Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
14. DT Leonard Williams, USC
Why you should know about him: Seemingly every season, there is a defender who becomes a hot topic. This season, it very well could be Williams, a junior from Daytona Beach, Fla., who went cross-country to play college ball. He is a potentially dominant interior defensive lineman -- and dominant interior defensive linemen are particularly coveted in the NFL, which means they also are talked about incessantly by various college football announcers and analysts. In other words, when you tune in for a telecast of a USC game, be prepared to hear a lot about how "NFL scouts absolutely love Leonard Williams" (even if all of them don't).
Eric Gay/Associated Press
13. QB Kyle Allen, Texas A&M
Why you should know about him: All he has to do is replace Johnny Manziel. There's no way he can make the same kind of off-field splash as Manziel. But Allen, a true freshman who enrolled early and had a strong spring, is extremely talented (he was considered the best quarterback in the 2014 recruiting class) and has a chance to make a lot of noise on the field. (And if he does that, most Aggies fans will be just fine with him making a ton of off-field noise next spring.)
Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports
12. RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
Why you should know about him: Running backs have become devalued in the NFL draft, but they still have a ton of value on the field in both the college and pro ranks. Gordon is one of the two best running backs in the nation and has a chance to go in the first round of the 2015 draft, should he choose to turn pro after the season. He also has a legit shot at 1,800 yards, and he should be a viable Heisman contender all season.
Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press
11. RB Todd Gurley, Georgia
Why you should know about him: He's the most well-rounded running back in the nation and, with Gordon, one of the top two backs overall. Gurley is a big guy (6-foot-1, 232 pounds) with good speed who can run over and past guys. He also is a top-flight receiver. And he can block, too. He and Gordon will vie for the "best running back" designation all season. Like Gordon, Gurley will be the focal point of his team's offense and a viable Heisman contender.
Associated Press/Maryland Athletics
10. WR Daniel Rodriguez, Clemson/RB Tehuti Miles, Maryland
Why you should know about them: Both are Army veterans. Rodriguez (5-8, 175) is a senior who saw time in Iraq (18 months) and Afghanistan (a year). Rodriguez, 26, is a Purple Heart recipient who has 10 receptions in the past two seasons. Miles (5-10, 200), 23, is a sophomore who spent a year in Afghanistan with the Army and has admitted he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He hopes to see the field with the Terps for the first time this fall.
Michael Conroy/Associated Press
9. QB Everett Golson, Notre Dame
Why you should know about him: He's the starting quarterback at Notre Dame (remember reading about Tommy Rees last season -- and Golson is miles better than Rees), which means you likely will get tired of hearing about him. Still, his back story is interesting. He was the Irish's starting quarterback in 2012, when they reached the national title game, but he was suspended last season for academic reasons. He is back and gives Notre Dame's offense a quarterback who can run -- an element the Irish sorely missed last season.
Richard Shiro/Associated Press
8. Coach Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Why you should know about him: He belongs on this type of list every season. If there is a coach who is going to say something interesting (by that, we mean something that makes you go "Whoa!" -- then laugh uproariously), chances are it will be Spurrier, who has turned South Carolina from a regional afterthought into a nationally relevant program. He coached at Florida for 12 seasons and is entering his 10th season with the Gamecocks.
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
7. P Mike Sadler, Michigan State
Why you should know about him: Yes, he's a punter. But he's also a funny punter, as well as one of the best at his position in the nation. Last season, Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III was a must-follow on Twitter; this season, if you follow one player on Twitter, it should be Sadler.
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
6. QB Jacob Coker, Alabama
Why you should know about him: You mean you haven't heard all about Coker, who is a mix of Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, Bart Starr and Richard Todd? Seriously, the hype train already is off the rails -- and Coker, a transfer from Florida State who has immediate eligibility, hasn't even practiced with the Tide yet. FSU coaches weren't shy about extolling his virtues when he left, with Jimbo Fisher saying Coker provides an upgrade over recent Tide quarterbacks; if nothing else, that probably made Nick Saban -- Fisher's former boss -- grit his teeth. If Coker gets off to a slow start, make sure to grab some popcorn because in that scenario, things would get mighty interesting in Tuscaloosa.
Nati Harnik/Associated Press
5. LB Myles Jack, UCLA
Why you should know about him: He is a two-way player who truly excels on both sides of the ball. Though he is better as a linebacker, he was good enough as a running back last fall that he was named the Pac-12's defensive and offensive freshman of the year. He will play both ways again this season for the Bruins, who look to be the best team in the Pac-12 South. A high-level two-way player in this age of specialization? Yep.
Nick Wass/Associated Press
4. QB Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Why you should know about him: Looking for a long-shot Heisman contender to follow (sort of like Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch last season)? Reynolds is the guy. He rushed for 1,346 yards and 31 TDs last season, becoming just the fourth player in FBS history with at least 30 rushing TDs in a single season. Reynolds scored at least three touchdowns in seven games last season, one game shy of the NCAA single-season record set by Barry Sanders in 1988. He again will be at the controls of Navy's triple-option offense this season. Other than the opener at Ohio State and a Nov. 1 meeting against Notre Dame in Baltimore, Reynolds and the Midshipmen could be favored in the other 10 games. In short, Reynolds is receiving a lot of preseason publicity and is going to have great stats playing for a team that could go 10-2. That's the formula to stay in the Heisman race. If you want more, Reynolds also is good student majoring in international relations
Ross Franklin/Associated Press
3. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Why you should know about him: Some analysts think Mariota is the most pro-ready quarterback in the nation, and attention will follow him all season as he tries to decide whether to turn pro after his junior year. Mariota is a laid-back guy who is at the controls of a ruthless offense. Legitimate goals are 4,000 passing yards and 35 TD passes to go with a dozen rushing TDs. Watching him pile up stats should keep you busy this fall. Also worth watching is whether he ever will say anything remotely off-script.
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
2. QB Braxton Miller, Ohio State
Why you should know about him: Miller seemingly has been at Ohio State since the days of John Cooper (luckily for Miller, he plays for a coach who, unlike Cooper, actually knows what to do with the talent on hand). Miller toyed with the idea of turning pro, but smartly decided to stay; he needs to improve as a passer. Miller already is one of the most-hyped players in the nation, and the attention on him will intensify this season. He will head into the season as one of the top three Heisman contenders and should remain near the top of the list all season.
Phil Sears/Associated Press
1. QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
Why you should know about him: He quarterbacks the defending national champions, and he has received a lot of attention for that feat. He is the reigning Heisman winner, which means even more attention. Finally, given that we live in extremely voyeuristic times, his off-field issues, including being investigated for a sexual assault and a shoplifting incident involving crab legs, mean even non-football fans know who he is. There's also his seemingly never-ending quest to grab attention for himself, what with his numerous Instagrams. In short, prepare for Jameis Winston overload this fall -- and that's before we even start to discuss whether this will be his final season of college football.
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