The SEC and the Heisman Trophy have gone together well in recent years.
Tim Tebow took home the coveted bronze statute in 2007, while Mark Ingram won it in 2009 and Cam Newton in 2010. Last year, the SEC had two Heisman finalists in Trent Richardson and Tyrann Mathieu. So, of course, that means the SEC will get a sniff at college football's most prestigious award yet again in 2012, right?
Well, there are a few worthy candidates, and there could be some guys lurking under the radar. Mathieu certainly didn't enter 2011 as a Heisman candidate, but he won over many voters with his game-changing plays throughout the year. Unfortunately for the Honey Badger, he won't have a chance to make another run at the hardware because he was dismissed from LSU last Friday.
Mathieu's absence does create a hole on our early list, but the SEC shouldn't have a problem filling his spot this fall.
Let's take a look at some players from the SEC who should be on everyone's Heisman radar heading into the 2012 season:
1. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas: No one would have blamed Wilson for leaving school early for the NFL this spring, but the senior quarterback opted to stay one last year in Fayetteville. That's good news for the Hogs, as Wilson returns as the SEC's top all-around quarterback. He's not only technically sound but also has a cannon for a right arm. He also knows how to take a hit or two. He can make the tough throws and manage a game like a pro. As a first-year starter in 2011, Wilson completed 63.2 percent of his passes, led the SEC with 3,638 passing yards and tossed 24 touchdowns to just six interceptions.
2. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: He's coming off a season-ending injury to his anterior cruciate ligament, but he's operating at 100 percent in camp and is expected to be fine this fall. He might be the nation's top running back with the power, speed and agility he possesses. Before he went down with his knee injury, Lattimore was leading the SEC in rushing, and in just seven games he rushed for 818 yards and 10 touchdowns. He rushed for more than 100 yards in four of those games, including 246 yards and three touchdowns against Navy. Lattimore is the ultimate workhorse, and his coaches expect him to come back even better this fall.
3. Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas: A fractured ankle sidelined Davis for the 2011 season, but that doesn't mean he isn't a Heisman candidate to start this one. Davis burst onto the scene during the second half of 2010, when he rushed for 1,119 yards and 12 touchdowns in the season's final eight games. Davis actually led all SEC running backs that year with 1,322 rushing yards and finished the season with 13 rushing touchdowns. He rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the final five games. Davis says his ankle is 100 percent, and when he's at his best, he's one of the most complete backs around. He's not only a home run threat with speed and elusiveness but also packs a punch and can grind out the tough yards.
4. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: The record-setting quarterback returns after leading the SEC with 35 touchdown passes last year. He was also second in the league with 3,149 passing yards. Murray can make the tough passes and benefits from being able to make plays with his feet as well. Where he needs to improve is not pressing during big games. Working on developing better chemistry with his receivers was one of his main goals heading into the fall, and it sounds as though he has more command on the field.