Heisman Trophy Syndication: Gainesville Sun

It’s never too early to begin to talk about the Heisman for next year and who the favorite may be. It always seems every once in and while a guy emerges from the shadows that no one expected to win. This past year was no exception. LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels won the award this year which came as a shock to some because most thought that USC quarterback Caleb Wiliams would win again.

So who are next year’s favorites for the Heisman? well, some of the names may surprise you, others you are probably already familiar with but these five athletes will be serious contenders for this prestigious award.

Here is our list of the top five candidates we believe could win the Heisman Trophy next year.

Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas Longhorns

Texas Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers (3) throws a pass during the second half against the Baylor Bears at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Quinn Ewers being on this may be a shock to some but the Longhorns quarterback started making noise earlier this season when he led his team to victory over Alabama in Tuscaloosa. If it wasn’t for his injury, he might have been in New York as well. Ewers threw for over 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns while helping lead the Longhorns to their first Big 12 title in years and to their first appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Ewers will be tested next year by playing a full SEC schedule so we will see early if Ewers is a contender or a pretender.

Travis Hunter, CB/WR, Colorado Buffaloes

Colorado Buffaloes cornerback Travis Hunter (12) following the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Folsom Field.
Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Travis Hunter was in the running for the Heisman early this season but the Buffs record and his injury hurt his chances. But Hunter got off to a hot start to begin the season. He had 23 solo tackles and three interceptions before he was injured in the Colorado State game. Hunter is a two-way player and many have asked if can he keep up this same pace next season. It depends on first of all. his health and how well the Buffs perform.

One of the reasons so many people paid attention to Hunter was the fact that they were on TV a lot and more than likely, that will be the case next season once the Buffs join the Big 12. If he gets the kind of exposure again and gets off to a fast start like he did in 2023, who knows? Hunter might be the first defensive player since Charles Woodson to snag the award.

Shedeur Sanders, QB, Colorado Buffaloes

Oct 7, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Shedeur Sanders (2) celebrates after defeating the Arizona State Sun Devils at Mountain America Stadium, Home of the ASU Sun Devils. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Another Colorado Buff who has an even better chance of winning the Heisman is Shedur Sanders. Sanders may be more of a contender in this race than Hunter because of several factors. First, he is a quarterback and this award usually goes to a quarterback. Second, he is the leader of this team, which also helps.

Sander is also a playmaker. How many times did we see this season him make unbelievable plays? Sanders threw for over 3200 yards, 27 touchdowns, and only three interceptions. The only thing that kept him out of the Heisman race was his team’s record, yet as we have seen in the past with greats like Paul Hornung, you can still win the Heisman even if your team fails you.

But in this day and age, it helps if you do more than make spectacular plays on the field, you have to win. If Sanders can get some protection, light a fire under this team, and lead them to at least a seven or eight-win season, Sanders will definitely be in the mix next. He and Travis Hunter may each other out of the race if they both have great seasons next year.

Quinshon Judkins, RB, Ole Miss Rebels

Mississippi Rebels running back Quinshon Judkins (4) runs the ball during the second half against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field.
Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

This list is mainly full of quarterbacks because, over the years, it’s been quarterbacks who usually win the Heisman. But we had to put a running back on this list and Quinshon Judkins out of Ole Miss fits the bill.

Judkins, who hails from the state of Alabama, was passed over by both Alabama and Auburn in what seems to have been a huge mistake. He has become one of the most productive running backs not only in the SEC but the nation. Judkins rushed for over 1,000 yards and had 15 touchdowns in the Rebels high flying offense in 2023. He was named first-team All-SEC the last two years and was SEC Freshman of the Year his first season when he rushed for 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns. If it wasn’t for Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker, Judkins may have won SEC Offensive Player of the Year.

Judkins has a real chance to win the Heisman and he would be the school’s first. Lane Kiffin’s offense is going to be centered around his running ability and, unlike the last couple of years, the schedule favors the Rebels. They will have some high-profile games that will showcase his abilities. If he can continue at the pace he is going and the Rebels keep winning, there is no doubt Judkins will be in the conversation for the Heisman.

The only question is, will Ole Miss quarterback Jaxon Dart outshine him?

Jalen Milroe, QB, Alabama Crimson Tide

Jalen Milroe
Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Here is another name that may shock many on this list. Many know the story already about Jalen Milroe, benched after the loss to the Texas Longhorns only to rebound and be named to the SEC second-team quarterback. What an amazing story. Milroe was known this season primarily for throwing one heck of a long ball, but as the season went along, so did his game.

He turned the ball over less and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees designed the offense around him to feature his arm and his legs. It doesn’t hurt that Milroe is at a high-powered school like Alabama which will be on TV a lot. Milroe threw for over 2700 yards this season and 23 touchdowns. He also rushed for several touchdowns as well. He’s already had his Heisman moment in this year’s Iron Bowl to save Alabama’s season and he is already on the Heisman list of many college football experts such as ESPN’s Booger McFarland and Fox Sports Joel Klatt.

It doesn’t hurt to have those types of guys on your side. Now, can Milroe live up to the hype?

About Stacey Mickles

Stacey is a 1995 graduate of the University of Alabama who has previously worked for other publications such as Sportskeeda and Saturday Down South.