The trophy that has gone to quarterbacks 34 out of 81 times, and 14 times since 2000, is likely again going to go to a quarterback: Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, the heavy favorite to win this weekend. It is clearly a structural thing that is causing all this, QB’s are not intrinsically trophy specialists by birth, no it’s the game that simply prefers them overall.
How boring. How chalk. How dreadfully typical.
Instead of talking about Mayfield just like everyone else, it is time to honor the heroes that were passed over. These are the players that could be Heisman winners, but because they do not play quarterback, they were never even considered.
Here is the best unconventional Heisman winner from every power five conference. Quarterbacks and running backs are intentionally left off this list since usually it goes to one of the two. The two positions have claimed the Heisman 75 combined times.
SEC – A.J. Brown, WR
Because of how rarely they touch the ball, it’s rare for a wide receiver make the biggest difference on an offense. Twice, the Ole’ Miss Rebels failed to top 20 points: Once when Brown was injured and the second was when they played Alabama.
Brown changes the game for the Rebels, making whoever is playing quarterback look great, playing the dual role of deep threat and possession receiver.
Brown racked up 1,252 yards and 11 scores on 75 receptions, consistently facing double teams but always coming up with receptions. The Rebels were a bad team, but Brown not only made them watchable, he gave them a chance at victory whenever he was on the field.
Big 12 – DeShon Elliott, S
Elliott played on an offensively-bad Texas Longhorns team that somehow went 6-6 this season. The talented safety is one of the few defensive backs in the country that can be credited with wins because of his six interceptions, 63 tackle and 8.5 tackles for loss season.
He nearly beat USC by himself, grabbing two picks and a touchdown in the overtime loss. Against Iowa State, he recorded another two-interception performance in a tight 10-point win over a team that beat Oklahoma and TCU. Against Baylor, it was Elliott that started the scoring with his second pick-six. The product out of Rockwall, Texas plays downhill in the box and is a ball hawk in coverage. He may be the best safety in the country and is definitely the defensive class of the Big 12.
PAC-12 – Uchenna Nwosu, LB
The pulse of the USC defense is linebacker Nwosu and has proven to be their most versatile linebacker. He racked up 71 tackles and two turnovers the past season as his team took the PAC-12 title.
In a conference that pits Nwosu against every sort of offensive front imaginable, he is the perfect linebacker. The senior is a terror rushing off the edge and disruptive in the backfield. He accumulated 7.5 sacks, along with 9.5 tackles for loss this season.
However, he is more than a pass rusher, playing sideline to sideline and getting his hands on the ball to break up a play from even starting, credited with 13 pass breakups. He is an every-down defender in the middle of the front, proving to be a constant problem for the opposing offense.
Big Ten – Wisconsin Badgers Offensive Line
Michael Deiter, Jon Dietzen, Tyler Biadasz, Beau Benzschawel and David Edwards played inspired football this season on the Badgers offensive line. They lead the way on Wisconsin’s 229.2 rushing yards per game, as their running backs averaged 5.09 yards per carry behind the front that blocked everyone. In total, the offense posted 2,979 yards on the ground and 28 rushing touchdowns.
The line was also a big reason Wisconsin had an 84.2 percent conversion rate in the red zone, racking up 19 rushing scores when inside the 20. The offensive line is usually an unsung hero in football, but the Wisconsin front deserves recognition this season after ranking 21st running the ball. The Badgers offensive line was truly a winning force in the trenches as the team cruised to a 12-1 season.
BC was gifted one last shot at the end of the half with this Lukas Denis interception… pic.twitter.com/XiOyoaDBYK
— Annabel Steele (@Steele_Heights) September 16, 2017
ACC – Lukas Denis, DB
At Boston College, Denis bounces around between the corner and safety, which has produced a nation-leading seven interceptions. He also led the country with 185 interception return yards. While he excels at playing the role of ball hawk, Denis was also third on his team with 80 tackles and forced a pair of fumbles.
Denis is exceptional at playing the ball in the air and running down tackles anywhere on the field. He makes plays wherever he is lined up and when he gets his hands on the ball, he does a great job of setting his offense up with prime field position.