Last January, Alabama’s DeVonta Smith became the first receiver to win the Heisman Trophy in 29 years, dating back to Michigan’s Desmond Howard. It snapped a string of quarterbacks winning college sports’ most prestigious award nine of the previous 10 years.
This fall, without a clear front-runner, it is a wide-open field. Of course, the eventual winner in recent years hasn’t been considered much of a contender at the season’s outset.
Here are The Post’s top 10 candidates in alphabetical order:
Matt Corral QB, Ole Miss
The nation’s leader in total offense per game (384.3 yards), Corral came out of nowhere toBS have a huge sophomore season in coach Lane Kiffin’s up-tempo attack. Expect even better numbers this year in Corral’s second year in the spread system. If he can cut down on his mistakes — he threw 14 interceptions last season — a run at the Heisman is realistic.
JT Daniels QB, Georgia
If last year was a snapshot into this season, then Daniels and Georgia are in for a fun ride. In just four games, the USC transfer went 4-0, threw 10 touchdown passes and completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 1,231 yards. That included a 392-yard performance in a win over stingy Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl. All eyes will be on Daniels in a Week 1 showdown against Clemson, a chance to make an early impression on voters.
Breece Hall RB, Iowa State
The nation’s leading rusher a year ago (1,572 yards, 21 touchdowns), Hall put an exclamation point on his memorable sophomore season by tearing up Oregon for 136 yards and two scorers in a Fiesta Bowl rout. The 6-foot-1 star is a major reason there are realistic playoff hopes in Ames, and with his entire starting offensive line back in place, he could improve on his sixth-place finish in the Heisman a year ago.
Sam Howell QB, North Carolina
Howell is the ACC record holder for most touchdown passes in his first two seasons with 68 and enters the year as arguably the top quarterback prospect in the country. But after losing his top two receivers and top two running backs to the NFL, the junior will have even more responsibility on his shoulders. He could play better, but his numbers may be worse.
D’Eriq King QB, Miami
What better way to start a Heisman campaign than a season-opening clash with Alabama? One way or another, King will garner headlines. He’s already on the radar after a strong first season at Miami, one in which he produced 27 total touchdowns, threw just five interceptions and amassed 3,224 total yards.
Chris Olave WR, Ohio State
Smith broke through last year, and Olave could follow in his footsteps. Physical and fast, the 6-1 senior produced 50 catches for 729 yards and seven touchdowns in just seven games last season.
Spencer Rattler QB, Oklahoma
Rattler’s season mirrored his team’s — both improved as the year progressed. While Oklahoma closed with eight consecutive victories, Rattler threw 18 touchdowns and just three interceptions in that span while completing 65 percent of his passes. He may have even more talent around him this year, as running back Kennedy Brooks returns after opting out of last season and is joined in the backfield by Tennessee transfer Eric Gray, and Arkansas import Michael Woods II is added to the receiver mix alongside starters Marvin Mims and Theo Wease.
Bijan Robinson RB, Texas
As a true freshman, Robinson averaged a whopping 8.2 yards per carry but rushed for just 703 yards because his touches were limited. That won’t be a problem this year. New coach Steve Sarkisian will maximize Robinson’s value, finding new and innovative ways to get him the ball, much like Sarkisian did at Alabama with Najee Harris.
D.J. Uiagalelei QB, Clemson
Uiagalelei flashed his immense potential last year in two starts in place of Trevor Lawrence, showcasing his big arm, accuracy and ability to use his legs as an additional weapon. It’s his team now, and he will get an early opportunity to make a statement in a season-opening clash with Georgia.
Bryce Young QB, Alabama
He will be surrounded by elite talent and he has plenty of it himself, though it has yet to be seen on the collegiate level. The highest-rated quarterback recruit of the Nick Saban era at Alabama — the Mater Dei High School (Calif.) phenom was the second-overall prospect in 2020 according to 247Sports.com — Young spent his freshman year watching and learning. Now it’s time to live up to the ample hype.