Heisman Trophy: What we thought of past winners as HS prospects
Quarterback Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma won the 2017 Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, so we're taking a look back at all the Rivals-era Heisman winners as recruits to see if we saw such an honor in their future.
2005: Reggie Bush, USC
As a recruit: USC, Notre Dame, Texas and Stanford were some of the major players for Bush, but the Trojans were always seen as the team to beat. He made his commitment to USC public at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which did not come as a surprise to many.
The season: In 2005, Bush rushed for 1,740 yards and 16 touchdowns, caught 37 passes for 478 additional yards and two more scores, and also had a punt return for a touchdown.
Did we see that coming? Yes, in a way. And I know, I know, his Heisman was taken away but he still won it so he still counts here in this article. Bush was one of the best running backs I’ve ever scouted out of high school and as our No. 2 overall player, a Heisman was certainly not out of the question. I still think Vince Young should have won it, but Bush did and was equally impressive.
2006: Troy Smith, Ohio State
The season: In 2006, Smith passed for 2,542 yards and 30 scores while rushing for 204 yards and an additional score.
Did we see it coming? As a four-star dual-threat quarterback, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility but with 11 quarterbacks ranked ahead of him in 2002, we can’t say we predicted this level of success. Smith was a talent out of high school, but wasn’t recruited or ranked to a Heisman level.
2007: Tim Tebow, Florida
As a recruit: Tebow chose Florida over Alabama in December after his senior season on national television following one of the most intense recruitments in history. LSU, Michigan and USC also received visits.
The season: In 2007, Tebow threw for 3,286 yards and 32 scores while rushing for 895 yards and 23 more scores. He had one of the best statistical seasons for a quarterback in history.
Did we see it coming? Yes, to some extent. He was a five-star quarterback for us and one of the top players in the country with amazing leadership skills. He put up insane numbers in high school as well, was one of the most hyped players in recruiting history and despite his mechanical issues he was a guy we could see having a great career.
2008: Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
The season: In 2008, Bradford threw for 4,720 yards and 50 touchdowns against only eight interceptions while completing 68 percent of his passes.
Did we see it coming? Nope. Bradford was a solid quarterback prospect but didn’t have the frame, arm strength or overall skill level to think he could be a Heisman winner. This is one of the great things about scouting, watching a player go from good to great at the next level and that’s what Bradford did, especially in the 2008 season.
2009: Mark Ingram, Alabama
As a recruit: Ingram took official visits to Alabama, Iowa, Arizona State, Michigan State and Wisconsin before committing to the Crimson Tide on National Signing Day. This came as a stunner to many, since his father, Mark Ingram Sr., was a star with the Spartans.
The season: In 2009, Ingram rushed for 1,658 yards and 32 touchdowns while catching 32 passes for 334 yards and three more scores.
Did we see it coming? No. Ingram was ranked as an athlete out of high school because he was such a physical kid and we could see him impacting on defense if needed as well as being a top running back. But we didn't see him becoming a Heisman winner as a running back after being ranked as the No. 17 athlete in the country.
2010: Cam Newton, Auburn
As a recruit: Newton committed to Florida over Georgia, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Oklahoma and others during his senior year out of high school and after a JUCO stint he committed to Auburn over Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Arizona and others in the 2010 class.
The season: In 2010, Newton threw for 2,854 yards and 30 scores while rushing for 1,473 yards and 20 more scores. He also caught a touchdown pass.
Did we see it coming? Yes. Newton was a two-time five-star prospect at Rivals, something that never happens, and a guy we could see winning a Heisman, especially after his development in junior college. His dominance at the JUCO level was off the charts and he was just an amazing combination of size and speed at the quarterback position.
2011: Robert Griffin, Baylor
As a recruit: Griffin committed to Baylor over Houston as schools such as Texas famously offered him as an athlete and viewed him as a possible defensive back. He was one of the best hurdlers in the national and a great track athlete as well.
The season: In 2011, Griffin threw for 4,293 yards and 37 scores while rushing for 699 yards and 10 more scores.
Did we see it coming? No. He was ranked high enough as the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback in the country and as a four-star, but if you asked me if the tall, rangy track athlete I saw in 2008 would become the stat stuffer we saw in 2011 and would win a Heisman at Baylor, I would have thought you were crazy.
2012: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
The season: In 2012, Manziel passed for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns while rushing for 1,410 yards and 21 more scores.
Did we see it coming? Not in a million years. We had Manziel ranked as a high three-star so about the same as Bradford, but this was a prospect who worked out at times as a wide receiver hoping to earn scholarships. Manziel felt he was a quarterback, put up great numbers in high school and was cocky as all get out but based on his lack of size and possible position change, no one could have predicted this.
2013: Jameis Winston, Florida State
As a recruit: Winston committed to Florida State in August, but also planned to take additional official visits. He took these visits to Alabama, LSU and Stanford before taking his final one to Florida State. This final visit was enough to answer any lingering doubts that he may have had, and he signed with the Seminoles on National Signing Day.
The season: In 2013, Winston threw for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns while rushing for 219 yards and four more scores.
Did we see it coming? Yes. As our No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and a top 10 prospect, a Heisman was certainly not out of the question and was somewhat expected if he panned out and lived up to his ranking. And he did just that in 2013.
2014: Marcus Mariota, Oregon
As a recruit: Mariota committed to Oregon at camp as his only other offer was from Memphis mainly due to his lack of experience in high school (didn’t start until his senior season) and being a recruit from Hawaii.
The season: In 2014, Mariota passed for 4,454 yards and 42 scores against only four interceptions, and rushed for 770 yards and 15 more scores.
Did we see it coming? Not even close. Mariota didn’t even start until his senior year of high school and we are happy we had him as a three-star with only one in-person evaluation. It’s amazing to think that he and Manziel were at one time both committed to Oregon in the same recruiting class.
2015: Derrick Henry, Alabama
As a recruit: Henry was an early commitment to Georgia, but re-opened his recruiting process in the summer of 2012. After trimming his list down to Alabama and Tennessee, Henry committed to the Crimson Tide and enrolled for the spring semester.
The season: In 2015 Henry rushed for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns and averaged 5.6 yards per carry.
Did we see it coming? Nope. His ranking was good enough as a top five running back and as the No. 36 player in the country. But we held him back from a fifth star because we worried he was too big and wasn’t shifty enough to be a Heisman winner in college. We were wrong.
2016: Lamar Jackson, Louisville
As a recruit: Jackson committed to Louisville during the summer after his junior year but he still took official visits to Nebraska, Florida and Mississippi State. The biggest push came from Florida, but Jackson decided to stick with his original commitment and signed with the Cardinals.
The season: In 2016, Jackson threw for 3,543 yards and 30 touchdowns while rushing for 1,571 yards and 21 more scores in one of the best seasons by a quarterback in college football history.
Did we see it coming? No. We liked Jackson as a four-star while others had him as a three-star in our industry, but he was outside our Rivals250 and we didn’t think his speed would translate to the college level as well as it did. Anyone who claims they saw this coming is likely lying.