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Published: May 18, 2015 at 12:42 p.m.
Updated: May 19, 2015 at 12:01 p.m.

15 for '15: Top Heisman Trophy candidates for 2015

» Complete 15 for '15 series

What better way to start off CFB 24/7's in-depth look at the 2015 season than to take a gander at the top Heisman candidates. Our "15 for '15" series begins with the top contenders for what might be the most prestigious individual award in sports.

Remember that each of the past five winners -- and 13 of the past 15 -- have been quarterbacks; the only non-quarterbacks in that stretch were running backs Mark Ingram of Alabama in 2009 and Reggie Bush of USC in 2005. Still, we have more running backs than quarterbacks on our list.

15 Photos Total

  • <B>Particulars:</b> 5-foot-11, 217 pounds, junior<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> He was the third-team tailback in 2013 and the second-teamer last season. This season, the starting job is his, so a big season beckons. Wisconsin's starting tailback -- whomever it has been -- has rushed for at least 1,600 yards in four consecutive seasons and for at least 1,500 yards in five of the past six seasons. 15

    Morry Gash / AP

    15. Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin

    Particulars: 5-foot-11, 217 pounds, junior
    The skinny: He was the third-team tailback in 2013 and the second-teamer last season. This season, the starting job is his, so a big season beckons. Wisconsin's starting tailback -- whomever it has been -- has rushed for at least 1,600 yards in four consecutive seasons and for at least 1,500 yards in five of the past six seasons.

  • <B>Particulars:</b> 6-2, 250, junior<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Conner is a physical runner who rushed for 1,765 yards and 26 TDs last season. He did it all rather quietly, too, because Pitt finished 6-7. If he puts up those kinds of numbers again, everyone is going to notice. He and Panthers junior WR Tyler Boyd are one of the best RB-WR duos in the nation. 14

    Sharon Ellman / FR170032 AP

    14. James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh

    Particulars: 6-2, 250, junior
    The skinny: Conner is a physical runner who rushed for 1,765 yards and 26 TDs last season. He did it all rather quietly, too, because Pitt finished 6-7. If he puts up those kinds of numbers again, everyone is going to notice. He and Panthers junior WR Tyler Boyd are one of the best RB-WR duos in the nation.

  • <B>Particulars:</b> 6-2, 205, sophomore<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Solomon won Arizona's quarterback battle as a redshirt freshman, then turned in a big season, with 4,084 yards of total offense. Expect him to be more of a running threat this fall, but his passing ability will remain the strong suit of his game. He threw for 3,793 yards and 28 TDs last season, and should improve on both numbers. 13

    Ric Tapia / TAPIR

    13. Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona

    Particulars: 6-2, 205, sophomore
    The skinny: Solomon won Arizona's quarterback battle as a redshirt freshman, then turned in a big season, with 4,084 yards of total offense. Expect him to be more of a running threat this fall, but his passing ability will remain the strong suit of his game. He threw for 3,793 yards and 28 TDs last season, and should improve on both numbers.

  • <B>Particulars:</b> 6-4, 220, senior<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Cook thought about leaving early, but decided to remain in school for his senior season and again will be at the controls of a team expected to be one of the best in the Big Ten. He has thrown for 5,655 yards and 44 TDs in the past two seasons, and what likely will hurt him in the Heisman hunt is that he isn't likely to put up eye-catching numbers. 12

    AJ MAST / FR123854 AP

    12. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State

    Particulars: 6-4, 220, senior
    The skinny: Cook thought about leaving early, but decided to remain in school for his senior season and again will be at the controls of a team expected to be one of the best in the Big Ten. He has thrown for 5,655 yards and 44 TDs in the past two seasons, and what likely will hurt him in the Heisman hunt is that he isn't likely to put up eye-catching numbers.

  • <B>Particulars:</b> 6-2, 232, senior<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Hill is the only player from outside the "Power Five" conferences on our list. He was 10th nationally in total offense in 2013, then was on his way to an even better season last fall before he suffered a broken leg in the fifth game. If he's healthy, he will put up big numbers for the Cougars. Hill has OK speed and is a physical runner who'd just as soon run over a defender as run around him. And while he's not a highly polished passer, that facet of his game showed improvement before he was hurt last season. 11

    Rick Bowmer / AP

    11. Taysom Hill, QB, BYU

    Particulars: 6-2, 232, senior
    The skinny: Hill is the only player from outside the "Power Five" conferences on our list. He was 10th nationally in total offense in 2013, then was on his way to an even better season last fall before he suffered a broken leg in the fifth game. If he's healthy, he will put up big numbers for the Cougars. Hill has OK speed and is a physical runner who'd just as soon run over a defender as run around him. And while he's not a highly polished passer, that facet of his game showed improvement before he was hurt last season.

  • <B>Particulars:</b> 5-11, 230, sophomore<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Marcus Mariota is gone, so the focus has to go somewhere in the Ducks' backfield, so why not on to Freeman? He was Oregon's leading rusher as a freshman (1,365 yards, 18 TDs) and should get even more opportunities this fall. Even with Mariota gone, Oregon's offense is not going to change, which means Freeman will be the focal point of an offense that is sure to be prolific. 10

    Rick Bowmer / AP

    10. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

    Particulars: 5-11, 230, sophomore
    The skinny: Marcus Mariota is gone, so the focus has to go somewhere in the Ducks' backfield, so why not on to Freeman? He was Oregon's leading rusher as a freshman (1,365 yards, 18 TDs) and should get even more opportunities this fall. Even with Mariota gone, Oregon's offense is not going to change, which means Freeman will be the focal point of an offense that is sure to be prolific.

  • <B>Particulars:</b> 5-11, 237, sophomore<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> He rumbled for 1,713 yards and 21 TDs last season, and <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000432198/article/oklahomas-samaje-perine-sets-fbs-singlegame-rushing-record" target="new">set a FBS single-game record</a> with a 427-yard performance against Kansas. That was one of three 200-yard outings for Perine, who started eight games. Once he gained his footing (or, to put it another way, once OU coaches realized what they had), he was devastating to opposing defenses: Perine ran for 925 yards and 10 TDs in the final four games of the season, and averaged 27 carries per game in those contests. 9

    Sue Ogrocki / AP

    9. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma

    Particulars: 5-11, 237, sophomore
    The skinny: He rumbled for 1,713 yards and 21 TDs last season, and set a FBS single-game record with a 427-yard performance against Kansas. That was one of three 200-yard outings for Perine, who started eight games. Once he gained his footing (or, to put it another way, once OU coaches realized what they had), he was devastating to opposing defenses: Perine ran for 925 yards and 10 TDs in the final four games of the season, and averaged 27 carries per game in those contests.

  • <strong>EDITOR'S NOTE:</strong> This list was published before Dalvin Cook <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000500988/article/florida-state-rb-dalvin-cook-to-be-charged-with-battery" target="new">was suspended indefinitely</a>.<br><B>Particulars:</b> 6-0, 203, sophomore<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Florida State is likely to rely more heavily on the run this season. That makes sense for two reasons: The quarterback -- whoever it is -- won't be as good as Jameis Winston <i>and</i> Cook, a Miami native, is extremely talented. Cook rushed for 1,008 yards as a true freshman last season despite spending most of the year as the No. 2 tailback. He really came on down the stretch, showcasing his big-play ability and breakaway speed. FSU's single-season rushing record is 1,242 yards by Warrick Dunn in 1995. Cook would seem to have a legitimate chance to break that record this fall. 8

    Chuck Burton

    8. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

    EDITOR'S NOTE: This list was published before Dalvin Cook was suspended indefinitely.
    Particulars: 6-0, 203, sophomore
    The skinny: Florida State is likely to rely more heavily on the run this season. That makes sense for two reasons: The quarterback -- whoever it is -- won't be as good as Jameis Winston and Cook, a Miami native, is extremely talented. Cook rushed for 1,008 yards as a true freshman last season despite spending most of the year as the No. 2 tailback. He really came on down the stretch, showcasing his big-play ability and breakaway speed. FSU's single-season rushing record is 1,242 yards by Warrick Dunn in 1995. Cook would seem to have a legitimate chance to break that record this fall.

  • <B>Particulars:</b> 6-1, 215, senior<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Just as Pitt's Conner quietly rushed for 1,765 yards, Kessler quietly threw for 3,826 yards and 39 TDs (with just five picks). He was overshadowed on his own team by 2015 first-round draft picks Leonard Williams and Nelson Agholor, but Kessler is back for one more go-round this season. He made huge strides last season under new coach Steve Sarkisian, and more improvement is likely this fall. In addition, playing quarterback at USC is one of the most glamorous positions in all of college football, and he is going to receive a ton of preseason attention. A legit question is whether he will have enough help surrounding him. 7

    Mark J. Terrill

    7. Cody Kessler, QB, USC

    Particulars: 6-1, 215, senior
    The skinny: Just as Pitt's Conner quietly rushed for 1,765 yards, Kessler quietly threw for 3,826 yards and 39 TDs (with just five picks). He was overshadowed on his own team by 2015 first-round draft picks Leonard Williams and Nelson Agholor, but Kessler is back for one more go-round this season. He made huge strides last season under new coach Steve Sarkisian, and more improvement is likely this fall. In addition, playing quarterback at USC is one of the most glamorous positions in all of college football, and he is going to receive a ton of preseason attention. A legit question is whether he will have enough help surrounding him.

  • <B>Particulars:</b> 6-1, 230, sophomore<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Fournette is from New Orleans, and a popular saying there (and in all of Louisiana, actually) is "<i>Laissez les bons temps rouler</i>!" That's a Cajun expression meaning "Let the good times roll!" For LSU this season, the offense's motto should be "<i>Laissez Fournette rouler</i>!" Fournette shared carries last season as a true freshman with two other tailbacks and the quarterback, but still led the Tigers with 1,034 rushing yards. He'll likely share carries again, but it's not a stretch to think he could get 235 or so attempts, which could mean around 1,500 yards. (Just think what he could do if LSU had a passing attack to loosen up opposing defenses.) Fournette is both physical and fast. 6

    Gerald Herbert / AP

    6. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

    Particulars: 6-1, 230, sophomore
    The skinny: Fournette is from New Orleans, and a popular saying there (and in all of Louisiana, actually) is "Laissez les bons temps rouler!" That's a Cajun expression meaning "Let the good times roll!" For LSU this season, the offense's motto should be "Laissez Fournette rouler!" Fournette shared carries last season as a true freshman with two other tailbacks and the quarterback, but still led the Tigers with 1,034 rushing yards. He'll likely share carries again, but it's not a stretch to think he could get 235 or so attempts, which could mean around 1,500 yards. (Just think what he could do if LSU had a passing attack to loosen up opposing defenses.) Fournette is both physical and fast.

  • <B>Particulars:</b> 6-0, 225, junior<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Elliott went from "solid tailback" to "burgeoning superstar" in a three-game stretch last season. (Coincidentally, it came in a three-game stretch in which Buckeyes QB J.T. Barrett was injured, which, frankly, should tell you how good Barrett is. More on him in a minute.) Elliott was dominant down the stretch, rushing for 696 yards and eight TDs as the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin for the Big Ten title, Alabama in a national semifinal and Oregon for the national title. Elliott finished the season with 1,878 yards and 18 TDs. When assessing his Heisman hopes, don't forget his quarterback is going to be a legit candidate as well. 5

    Jay LaPrete

    5. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

    Particulars: 6-0, 225, junior
    The skinny: Elliott went from "solid tailback" to "burgeoning superstar" in a three-game stretch last season. (Coincidentally, it came in a three-game stretch in which Buckeyes QB J.T. Barrett was injured, which, frankly, should tell you how good Barrett is. More on him in a minute.) Elliott was dominant down the stretch, rushing for 696 yards and eight TDs as the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin for the Big Ten title, Alabama in a national semifinal and Oregon for the national title. Elliott finished the season with 1,878 yards and 18 TDs. When assessing his Heisman hopes, don't forget his quarterback is going to be a legit candidate as well.

  • <B>Particulars:</b> 6-2, 230, senior<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> He received a lot of Heisman acclaim last season, but his "candidacy" faded a bit down the stretch. Prescott narrowly missed becoming just the seventh quarterback in FBS history with 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards; he finished with 3,449 and 986, respectively, and was responsible for 41 touchdowns. He stars for a "non-traditional" program, and how Mississippi State plays this season will have a huge bearing on whether Prescott is a viable Heisman guy. 4

    Lynne Sladky / AP

    4. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State

    Particulars: 6-2, 230, senior
    The skinny: He received a lot of Heisman acclaim last season, but his "candidacy" faded a bit down the stretch. Prescott narrowly missed becoming just the seventh quarterback in FBS history with 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards; he finished with 3,449 and 986, respectively, and was responsible for 41 touchdowns. He stars for a "non-traditional" program, and how Mississippi State plays this season will have a huge bearing on whether Prescott is a viable Heisman guy.

  • <B>Particulars:</b> 5-10, 220, sophomore<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Todd Gurley's suspension and subsequent injury opened the door for Chubb, who broke through and left the door in splinters. Chubb led the Bulldogs and was second in the SEC with 1,547 rushing yards, and he tied for the league lead in rushing TDs with 14. He is a tough inside runner with good speed and carries a streak of eight consecutive 100-yard games into this season; he hit the 200-yard mark twice last season, including a 266-yard outing in a rout of Louisville in the Belk Bowl. 3

    Nell Redmond / FR25171 AP

    3. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

    Particulars: 5-10, 220, sophomore
    The skinny: Todd Gurley's suspension and subsequent injury opened the door for Chubb, who broke through and left the door in splinters. Chubb led the Bulldogs and was second in the SEC with 1,547 rushing yards, and he tied for the league lead in rushing TDs with 14. He is a tough inside runner with good speed and carries a streak of eight consecutive 100-yard games into this season; he hit the 200-yard mark twice last season, including a 266-yard outing in a rout of Louisville in the Belk Bowl.

  • <B>Particulars:</b> Barrett: 6-2, 225, sophomore; Jones: 6-5, 250, junior<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Yes, we're chickening out by not picking <i>one</i> Buckeyes QB. And, yes, we're aware that we didn't list Braxton Miller; that's because of the three, he seems the most likely to transfer. The revelatory nature of Jones' play in the final three games of the season seemingly made everyone forget that if Barrett hadn't been injured in the regular-season finale vs. Michigan, he was a lock for 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards; he threw for 2,834 passing yards (34 TDs) and rushed for 938 yards (11 TDs). He accounted for 45 TDs, which set a Big Ten single-season record. Remember that Barrett beat out Jones when Miller got hurt. As for Jones, he had thrown just 16 passes last season before he was pressed into starting duty in the Big Ten championship game. He proceeded to throw for 742 yards and five TDs in three "elimination games" as the Buckeyes won the national title. 2

    2. J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, QBs, Ohio State

    Particulars: Barrett: 6-2, 225, sophomore; Jones: 6-5, 250, junior
    The skinny: Yes, we're chickening out by not picking one Buckeyes QB. And, yes, we're aware that we didn't list Braxton Miller; that's because of the three, he seems the most likely to transfer. The revelatory nature of Jones' play in the final three games of the season seemingly made everyone forget that if Barrett hadn't been injured in the regular-season finale vs. Michigan, he was a lock for 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards; he threw for 2,834 passing yards (34 TDs) and rushed for 938 yards (11 TDs). He accounted for 45 TDs, which set a Big Ten single-season record. Remember that Barrett beat out Jones when Miller got hurt. As for Jones, he had thrown just 16 passes last season before he was pressed into starting duty in the Big Ten championship game. He proceeded to throw for 742 yards and five TDs in three "elimination games" as the Buckeyes won the national title.

  • <B>Particulars:</b> 6-2, 205, senior<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> He made big strides last season under new co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, throwing for 3,714 yards and 30 TDs and running for 642 yards and eight more scores. If he makes the same kind of strides this season, monster numbers await. For instance, legit goals would seem to be 4,000 yards and 35 TDs through the air and 750 yards and 10 TDs on the ground. Boykin was fourth in the Heisman voting last year and is the highest finisher to return to school. He also plays for a team that should be in the top five all season, which always helps when it comes to getting Heisman votes. 1

    Orlin Wagner / AP

    1. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU

    Particulars: 6-2, 205, senior
    The skinny: He made big strides last season under new co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, throwing for 3,714 yards and 30 TDs and running for 642 yards and eight more scores. If he makes the same kind of strides this season, monster numbers await. For instance, legit goals would seem to be 4,000 yards and 35 TDs through the air and 750 yards and 10 TDs on the ground. Boykin was fourth in the Heisman voting last year and is the highest finisher to return to school. He also plays for a team that should be in the top five all season, which always helps when it comes to getting Heisman votes.