Looking for a Heisman Trophy dark horse? Alabama football offers good options | Toppmeyer

Blake Toppmeyer
USA TODAY NETWORK

Bryce Young has never started a college football game, and he’s attempted just 22 passes in his career.

Yet, Alabama’s starting quarterback is listed among the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy.

Young and Clemson’s DJ Uiagalelei, a fellow first-year starting quarterback, each have 11-to-1 to win the Heisman.

Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler is the Heisman favorite, with 6.5-to-1 odds.

Young’s place among the Heisman favorites makes sense when you figure he’s the starting quarterback for the team favored to win the national championship.

Quarterback Bryce Young (9) hands off to running back Brian Robinson Jr. (4) during practice for the Crimson Tide Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021.[Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

But if recent history is a guide, the Heisman winner won’t be listed among the preseason favorites.

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow won the award in 2019 after being a preseason longshot. In fact, some bettors cashed in winning tickets that had Burrow with preseason 200-to-1 odds. Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith won the award last season after having 80-to-1 preseason odds by at least one sportsbook.

So, if you’re looking to pick this year’s Heisman winner, maybe slide past Young and go with an Alabama longshot, like running back Brian Robinson Jr. (50-to-1) or, better yet, wide receiver John Metchie III (100-to-1).

Quarterbacks have won the Heisman in 12 of the past 15 years. The three non-quarterbacks to win the award during that period were Alabama skill position players. Alabama running backs Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry won the honor in 2009 and 2015, respectively, before Smith captured college football’s top prize last season.

No Alabama quarterback has ever won the Heisman, although AJ McCarron (2013) and Tua Tagovailoa (2018) were runners-up. 

Robinson and Metchie are set to move into starring roles this season after being the sidekicks last season to Najee Harris and Smith.

If Young is to thrive this season, he’ll need their help.

College football is driven by passing offense. Eighteen FBS teams averaged at least 300 years passing last season, twice as many as hit that mark in 2010.

That helps explain why the nine players listed with better than 30-to-1 odds to win the Heisman are all quarterbacks.

Within the SEC, Georgia quarterback JT Daniels has 16-to-1 odds, while Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral is at 22-to-1.

Winning the award as a non-quarterback takes a Herculean season – see Smith’s 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns in 13 games last season – and a unique back story to capture the attention of voters doesn’t hurt, either.

Metchie has that. Born in Taiwan, he moved to Ghana as a child before settling in Canada at age 6. He played high school football in Maryland and New Jersey and signed as part of Alabama’s 2019 recruiting class as a four-star recruit.

The 6-foot Metchie isn’t a physical specimen, but neither was Smith. And no one can accuse Metchie of being soft. He delivered a punishing hit on Florida defensive back Trey Dean during last year’s SEC Championship, forcing a fumble after Dean had intercepted a pass.

Metchie’s speed makes him a downfield threat, but he also possesses good route-running skills, and he’s especially hard to cover on slant routes. He caught 55 passes for 916 yards last season.

Young describes Metchie as “a cornerstone of our offense.”

Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III caught 55 passes for 916 yards last season.

“He’s helped a lot, tremendously, when it comes to leadership and leading us as an offense,” Young said. “And on the field, obviously, there’s stuff that he does on the field that are just special, and he makes my job a lot easier at quarterback."

Five Alabama wide receivers were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft during the past four years. Metchie could be the next in line.

As for Robinson, he’s finally set to become Alabama’s featured back. A fifth-year senior, he has 1,361 career rushing yards but previously has been in the shadow of Harris, Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs.

“I’ve worked my whole life for this opportunity,” Robinson said earlier this month.

The trio of Young, Metchie and Robinson matching the production of Mac Jones, Smith and Harris is a tall order.

If they come close, don’t be surprised if more than one are among the Heisman finalists.

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.