USA TODAY’s poll of 21 Heisman Trophy winners throughout the USA TODAY and Gannett networks has Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence as an overwhelming favorite over Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa heading into the season.
Lawrence collected 17 of the 21 first-place votes, with Tagovailoa landing four of them. And while Tagovailoa finished on 20-of-21 ballots, Clemson’s sophomore prodigy was picked on every single ballot. He came in second on the four ballots where he didn’t take the No. 1 spot.
Lawrence’s late start a year ago — he didn’t win the starting job until about a month into the season after battling with incumbent Kelly Bryant, who led the team to 12 wins in 2017 — meant that he didn’t make the top 10 of last season’s Heisman Trophy voting. But it would be somewhat of a shock if that were to repeat itself; Lawrence ended the year looking like potentially the best quarterback in college football. The No. 1 overall player in the 247Sports Composite and one of the highest-ranked recruits of the recruiting database era, Lawrence passed for 3,280 yards and 30 touchdowns to just four interceptions as a true freshman. And he shined when the lights were brightest, completing better than 66 percent of his passes, averaging 337 yards passing per game and hurling six touchdowns with no interceptions in Clemson’s two College Football Playoff wins, pacing the team to the national title.
Tagovailoa was a bit more spread out with four first-place picks, 14 second-place predictions, two third-place predictions and one ballot where he was left off entirely.
Tagovailoa finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting last season after putting up one of the most efficient passing seasons in college football history. Only an electric season from then-Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray — the eventual No. 1 pick in April’s NFL Draft — kept Tagovailoa from hoisting the trophy himself. And he did all that after fending off the Crimson Tide’s own incumbent quarterback, beating out Jalen Hurts in the offseason. With both Lawrence and Tagovailoa returning dynamic receiving corps. there’s room for even more growth this year.
The only other player to pick up any second-place votes was Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor, who appeared on 11 ballots, including three ballots as a second-place finisher. His eight third-place votes were the most of any player in the survey, topping the three third-place votes collected by Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. Certainly, whichever quarterback leads his team to the Big 12 title could have a major say in the race, and while Ehlinger is a more proven commodity at his current school, Hurts is a former SEC Offensive Player of the Year selection heading into a system that has produced the last two Heisman Trophy winners.