia's top receiver this season.
Patrick Towles, QB
Mark Stoops is on track to have Kentucky in contention in the SEC East, but his offense calls for a great quarterback. Insert Patrick Towles. Towles finished with 2,718 passing yards and 14 touchdowns in 2014. He added an additional 303 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. The Wildcats have not seen a quarterback like Towles since Andre Woodson.
Stanley Williams, RB
Kentucky's Air Raid offense allows quarterbacks to rack up some pretty impressive number. Running backs are not as fortunate. Stanley "Boom" Williams led the Wildcats in rushing as a true freshman last season with just 486 yards. However, he averaged almost seven yards per carry and had three touchdowns of 50-plus yards. Williams is a playmaker that should get an increase in carries because of his abilities.
Ryan Timmons, WR
Ryan Timmons was not 100 percent last season, but he still managed to lead Kentucky in receptions (45) and receiving yards (536). It is scary to think what he is capable of doing in this offense when he is healthy. While he is no Randall Cobb, it is not crazy to think that Timmons could be the next great wide receiver for the Wildcats.
Maty Mauk, QB
Maty Mauk was a key figure in Missouri's trips to the SEC Championship the last two seasons, and he could play a major role in getting them to Atlanta again this season. The good news: Mauk threw for 2,648 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. The bad news: he completed just over 53 percent of his passes. A Heisman Trophy is possible if he polishes up his game a little more.
Russell Hansbrough, RB
Russell Hansbrough has also been a central figure for the Tigers the last two years. Hansbrough ran for 1,084 yards and 10 touchdowns last season while averaging over five yards per carry. He came on strong late in the year and rushed for 358 yards in the last three regular season games. Hansbrough and Maty Mauk, together, are one of the most dangerous and experienced backfields in the SEC.
Kentrell Brothers, LB
Missouri may be known as "Defensive Line U", but their linebackers are pretty good too. Kentrell Brothers' 122 total tackles were the second most in the SEC last year. He and his partner in crime Michael Scherer combined for 236 total tackles. Brothers has an opportunity to be the third consecutive Missouri player to win the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award.
Pharoh Cooper, WR
Steve Spurrier sleeps easy at night knowing that he has Pharoh Cooper on his team. Cooper finished with 1,136 yards last season, which was the second most in the SEC. His ability to make plays in the open field allowed him to average over 16 yards per catch. He is a do-it-all player that can catch, run, throw, and return the ball for the Gamecocks. Cooper is on track to be the best receiver in the SEC East in 2015.
Skai Moore, LB
Skai Moore leads the way for a South Carolina defense that hopes to turn things around in 2015. Moore has led the Gamecocks in tackles the last two seasons and will likely do it again this season. He is not one to rush the quarterback, but he is excellent in pass coverage. Moore's seven interceptions over the last two years are the most interceptions by an SEC linebacker in that time span.
Brandon Wilds, RB
Brandon Wilds will be faced with the task of following in the footsteps of Marcus Lattimore and Mike Davis. Wilds has been a key contributor in the run game over the last two years, but he has never been the number one guy. He has, however, shown signs of potential. In a 45-42 loss to South Carolina last season, Wilds rushed for 143 yards on just eight carries.
Joshua Dobbs, QB
Joshua Dobbs busted onto the scene in the second half of the 2014 season, and it proved to be the best coaching decision Butch Jones has ever made. The Vols were 4-1 with Dobbs starting. He had 1,206 passing yards, 469 rushing yards, and 17 total touchdowns in just six games. Dobbs will have Tennessee competing for an SEC Championship if he continues to improve.
Jalen Hurd, RB
Jalen Hurd may run the ball harder than any other running back in the SEC. No, we are not forgetting about Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry, and Leonard Fournette. Hurd is just that good. He had 899 rushing yards and 221 receiving yards last season as a true freshman. He has a veteran offensive line in front of him and a year of experience under his belt. Hurd will be among the elite running backs of the SEC.
Marquez North, WR
Marquez North is not Tennessee's most experienced wide receiver. However, this season could end up being the year that he proves that he is the most talented wide receiver. As a freshman, North led the team in receiving yards (496). Last season, he finished third on the team in receiving yards (320) despite only playing in ten games. North may finally live up to his hype this season with Josh Dobbs at quarterback.
Steven Scheu, TE
Steven Scheu had to deal with multiple quarterbacks and a struggling offense, but he still managed to finish the 2014 season as one of the best tight ends in the SEC. Scheu led the Commodores in receiving yards (525) and receptions (39). He is on track to repeat that success especially if he gets in sync with just one starting quarterback.
Ralph Webb, RB
Steven Scheu made the best of a bad situation in the passing game, while Ralph Webb did the same thing for the ground game. He finished the year with 907 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. Webb will play under new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, who coached Melvin Gordon at Wisconsin last season. In other words, Webb should get more carries this season.
C.J. Duncan, WR
C.J. Duncan is one of Vanderbilt's more versatile athletes. In fact, you may see him play some running back and wide receiver during the 2015 season. He only had two carries last season, but his 441 receiving yards was the second most on the team. Players like Duncan will have a better opportunity this year if offensive coordinator Any Ludwig can get the quarterback situation ironed out.