8. JEREMY JOHNSON, QB, AUBURN
Jeremy Johnson makes my preseason Top 10 despite having played just one game of meaningful snaps in his Auburn career. But to score two touchdowns and go 12-of-16 in that outing, against a stout Arkansas defense, gives a nice launching-off point to shoot Johnson into the stratosphere.
There’s a lot to be said for buzz when it comes to this award, and the considerable buzz Johnson is generating commands attention.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has a track record for bringing out the best in quarterbacks. His relationship with Jeremy Johnson is especially intriguing because Johnson is a different kind of playmaker from past Malzahn quarterbacks.
How Malzahn utilizes his big arm and impressive pocket presence in a system built around the zone-read is intriguing. While I don’t know exactly how it will look, I do know to have faith that the Tigers will score points in bunches.
7. SAMAJE PERINE, RB, OKLAHOMA
Freshmen running backs stormed onto the scene in 2014, but none made history quite like Samaje Perine. The Oklahoma back set a single-game rushing record with 427 yards against Kansas.
Perine won’t rack up 12.7 yards per carry and score five touchdowns every week, but going for multiple scores in the final three regular-season games and tallying at least 134 yards in each of the last four has him rolling into his sophomore season with all the momentum of the Juggernaut.
New offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s installation of an air-raid scheme and the return of Joe Mixon are two factors to watch in Perine’s Heisman candidacy.