Dec 3, 2021 - Sports

Defenders crowd race for Heisman Trophy

Data: DraftKings; Table: Jacque Schrag/Axios

The Heisman race currently favors two QBs, but it's the three defenders in the hunt who offer the most intriguing competition.

Where it stands: Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson, Alabama LB Will Anderson Jr., and Georgia DT Jordan Davis are all top 10 candidates, per DraftKings odds.

  • Hutchinson spurned the NFL to return for his senior year and just played the game of his life. His 15 pressures against Ohio State were the most since PFF began tracking college football in 2014.
  • Anderson, whose 14.5 sacks lead the nation, finished first in The Athletic's latest straw poll, which features multiple actual Heisman voters (subscription).
  • Davis' dominance may be the easiest to comprehend: How many other players stand 6-foot-6-inches tall, weigh 340 pounds and lead one of the best defenses in the sport's history?

The big picture: If the final vote follows those odds, it will mark just the sixth time in the Heisman's 87-year history that at least three defenders finish in the top 10.

  • 2012: LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame (2nd); DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina (6th); LB Jarvis Jones, Georgia (10th)
  • 2001: DB Roy Williams, Oklahoma (7th); DE Dwight Freeney, Syracuse (9th); DE Julius Peppers, UNC (10th)
  • 1992: LB Marvin Jones, FSU (4th); LB Micheal Barrow, Miami (7th); DE Eric Curry, Alabama (9th)
  • 1986: LB Brian Bosworth, Oklahoma (4th); LB Cornelius Bennett, Alabama (7th); LB Chris Spielman, Ohio State (10th)
  • 1969: DT Mike Reid, Penn State (5th); DT Mike McCoy, Notre Dame (6th); LB Steve Kiner, Tennessee (9th); DB Jack Tatum, Ohio State (10th)

Of note: Charles Woodson (1997) remains the only defensive player to win the Heisman, although his candidacy was aided by big plays at receiver and on special teams.

What to watch: Seven of the 10 favorites — and all three defenders — play in conference title games on Saturday.

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