National Signing Day: Which Big Ten signee from 2018 is most likely to win a Heisman Trophy?
It’s a haul that’s deepest in stud defensive guys, linemen, wideouts and tight ends. So while there are future NFL draft picks dotted all over the Class of 2018 in the Big Ten, pegging a potential Heisman Trophy front-runner out of the group, well — it’s a bit of a bumpier road.
Among 247Sports’ top 200 players from the Class of 2018, only four players at positions that traditional Heisman voters habitually lean on — quarterback and running back — signed with Big Ten schools in December or February: 5-star tailback Ricky Slade at Penn State; 4-star tailback Jaelen Gill at Ohio State; 4-star tailback Brian Snead at Ohio State; and 4-star quarterback Adrian Martinez at Nebraska.
Since Michigan’s two-way star Charles Woodson won the Heisman in 1997, every other winner has been a signal caller or a featured back. The Wolverines tried to push the whole second-coming-of-Woodson narrative with former safety/returner/wildcat quarterback Jabrill Peppers two falls ago, but he wound up fifth in Heisman voting after the 2016 regular season.
Sorry, Micah Parsons.
As for the other elite talents in the quarterback and tailback pool, Land of 10 found the experts are, shall we say, divided on the question of …
WHICH BIG TEN RECRUIT FROM 2018 IS MOST LIKELY TO WIN A HEISMAN TROPHY BEFORE HE’S DONE?
Brandon Huffman, 247Sports: Brian Snead, RB, Ohio State
2017 prep stats: 1,329 rushing yards; 211 receiving yards; 16 rushing touchdowns; 3 receiving touchdowns
The brief: A north-south terror, Brian Snead hits the hole with purpose and pace and can cut on a dime without breaking stride. The Floridian has the awareness to run to daylight and the power to, where necessary, create his own. Has all the goods to be a workhorse in an Urban Meyer offense that’s showcased some of the best horses in the country spectacularly.
Brandon Huffman: “Since you pretty much have to be a running back or a quarterback to win it, Snead is the best back coming into the conference in this class. And Ohio State loves them some power backs who have breakaway speed — which perfectly describes Snead.”
Tom Lemming, The Lemming Report/CBSSports.com: Adrian Martinez, QB, Nebraska
2017 prep stats: DNP; 2016 prep stats: 2,562 passing yards; 1,462 rushing yards; 25 passing touchdowns; 14 rushing touchdowns
The brief: A true two-way pass-or-run threat in an offense that requires a quarterback who excels at both. Bonus: Adrian Martinez, a California native, is a standout basketball player with the vision, feet, hand-eye coordination and moxie to run an up-tempo spread attack. The only major question is health after major shoulder surgery required him to miss his senior season at Clovis West High in Fresno.
Tom Lemming: “That’ll be a quarterback or a running back — possibly Martinez. The best player is [Penn State defensive end/linebacker] Micah Parsons, but they don’t give the Heisman to defensive guys. And [Ohio State defensive lineman Taron] Vincent, he’s another great player. But they wouldn’t be in the top 5.”
Allen Trieu, 247Sports: Ricky Slade, RB, Penn State
2017 prep stats: 1,509 rushing yards; 16 rushing touchdowns
The brief: A home-run threat every time he touches the ball, Ricky Slade inevitably will be compared to one of the men he’ll be asked to help replace, Saquon Barkley. Like Barkley, the elusive Slade is hell on wheels in the passing game and on returns, and if coach James Franklin has shown anything in the last 18 months it’s that he and offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne are willing to get creative when it comes to getting the rock into their gamebreaker’s mitts.
Allen Trieu: “It has been an awfully long time since a non-quarterback or non-running back has won the award, so I have to go with the highest-rated quarterback or running back coming to the conference: Ricky Slade, a Penn State commit. Saquon Barkley got in the race last year, and Slade is not as big as Barkley but has similar ability to affect the game as a ball carrier, pass catcher and return man. So he could make the kind of big plays to get him in the conversation.”