They are the playmakers, the MVPs and the men you usually see
making the big play in the fourth quarter to win the game.
Doak Walker, Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Earl Cambpell and
Barry Sanders, just to name a few, have graced the Heisman Trophy
with their presence. This year seven more outstanding players will
kick off the season with all eyes on them. Their performances will
be graded, dissected, interpreted and questioned throughout the
season, and one bad game could ruin any dreams a player had of
striking the traditional pose after his name is called.
Matt Leinart returns as the starting quarterback for the
defending national champions, the Southern California Trojans. Last
year Leinart surpassed the numbers of 2002 Heisman winner Carson
Palmer with 255 completions for 3,556 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Leinart threw only nine interceptions and gave up 15 sacks in 2003.
He ended up with 63.4 passing percentage and 164.5 quarterback
“USC’s Matt Leinart emerges as the preseason favorite,” reports
an espn.com experts’ poll.
Leinart will have to look for new targets this season, though,
with the departure of his top two receivers. Senior Keary Colbert,
who grabbed 69 passes for 1,013 yards and nine touchdowns,
graduated and was drafted in 2003. Leading receiver Mike Williams
gave up his two final years of eligibility to try and move up to
the NFL. After deciding to come back to the college football world,
the NCAA denied his reinstatement, and he will watch this season as
a fan. Williams caught 95 passes for 1,314 yards and 16 touchdowns
2003 Heisman Trophy winner Jason White of Oklahoma returns for
his senior season. White looks to become only the second player in
history to win the award twice (Archie Griffin 1974 and 1975). Last
year White threw 451 times completing 61.6 percent of his passes.
He had 255 completions for 3,846 yards and 40 touchdowns. White
only threw 10 interceptions to go with his tremendous offensive
stats, but he was sacked 26 times.
Darren Sproles is the explosive running back from Kansas State
who ran all over the Sooners vaunted defense last season. He is a
5-foot-7-inch, 180-pound senior. In 2003, Sproles rushed 306 times
for 1,986 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also caught 25 passes for 287
yards and two touchdowns.
David Greene is a senior quarterback at Georgia. In 2003, he
completed 264 passes for 3,307 yards and 13 touchdowns. Greene only
threw 11 interceptions but was sacked 42 times. He ended 2003 with
a 60.3 passing percentage and a 128.5 quarterback rating, along
with a hyper-extended knee that hindered his mobility and added to
his sack total. He has been the Bulldogs starter since 2001 and has
compiled three 2,700-yard seasons.
Brad Smith of Missouri is heralded as one of the most dangerous
double threats in the game. He is a 6-foot-2-inch, 210-pound
quarterback with the speed to pull the ball down and take it 80
yards to the end zone. Smith completed 211 passes last year for
1,977 yards and 11 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions. The
Tigers quarterback also rushed 212 times last year for 1,406 yards
and 18 touchdowns.
Cedric Benson, the senior running back at Texas, looks to join
Ricky Williams and Earl Campbell as the only Longhorn Heisman
winners. Benson has started the past three years and gained more
than 1,000 yards every season. Last year he ran 258 times for 1,360
yards and 21 touchdowns and also caught nine passes for 120 yards
and a touchdown. Benson put on a show in the final four regular
season games of 2003, carrying the ball 114 times for 779 yards and
Probably the most flamboyant candidate, Carnell “Cadillac”
Williams, is a senior running back from Auburn, and he rounds out
the short list of preseason Heisman favorites. In 2003 he rushed
241 times for 1,307 yards and 17 touchdowns to go along with five
receptions for 20 yards.
Some other preseason hopefuls include David Pollack, Georgia’s
outstanding senior defensive end who decimated offenses last year,
and LSU’s Justin Vincent and Corey Webster. Vincent is the LSU
tailback, giving the team a pleasant surprise last year with more
than 1,000 yards on the ground. Webster is the Tigers’ lockdown
cornerback, giving the defensive line free reign to headhunt the
Also in the mix is Florida State’s senior quarterback Chris Rix,
who looks to improve once again this year and show that he is an
elite collegiate quarterback.