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Before the opening kickoffs, the watch is on

Tim Tebow, QB, Florida

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Some believe he should already have two Heismans on his shelf. The Gators have an excellent chance to be undefeated when votes are added up. The best player on the best team could end up with an incredible resume of three national titles and two Heismans. He already has the hype and that makes him the favorite to start the season.

Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

Bradford might have been a top 10 pick in the NFL draft had he not returned for his junior season at OU. With Bradford at QB, the Sooners set the NCAA record last season for most points in a season. In just two seasons, Bradford already has 86 TD passes and he could get at least 40 this season. But he almost lost the Heisman last season because he and Texas' Colt McCoy nearly canceled each other out. That could happen this season.

Colt McCoy, QB, Texas

The fifth-year senior already holds school records in TD passes and career passing yards and, like Tebow, can run the ball — he rushed for 561 yards last season. And, like Tebow, he's a leader. Plenty of marquee games (Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State) to show his stuff. Heisman hopes could rest on game vs. Oklahoma's Bradford on Oct. 17.

Jahvid Best, RB, California

Ran for 1,580 yards last season with a stunning 8.1 yards per carry and had more than 2,200 all-purpose yards. He had foot surgery in January and missed spring practice, but reports are that he is healthy. Rivals.com calls him the most explosive player in the country. Downside is playing on the West Coast for a far-from perfect team.

Jevan Snead, QB, Mississippi

Already being touted as the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft. Favorable schedule (i.e., the Rebels don't play Florida) could put Ole Miss in SEC title game and that would garner Snead a lot of consideration. He might be the second-best QB in the country … but also the second-best in his own conference.

Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State

Only four wide receivers (or ends) have won the Heisman and the last was Desmond Howard in 1991. But the Cowboys might have the most prolific offense in the country this season and Bryant will be a major part of it. He was second in the country with 19 TD catches last season and third in receiving yards per game (113.9). Heisman voters love that he returns punts — he took two to the house last season.

Daryll Clark, QB, Penn State

One of the best dual-threat QBs in the country and Penn State's spread offense is perfect for Clark to rack up some puffy stats. Good news-bad news is Penn State's soft schedule will give Clark big numbers, but might turn off voters. Plus, he's a Big Ten guy and, right or wrong, that conference isn't considered as strong or as deep as the SEC, Big 12 or even Pac-10.

Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Georgia Tech

The featured back in coach Paul Johnson's option offense. Dwyer shone in the new scheme. He had nine 100-yard games last season en route to 1,395 rushing yards and 12 TDs. Will Tech be good enough for Dwyer to get consideration?

Jeremiah Masoli, QB, Oregon

With the spread option offense, Masoli could throw for more than 3,000 yards and has an outside shot at rushing for more than 1,000. Numbers like that will be hard to ignore. Good news is Oregon plays plenty of marquee games early in the season that could put Masoli on Heisman watch lists.

Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

We had to throw one defensive player on the list and Berry is as good as any, especially with Monte Kiffin now coaching the Vols defense. Other possibilities on defense include Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain, TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes, USC safety Taylor Mays and maybe even USF defensive end George Selvie. But with so many elite offensive players in the country, it's hard to imagine that anyone can join Charles Woodson as the only defensive players to win the Heisman.

Who will win this year's Heisman Trophy? For the first time in the history of college football, two former Heisman winners are still playing college ball — Florida's Tim Tebow (2007) and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford (2008). They lead our list of this year's preseason contenders. —tjones@tampabay.com

Before the opening kickoffs, the watch is on 08/20/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 20, 2009 9:52pm]

    

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