After an incredible season, LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels won the 2023 Heisman Trophy. The race ended up as the closest of the last five seasons with Daniels finishing 328 points ahead of runner-up Michael Penix Jr. from Washington.
Both were transfer quarterbacks who shined in the last two years after stints elsewhere. Heisman odds for 2024 aren't available yet, but another transfer quarterback is one of the four early contenders for the Heisman Trophy next season.
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The sophomore quarterback already had a Heisman moment with his last-second touchdown pass to beat Auburn in this year's Iron Bowl. He was the top underclassmen in Heisman voting this year with 73 points.
Sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Bond, the other half of that Heisman moment and the Crimson Tide's top pass-catcher, will be back in 2024. Same goes for tight end Amari Niblack, who finished the regular season third on the team in catches and touchdowns.
Milroe totaled 35 touchdowns and 3,186 yards in the regular season. Another step forward next year on a contending Alabama team could get him to the top of the Heisman odds.
Gabriel worked his way into the top five of the Heisman odds at points in the 2023 season. Oklahoma's victory in the final Big 12 Red River game was a huge moment for him and the Sooners. But the loss to Oklahoma State in the Sooners' final Big 12 Bedlam put a stop to their College Football Playoff hopes.
The senior signal-caller will be an Oregon Duck in his final year of eligibility. The Ducks have a very recent track record of success with transfer quarterbacks - look no further than Heisman contender Bo Nix this season - and Gabriel's transferred before, going from UCF to Oklahoma after the 2021 season.
Oregon will very likely lose top receiver Troy Franklin to the NFL Draft. Tez Johnson finished second on the Ducks in catches, yards, and receiving touchdowns and may declare for the draft as well. The receiving corps is less set than Alabama's but Oregon coach Dan Lanning and his staff have been active in the transfer portal. More reinforcements could be coming.
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Gordon II started 2023 slow with just 109 yards in Oklahoma State's first three games. He then averaged 150 per game the rest of the way and won the 2023 Doak Walker award for college football's best running back, becoming the first Cowboy to do so.
Gordon II will return next season. He led the FBS in rushing yards (1,614) and finished second in rushing touchdowns (20) over the regular season. A running back hasn't won the Heisman Trophy since Derrick Henry in 2015 but if Gordon II starts strong right out of the gate in 2024, he'll have a chance.
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This is assuming Ewers returns for his junior season in 2024. Ewers took a big step forward in 2023 and finished eighth in the FBS in completion percentage (70.7). Texas' win over Alabama in the pre-conference slate of games set the tone for the Longhorns this season. Despite the loss to Oklahoma, Texas is in the College Football Playoff and Ewers can perform on the national stage again.
Unfortunately for Ewers, the Longhorns are likely to see some attrition on the offensive end. Top wide receivers Xavier Worthy and Adonai Mitchell are very likely NFL-bound thanks to strong performances in 2024. Texas will need new faces to step up in 2024 and will rely on Ewers to keep them contending in their first season in the SEC.
Other potential Heisman contenders in 2024
There's still many transfer portal dominoes to fall. Transfer quarterbacks have won the last two Heisman Trophy awards and there are multiple players currently looking for new places to play, including former Washington State quarterback Cam Ward and former Duke signal-caller Riley Leonard. Both will be sought-after in the portal and could land in favorable places in 2024.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2024 Heisman contenders: Early trophy watch candidates