March 2, 2024

Ranking the 15 best midseason Heisman hopefuls of 2022

TCU Horned Frogs Football

TCU quarterback Max Duggan glances towards the sideline during a timeout in the fourth quarter against Colorado Friday September 2, 2022 at Folsom Field. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

They’ve all done an amazing job up to this point.

Putting up the numbers, and keeping their teams in contention for a conference title is the start. However, maintaining consistency and showing out on the biggest stages is what separates the contenders from the pretenders.

These Heisman hopefuls have made a name for themselves. And with half of the season still left to play, there’ll be plenty of opportunities for them to boost their stock.

15. Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee: He had his coming out party in last week’s victory over Alabama. Hyatt leads the country with 10 touchdown receptions. His blend of size, speed and quickness allows him to stretch the field on opposing defenses. The former four-star prospect racked up 207 receiving yards and a jaw-dropping, five touchdown catches against the Crimson Tide. Hyatt hauled in two touchdown passes at LSU. Not to mention he stockpiled a season-high, 11 catches in the win over Pittsburgh. The South Carolina native’s junior campaign is starting to resemble former Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith’s Heisman season. With remaining games against Kentucky and Georgia, Hyatt will have plenty of opportunities to showcase his talents.

14. Bryce Young, QB, Alabama: The reigning Heisman winner is trying to become the first player since Ohio State’s Archie Griffin to win the award twice. However, Young’s numbers are nowhere near where they were around this time last year. And he’s been getting banged up during the process. Young was knocked out of the Arkansas game in the first half. He got mauled in last week’s loss to Tennessee. The Crimson Tide still have blockbuster battles remaining on the slate. Young is still clutch and has the ability to put the Crimson Tide on his back and carry them to the finish line. The former five-star prospect needs to stay healthy though. Now that Alabama’s offensive line got exposed, the rest of the SEC can smell blood in the water.

13. Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington: It’s amazing what he can do when healthy. Penix immediately upgraded the Huskies with his athletic prowess. He leads the country in passing yards. Not to mention Penix is first in the league and fifth in the FBS with 20 touchdown passes. The former Indiana Hoosier threw four touchdowns apiece against Kent State, Michigan State, UCLA and Arizona. His 516 passing yards in last week’s victory over Arizona was a career-high. In order for Penix to stay in the mix he’ll have to keep the Huskies in the Pac-12 race. Washington still has a marquee game against Oregon and it’s on the road. If Penix keeps it up at this pace, he’ll break several single-season passing records for Washington. And the Pac-12 North is still wide open.

12. Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina: The freshman gunslinger has took the ACC by storm with his arm this fall. Maye is No. 1 in the FBS in total offense, and has led the Tar Heels to a 6-1 record. Not to mention North Carolina is ranked No. 22 in this week’s AP Poll. Maye leads the ACC and is tied for first in the country with 24 touchdown passes. He also leads the league in passing yards and has only been picked off three times. Not to mention Maye Is No. 1 in the conference and third in the FBS in passing efficiency. Maye threw for five touchdown apiece against Florida A&M and Notre Dame. The former four-star prospect had a season-high, 380 yards through the air in last week’s win over Duke. He’ll be in the mix if the Tar Heels win the Coastal.

11. Israel Abanikanda, RB, Pittsburgh: The former three-star prospect has raised several eyebrows across the ACC with his rushing production. And because of his heroics on the gridiron, the Panthers have made a smooth transition into being a running team again. Abanikanda leads the league and is tied for second in the FBS with 12 rushing touchdowns. He’s numero uno in the ACC and fifth in the country in rushing yards per game. Abanikanda is coming off a monumental performance in the victory over Virginia Tech. The Brooklyn native carried the ball 36 times for 320 yards and a jaw-dropping, six touchdowns. Abanikanda rumbled for 177 yards on the ground and four scores against Rhode Island. He also rushed for 154 yards against Tennessee.

10. Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas: The All-American rusher is already projected to be a first round pick in 2023’s NFL Draft. That’s because Robinson is the full package when it comes to a running back. He has the strength, speed, hands and blocking ability that the scouts crave. Robinson leads the Big 12 and is tied for fifth in the FBS in rushing touchdowns. The former five-star prospect also leads the league and is eighth in the country in rushing yards. Robinson has stayed consistent and healthy this fall, which is why the Longhorns are ranked 20th in this week’s AP Poll. Not to mention Robinson has eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards for the past five games. Texas still has several pivotal games left for Robinson to display his talents.

9. Adrian Martinez, QB, Kansas State: The former Nebraska Cornhusker is making some noise in the Big 12. Martinez is the main reason why Kansas State is tied atop the Big 12 standings with TCU, and ranked No. 17 in this week’s AP Poll. He has been very smart with the football and his decision-making, with no interceptions in 2022. However, Martinez continues to hurt defenses with his arm and dangerous mobility. Not to mention he leads all FBS quarterbacks in rushing yards. The Californian threw for 234 yards, and rushed for 148 at Oklahoma. Martinez also rushed for four touchdowns against the Sooners. He followed up that performance with 171 yards on the ground and four total scores in the victory over Texas Tech.

8. Chase Brown, RB, Illinois: The Canadian leads the entire FBS in carries and rushing yards. Brown is consistent and the main reason why Illinois is No. 18 in the AP Poll and tied in first place in the Big Ten West. He’s College football’s first player to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in 2022. Not to mention he became the Fighting Illini’s first back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher since Robert Holcombe. Brown is well on his way to breaking Mikel Leshoure’s single-season rushing record, which was set back in 2010. He’ll need more touchdowns to get consideration. Brown only stands 5-foot-11, and weighs 205 pounds, but he’s a true workhorse. The All-Big Ten rusher carried the ball 41 times, in last week’s victory over Minnesota, which was a career-high.

7. Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama: The former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket is arguably the nation’s most explosive player. It’s tough to argue against that when Gibbs is second in the country in yards per carry. Gibbs has the rare blend of speed and quickness to take the pigskin to the house from anywhere on the field, at any given moment. The former four-star prospect has been on a tear for the past three games. Gibbs rushed for a season-high, 206 yards and two scores in the victory over Arkansas. He followed up that performance with 154 yards on the ground against Texas A&M. Gibbs rushed for 103 yards and three scores in last week’s loss to Tennessee. His presence in the backfield requires a lot of attention, and that’s enough to keep some pressure off Bryce Young.

6. Caleb Williams, QB, USC: He’s been the key to the Trojans’ success this fall. Williams has the confidence and moxie that makes others around him better. The rest of USC’s offense feeds off his energy. The former Oklahoma Sooner is second in the Pac-12, and sixth in the FBS in passing yards. Williams is also tied for second in the league with 19 touchdown tosses. The Washington D.C. native threw for 341 yards, and a season-high, four touchdown tosses in his Pac-12 debut against Stanford. Williams scored four touchdowns apiece against Fresno State and Arizona State. His 348 passing yards against the Sun Devils were a season-high too. Although USC lost last week to Utah, Williams will still be in the discussion if he leads his team to a berth in the Pac-12 Championship.

5. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB, UCLA: He’s one of the most experienced players in College football. Thompson-Robinson has led UCLA to its’ first 6-0 start since 2005. The Bruins are also ninth in this week’s AP Poll. Thompson-Robinson is well on his way to becoming the program’s all-time leader in total offense. The Las Vegas native has scored 19 total touchdowns in 2022. Not to mention he’s first in the Pac-12 and fifth in the FBS in passing efficiency. Thompson-Robinson threw for three touchdowns apiece against South Alabama and Washington. His 315 yards through the air against the Huskies were a season-high. The six-foot-one, 204-pounder also had a season-high, with four touchdown tosses in week six’s victory over Utah.

4. Max Duggan, QB, TCU: He’s one of the Big 12’s most experienced signal-callers, and all of his leadership and production is paying off big time this fall. Duggan has made Sonny Dykes’ first year with the program a smooth transition. He led TCU to a comeback victory last week over Oklahoma State. The Council Bluffs native can hurt defenses with his arm and legs. Duggan is No. 1 in the Big 12 and sixth in the FBS in passing efficiency. He leads the league with 16 touchdown tosses and has only been picked off once. The former four-star prospect is the reason why the Horned Frogs are undefeated and ranked eighth in this week’s AP Poll. Duggan threw for three touchdowns apiece against Kansas, Oklahoma and SMU. He’ll have a tough test against Kansas State.

3. Blake Corum, RB, Michigan: The Wolverines have been using him as a battering ram with their punishing rushing attack. Corum is second in the FBS with 901 rushing yards. Not to mention he leads the nation in touchdowns on the ground. He’s the main reason why Michigan has the Big Ten’s No. 1 rushing attack, averaging 241.7 yards per game. The Wolverines are also fourth in the AP Poll. Corum has eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards for the past four games. The Baltimore native rushed for a season-high, 243 yards against Maryland. Corum had 166 yards on the ground in last week’s victory over Penn State. If Corum can keep up his rushing at this pace, he’ll break Michigan’s single-season record set by Tim Biakabutuka back in 1995.

2. Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee: The former Virginia Tech Hokie has raised several eyebrows across the SEC with his heroics on the gridiron. Hooker is No. 2 in the FBS in passing efficiency. Not to mention he has 15 touchdown tosses and one interception on the season. The North Carolina native is second in the SEC in yards through the air and third in touchdown passes. Hooker had his coming out party in last week’s victory over Alabama. He outdueled the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Hooker shredded the Crimson Tide’s defense for 385 passing yards and five touchdowns. The former three-star prospect threw for 300-plus yards and two scores apiece against Florida, LSU and Pittsburgh. He’s the reason Tennessee is No. 3 in the AP Poll.

1. C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State: The Californian has put up video game numbers this fall for the No. 2 team in the country. Stroud is tied for first in the country with 24 touchdown passes. Not to mention he leads the entire FBS in passing efficiency. The former four-star prospect has been a vital piece in the Buckeyes’ prolific offense in 2022. Ohio State leads the country in points per game. The Buckeyes are also second in the nation in total offense. Stroud was last seen throwing for 361 yards, and a jaw-dropping six touchdowns against Michigan State. He threw five touchdowns apiece against Toledo and Wisconsin. Ohio State appears to be on a crash collision course with Michigan, and Stroud will be judged strictly on his performance in the Game.

Honorable Mention

Sam Hartman, QB, Wake Forest: He has had a decorative career thus far with the Demon Deacons. Hartman is already the program’s career leader in touchdown tosses. And now he needs 197 yards through the air to eclipse Riley Skinner as Wake Forest’s all-time leader. Skinner missed the season opener as he dealt with a blood clot issue. However, he returned to the gridiron and been putting up video game numbers. The Florida native threw for a season-high, 337 yards and six touchdowns in the overtime loss to Clemson. Hartman passed for 300 yards and four scores in the victory over Vanderbilt. The veteran gunslinger hasn’t thrown an interception over the past three games. Wake Forest has a very manageable schedule down the stretch.