Will the Heisman spread across Oklahoma?

This is the second of three posts breaking down quarterbacks who will likely be Heisman Trophy contenders in 2011. See also our posts on pro-style quarterbacks and dual-threat quarterbacks.

The last four quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy have all run the spread offense, making the state of Oklahoma fertile ground for Heisman candidates this season. Two of the nation's top spread-offense quarterbacks play there, separated by 80 miles of Interstate 35.

Landry Jones, Oklahoma Sooners

The blueprint for a pocket passer to win the Heisman is simple: put up big numbers and win games. With the Sooners projected to be one of best teams in the country, Jones will have a chance to achieve both.

Oklahoma is the top-ranked team in the College Football Live preseason poll and has a legitimate chance to reach the BCS National Championship. Eight of the last 10 Heisman winners played in the BCS title game.

Jones could lead the nation in many passing categories because of Bob Stoops’ quick-strike offense. In 2010, Jones attempted more passes than any other quarterback, and almost 28 percent of his pass attempts were at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Landry Jones By Game Location

These slants and screen passes allowed Jones to increase his yards and completion percentage on relatively easy passes. It also allowed his receivers to make plays and gain yards after the catch.

If Jones wants to take home the trophy, then he’ll have to improve his game away from Norman. Jones has struggled on the road in his two seasons, and Oklahoma’s 2011 road schedule is daunting. The Sooners will face Florida State, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State on the road, plus the annual Red River Rivalry against Texas in Dallas.

Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State Cowboys

If Weeden can replicate his 2010 performance, then he’ll put up the numbers necessary for Heisman consideration. Last season, Weeden ranked third in the nation in passing yards, and his career pass efficiency mark of 155.42 is fourth among active quarterbacks.

Yet Weeden may not even be the best bet for the Heisman Trophy on his team.

Brandon Weeden vs Blitz in Big 12 Games
Passing by Targeted Receiver

If he has a big year in 2011, then Biletnikoff Award winner Justin Blackmon probably will as well. In 2010, Blackmon was one of the best big-play receivers in the country and Weeden’s go-to guy on third down, in the red zone and when facing added pressure.

Weeden completed 56 passes that gained 20 yards or more last year, fifth in FBS. 24 of those passes went to Blackmon, 12 of which went for touchdowns.

When throwing the ball at least 20 yards in the air during conference play, Weeden completed 10-of-16 passes when targeting Blackmon, but only 9-of-22 when targeting other receivers.

Weeden should be praised for utilizing his greatest asset, but his reliance on the dynamic receiver may make Blackmon the stronger Heisman candidate.