The Heisman Trophy has long been a symbol of college greatness and more often than not, a symbol of professional anonymity. As the 2006 season approaches, we begin to analyze the nation's top players and pick our preseason favorites for the sport's greatest honor. Winning the Heisman guarantees a player not only a little extra money in the NFL Draft (this does not include Jason White), but also a place in history as his portrait is lined up next to the all-time greats.
So who are these front-runners to strike the pose and take home the trophy at season's end?
Brady Quinn - Quarterback - Notre Dame
The inside favorite for the 2006 Heisman, Quinn is blessed in several regards. Outside of being exceptionally talented and possessing a great toughness that many of today's quarterbacks lack, Quinn also happens to be the quarterback at Notre Dame, which certainly doesn't hurt his chances. He not only is able to make the good reads, but has tremendous pocket presence and seems to always either take the hit and deliver the pass, or use his nimble feet to avoid the rush.
Adrian Peterson - Tailback - Oklahoma
Being an alumnus of Oklahoma State University, it pains me to say this, but Peterson may just be the best running back in the nation, and maybe the best Sooner tailback ever. Possessing tremendous vision, speed, and strength, Peterson has all the tools that have the NFL scouts drooling. With an improved Rhett Bomar and all-around better Sooner team, Peterson should be back to prove that his tremendous freshman season was not a fluke and that finishing second in the Heisman balloting isn't good enough this time.
Troy Smith - Quarterback - Ohio State University
If Smith can stay out of trouble, he could be the next Michael Vick (or as Michael Vick likes to say, "Ron Mexico"). Smith, when on the field, is a tremendous playmaker who knows when to use his legs and when to use his arm. If his teammates can put up some wins and get the Buckeye signal-caller his numbers, he'll be hard to beat.
Steve Slaton - Tailback - West Virginia
Slaton is without a doubt my favorite to win the trophy. He has super agility that allows him to make tacklers miss but also has extremely surprising power for his frame. His talent, coupled with the fact that West Virginia plays in the watered down Big East, should propel him to a stellar season, and barring a major injury, to the top of the Heisman race.
Marshawn Lynch - Tailback - California
Lynch is the prototypical back for today's college game. He is shifty and has speed beyond all measure. If Lynch finds as seam, you had better get the special teams units ready because he is gone. If Cal can manage some big wins in the Pac-10 this year, then Lynch will be a hard one to topple in this fall's Heisman race.
What about these guys?
There are always great players who take the field for somewhat less-known teams and therefore don't get the respect they often deserve. In my opinion, these guys would be legitimate Heisman contenders if they played for big-time BCS schools.
Jeff Rowe - Quarterback - Nevada
Rowe has quietly been putting up numbers that would have him on the top of the list if he played for, say, Notre Dame or USC. A solid, heady quarterback that uses his brain as well as his arm, Rowe should have another successful season for the Pack this fall.
Kevin Kolb Quarterback - Houston
A big, physical specimen, Kolb is made in the mold of a Kerry Collins type quarterback. The Houston system allows him to put up the numbers, and he should be well on track to another good season this year. With Vincent Marshall and incoming transfer Biren Ealy catching the football, he should have a stellar season.
As this season begins and continues towards December, anyone can make their push to win the coveted Heisman, but these select few are the ones I feel have the inside track on the prize. Superior talent, and in Brady Quinn's situation, a favorable location, mean that these guys, barring all injuries, should be among the finalists.