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Early Heisman Trophy candidates for 2023 season

With the 2022 Heisman Trophy race in the books, we take an immediate look at potential candidates for next year’s award.

NCAA Football: Southern California at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 Heisman Trophy ceremony has concluded and USC quarterback Caleb Williams is your winner. He excelled in his first season in Los Angeles this fall and became the latest Trojan great to etch himself into college football history by winning the award.

With the 2022 Heisman Trophy race now in the history books, it’s not too early to start pondering who will be hoisting the award in New York City at this time next year. Some familiar contenders will return to their respective programs next season while others will land in a completely new environment via the transfer portal. And then there’s the mystery box, whether it’s a player who takes a major leap out of nowhere or a freshman sensation who takes the nation by storm.

Here’s our early look at potential Heisman Trophy candidates for the 2023 season:

Caleb Williams, QB, USC

Why not start off with the guy who literally just won it? All eyes will be on Williams as he will be playing his third and presumably final year of college football. He’s already being bandied about as the potential No. 1 overall pick of the 2024 NFL Draft, so he’ll have an even bigger spotlight on him as the Trojans try to make the College Football Playoff.

Only Archie Griffin at Ohio State has won two Heisman’s, as most returning winners have failed to recreate the magic of their award-winning season. We’ll see if Williams can buck that trend and exceed the already sky-high expectations next year.

Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina

As a redshirt freshman in 2022, Maye exploded onto the scene and started to earn some late-season Heisman buzz. Leading UNC to a division title, he threw for 4,115 yards and 35 touchdowns through the air, while also adding 653 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. That electric season earned him ACC Player of the Year honors and you’ll certainly hear about his potential as a first-round NFL Draft prospect all offseason long.

There is the specter of North Carolina losing offensive coordinator Phil Longo to Wisconsin following the end of the 2022 season. If the Tar Heels can find a new OC that plays to Maye’s strength, the rising QB star should be fine.

Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington

After four years at Indiana, Penix had a career year in his first season in Seattle and quietly led the Huskies to a 10-win regular season campaign. The Tampa native completed 67% of his passes and threw for 3,869 yards and 26 touchdowns in his new environment and will have UW as a conference contender heading into 2023.

Being in the Pac-12, Penix will have an uphill battle trying to top Caleb Williams in hype and national buzz. A road victory over the Trojans next year could put his name on the map.

Bo Nix, QB, Oregon (?)

Another Pacific Northwest transfer portal revelation came at Oregon, where former Auburn quarterback Bo Nix began to develop some Heisman hype towards the end of the season. Nix completed 71.5% of his passes this season, throwing for 3,389 yards, rushing for 504 yards, and accounting for 41 touchdowns total.

As of this writing, he has not indicated if he’ll return for next season, hence the question mark. If he does, a major factor that needs to be accounted for is the loss of offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham to Arizona State.

Devin Leary, QB, ?

The biggest quarterback name in the transfer portal at the moment is former NC State quarterback Devin Leary. He was cruising right along through the 2022 campaign before sustaining a torn pectoral muscle injury that ended his season.

A number of programs have been reported to have interest in the veteran, including a suddenly Bryce Young-less Alabama team. Wherever he lands, he’ll have the chance to establish himself as a true Heisman contender very quickly.

Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State

Hey, non-quarterbacks are allowed to win this award too. The son of the NFL Hall of Famer with the same name put together an All-American season with the Buckeyes this year, catching 60 passes for 969 yards and 11 touchdowns in just 10 games this season. He was a Biletnikoff Award finalist, losing out to Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt.

Harrison will be in the same spot that teammate Jaxon Smith-Njigba was in heading into this season. A hamstring injury complete wrecked JNS’ campaign, so hopefully Harrison can stay healthy.

Quinn Ewers/Arch Manning, QB, Texas

Ewers showed flashes of his potential in his first season at Texas this year, helping lead the Longhorns to an 8-4 campaign. UT will receive a heavy amount of preseason hype heading into the 2023 campaign and along with it, Ewers will be considered a Heisman contender.

However, one of the biggest quarterback prodigies in the history of the sport is about to arrive to Austin in January with Arch Manning joining the program. The grandson of a college football legend and nephew of two Super Bowl winning QB’s, there will be immense hype and pressure surrounding the youngest gunslinger of the Manning dynasty. The idea of him beating out Ewers and establishing himself as the man at UT isn’t that farfetched.

Other potential contenders:

  • JJ McCarthy, QB, Michigan
  • Jordan Travis, QB, Florida State
  • Kyle McCord, QB, Ohio State
  • Drew Allar, QB, Penn State
  • Tennessee starting QB (Joe Milton or Nicholas Iamaleava)
  • Quinshon Judkins, RB, Ole Miss
  • Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
  • Alabama starting QB
  • Alabama starting RB
  • Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU
  • Harold Perkins Jr., LB, LSU
  • Shedeur Sanders, QB, Colorado