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SEC Heisman Trophy watch

The Heisman Trophy returned to the SEC last season when running back Mark Ingram became the first player in Alabama history to win college football’s most prestigious individual award.

It was also the second time in the last three years that an SEC player had won the Heisman. Florida’s Tim Tebow won it in 2007.

Overall, nine SEC players have won the Heisman Trophy. Florida leads the way with three winners – Danny Wuerffel, Steve Spurrier and Tebow.

Never has the SEC produced the Heisman Trophy winner in back-to-back years. Maybe this is the year.

Here’s a look at the SEC players who have a chance to be in the race this season. They’re listed alphabetically:

John Brantley, QB, Florida: Yes, he’s never taken what you’d call a meaningful snap in a college game. And, yes, he’s taking over for a legend. But Brantley can really throw the football, and the Gators are going to gear what they do offensively around his strengths. He’s going to put up big numbers, and Florida’s going to win a bunch of games. So you never know.

A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: Green is the most dynamic offensive player in the SEC, which makes it puzzling when you see Heisman lists that don’t include his name as a candidate. It’s a fact that receivers rarely win this award. But Green was off to a record-breaking start last season before getting hurt. If he can stay healthy this season, don’t count him out.

Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: History is working against Ingram. Archie Griffin is the only two-time winner of the award, and that was back in 1974 and 1975. Plus, Trent Richardson may get even more carries this season. But Ingram is on everybody’s radar now, and if he has similar numbers as a year ago and Alabama has a similar season, he’ll be right there in the thick of the race.

Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas: After throwing for 3,624 yards and 30 touchdown passes a year ago in his SEC debut, Mallett should be even better the second time around. So should his team. If he improves on those numbers and the Hogs end up winning the West or at least making a run, he will get some serious consideration. Other than Ingram, Mallett is the SEC’s best hope this season.

Jeremiah Masoli, QB, Ole Miss: This may be a stretch, especially with Nathan Stanley in the equation and Masoli still needing a waiver from the NCAA to be eligible. But if Masoli puts up the same kind of numbers he did at Oregon last season and leads Ole Miss to nine or more victories, he’ll get some attention.