For a good chunk of the college football season, LSU running back Leonard Fournette was considered the clear favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this year. That all changed when LSU and Fournette ran into a brick wall against Alabama. Fournette’s loss proved to be Alabama running back Derrick Henry’s gain, because Henry took over the top spot in the Heisman polls and never truly looked back. Is he still the favorite as the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York looms?
Henry will be in New York along with Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey. Each makes a solid case to be considered for the Heisman Trophy. Watson is among the best quarterbacks in the country with the ability to do some damage with his legs, but he may have thrown a few too many interceptions. McCaffrey has proven effective doing just about everything needed of him running, catching and returning kicks for the Pac-12 champion Cardinal, but he is lacking in the touchdown department. Henry is a throwback, power runner who has run through every defense attempting to stand in his way this season. If this is going to be the year a running back wins the rare Heisman Trophy, Henry would seem to be a strong favorite for a handful of reasons.
Though certainly not a requirement, Henry powering Alabama to an SEC title and a berth in the College Football Playoff helps. Simply having a strong season for a program of Alabama’s notoriety helps carry votes as well, especially down south. But how many votes might Watson picked up from the southern voting contingency? After all, Watson has led his Clemson Tigers to an ACC title and the number one seed in the playoff. Watson also plays a position that has become the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy over the years. But this was the year of the running back, and Henry was the most productive on the ground with his nation-leading 1,986 yards, an average of 152.77 rushing yards per game and nation-leading 23 rushing touchdowns.
There is no guarantee Henry will win the Heisman Trophy, but he has scored a touchdown in every game. He has rushed for at least 180 yards in four straight games against FBS opponents, including 189 against Florida’s strong defense. Henry could become the second running back to win the Heisman Trophy since 2006, joining fellow Crimson Tide rusher Mark Ingram. McCaffrey made a later charge, and Watson has played well enough to earn a trip, but Henry still feels like the favorite.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.