It's never too early to start talking about the Heisman Trophy, right?
Though it's impossible to predict, fans love to discuss players who could potentially be hoisting football's most coveted individual trophy at the end of the season. Our national 2015 Heisman Watch made its debut Thursday, and here on the SEC blog, we look at five early names from the Southeastern Conference who could make a run at the trophy:
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: He's the best quarterback in the league, and Prescott was in the Heisman conversation midway through 2014 when the Bulldogs reached No. 1 in the College Football Playoff committee rankings. When his team stumbled, so did his candidacy, but Prescott is back for his senior season, and even though the Bulldogs were picked last in the SEC West by media at SEC media days, the separation between teams in that division is small. If Prescott can carry Mississippi State back to or near the top of the division, he'll definitely be in the race.
Nick Chubb, Georgia: What Chubb did as a true freshman (1,547 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns) despite not getting more than 11 carries in a game until mid-October was simply impressive. Extrapolate what he did in his final eight games (1,323 yards) over a 12-game season, and you have someone approaching 2,000 yards -- 1,984 to be exact, if he were to maintain that 165.37 yards per game average. Two grand is a Heisman-worthy threshold.
Leonard Fournette, LSU: After unprecedented hype heading into his first collegiate action, the former ESPN 300 No. 1 overall recruit took a little bit of time to get it going, but once he did, he was impressive. Fournette closed the season with back-to-back games of more than 140 rushing yards, had an impressive touchdown run and also showed his skills as a kickoff returner with a touchdown in the Music City Bowl. His combination of size and speed makes him a threat for a big game every week, and until LSU's quarterback play improves, you can bet the Tigers are going to lean on this budding star often.
Derrick Henry, Alabama: Speaking of size and speed combinations, Henry has that, too. For a guy who is 6-foot-3, 242 pounds, Henry sure can pick up speed, and when he gets going, he's hard to bring down. He has a career 6.6 yards-per-carry average and will step into a more prominent role this fall now that T.J. Yeldon, who led the team in carries the last two seasons, is gone. Like LSU, Alabama has uncertainty at quarterback, so Henry will be a safety net, which means plenty of work and opportunities for big performances from Henry.
Jeremy Johnson, Auburn: It seems crazy to think a player who has only two career starts and has mostly played sparingly could make this list, but the hype machine is churning for Johnson. A junior quarterback, he steps into the full-time starting role for the first time. Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee's fast-paced offense will be conducive to big numbers for Johnson, who is considered a more polished passer than his predecessor, Nick Marshall, but who also can run -- Malzahn said his speed is similar to that of former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. In recent years we've seen first-time starters such as Newton, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston win a Heisman; if Auburn is in the SEC championship mix come December, Johnson could find himself in the Heisman conversation.
Beyond the top five, a couple of other names to remember:
Don't forget about: Laquon Treadwell. The Ole Miss receiver is one of the best in college football at his position and was on his way to a big season last year before a gruesome leg injury suffered against Auburn cut his year short. It's difficult for receivers to win the Heisman -- though it's notable that Alabama's Amari Cooper was a finalist for the 2014 trophy -- but a big season for Ole Miss and Treadwell could put him in the mix.
Dark horse: Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee. Tennessee appears to be a team on the rise, and if the Vols take a huge leap forward into SEC East title contention, Dobbs will be a big part of that. He started only five games last season but was 4-1 in those games and showed impressive potential. Dobbs is a dual-threat who is effective throwing and running, and that could mean big numbers -- if he does en route to helping Tennessee win big games, watch out.