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Stock watch after bad outings from preseason candidates

Colin Cowherd makes bold proclamation about Bryce Young


While Alabama’s Bryce Young dazzled, a number of Heisman Trophy contenders were shaky and suffered setbacks. Whose candidacy was derailed and who is primed to bounce back? 

The Heisman Trophy took up residence in Tuscaloosa last season with DeVonta Smith bringing it home, and if the opening days of the season are any indication, it may have an extended stay.

Bryce Young set the program record for yards and touchdowns in a debut in the win over Miami. The first-year starter set himself well out in front as the player to beat for the 2021 Heisman Trophy.

While Young was busying laying claim to the early lead, other contenders suffered setbacks and some simply underwhelmed. But which of those player’s performances served as red flags and which one should we simply shrug off?


Heisman Watch: What to buy or sell from Week 1?

Sell: JT Daniels, Georgia

On nearly everyone’s Heisman shortlist, JT Daniels watched the Georgia defense produce more points than he did in the win over Clemson. Daniels threw for a mere 135 yards with an interception — the first game of his college career that he’d failed to deliver a scoring strike since Sept. 8, 2018, when he was suiting up for USC – and his longest completion was for 21 yards.

Say it doesn’t matter, that Georgia won, that he was going up against a Clemson defense with 15 players who made at least one start in 2020. Say that the numbers will come as the schedule eases up with just two of the Bulldogs’ next five SEC opponents – Auburn and Florida – coming off winning seasons. However, when the standard for this year’s Heisman race is being set in your own conference in Young, Daniels is going to have to ratchet things up in a hurry and make a consistent return to the kind of performances he had against Cincinnati (392 yards), Missouri (299 yards and three touchdowns) and Mississippi State (401 yards and four touchdowns) last season.

The Bulldogs’ place in the College Football Playoff race gives him room to shake off a shaky start — and it didn’t stop him from signing a deal with Super Glow Trading Cards in the game’s aftermath — but if he’s going to stay in the conversation, he has to be a key reason Georgia is rolling, not one where we’re finding qualifiers for a lack of gaudy stats.

Sell: Sam Howell, North Carolina

Sam Howell was left frustrated and battered by a Virginia Tech was that really, really bad defending the pass last season. After ranking 107th in FBS in 2020, giving up 266 yards per game, the Hokies held Howell to 206 yards, sacked him six times and picked him off three times in a performance that will be difficult to move on from in terms of the junior quarterback’s Heisman status.

It’s not as if an eventual winner hasn’t had a three-interception day. That’s happened three times since 2000, with Florida State’s Chris Weinke (2000), Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel (2012) and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson (2016) all having those forgettable days, but none of them came in the season opener.


A date with Notre Dame looms on Oct. 30, with six defenses that were 65th or worse in pass defense last season – including four that ranked 98th or worse – in between, so on paper the opportunity is there to rebuild the stat line (though look where that got us when it came to the Hokies). Howell would appear to be in an adjustment period with last season’s top targets, Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome both gone, and trying to establish a new-look Tar Heels receiving corps has knocked him from the top tier of candidates until further notice.

Buy: Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma

“Not as pretty as we wanted it,” Rattler tweeted after Oklahoma survived a scare against Tulane in the opener. He may as well have been talking about the way those of us breaking down the Heisman race wanted to see from the odds-on favorite before a down had been played this season. While Rattler threw for 304 yards and hit on 76.9 percent of his passes (30-of-39), it was a mixed bag as he was also had two interceptions against a Green Wave defense that was gashed for 27 touchdowns last season (125th) and ranked 101st in pass efficiency (149.6).

It should have been a statement for Rattler against an overmatched defense, but instead, he’s dealing with shades of another rocky September outing, after throwing three picks in a loss to Kansas State last season that derailed his chances. Of course, we’ve seen Rattler bounce back, as he finished last season in the top 10 in the nation in yards, eighth in touchdowns and 11th in pass efficiency rating, and he’s going to need to replicate that turnaround with a favorable schedule that includes Western Carolina, Nebraska and West Virginia – all losers in their opening games – to finish September.

Sell: D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson

With his predecessor, Trevor Lawrence watching from the expensive seats in Charlotte, D.J. Uiagalelei’s third start and first atop the Clemson quarterback food chain saw him scrambling most of the night to avoid Georgia pressure, and rarely scrambling when the opportunity to produce positive yardage presented itself.

Uiagalelei was sacked seven times and threw for 178 yards without a touchdown, and while criticisms are warranted, let’s talk reality and possibility. There’s the reality that he was playing behind an offensive line that’s been in flux as right guard Will Putnam was the only player that was at the spot he played last season, with the machinations including moving All-ACC guard Matt Bockhorst to center and Jordan McFadden moving from right tackle to cover Uiagalelei’s blindside.


There’s also the possibility that Tigers may not see a better defense all season long than the Bulldogs and with a schedule that doesn’t currently include another ranked opponent, there’s plenty of time for Uiagalelei to find his groove and pile up the kind of stats that will make him a contender. All that being said, it’s going to take something magical to rebuild that support after Uiagalelei failed to take advantage of the biggest stage he may have in the regular season.

Buy: C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

Get the ball to the playmakers and good things happen. After the first half against Minnesota last Thursday in which he looked like a quarterback making his first start against a hostile crowd, C.J. Stroud settled down and found those playmakers, and good things happened. He threw four second-half touchdowns, three of which went to those security blankets Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.

Stroud missed throws – including one to Olave that was picked off – and whether he was consciously trying to avoid scrambling, or Ryan Day wasn’t calling for it for a player that’s more of a pocket passer than his predecessor Justin Fields, running to extend drives or taking off on the read-option will need to be a bigger part of the formula going forward.

But Stroud has enviable weapons at his disposal like Olave, Wilson and a deep running game that can mask any growing pains, but unlike the other names on this list, Stroud is going to have to put the miscues behind him in a hurry. The Buckeyes host No. 11 Oregon on Saturday and if pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux (ankle) is available, it figures to be a big test for Ohio State’s young quarterback.

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