The Big Ten hasn’t had a Heisman Trophy winner since 2006 when Troy Smith brought home the honor. In 2012 the Big Ten will have several contenders including 2011 Heisman Finalist Montee Ball. Here is a look at the Big Ten players who will impact the Heisman race this year.
Montee Ball – After finishing 4th in the Heisman voting a year ago the Wisconsin tailback decided to return to school for another year. Ball was a touchdown machine in 2011, racking up 39 total scores. The loss of a couple of offensive lineman studs may hurt Ball’s statistics but the way Wisconsin has reloaded at that position recently lessens that concern. Even though the Heisman is an award for a single season, Ball’s career achievements will help him.
Denard Robinson – Robinson’s junior season stats weren’t as impressive as the previous year’s but he still managed over 2100 yards passing and 1100 yards rushing along with 36 total touchdowns. Robinson won’t need his gaudy sophomore numbers to be in the Heisman race as long as Michigan wins like they did last year. Robinson brings a big name and the ability to have that Heisman moment that each winner seems to have year in and year out. Staying healthy is always a concern with him but he has the skills to make a Heisman run.
Taylor Martinez – Things haven’t always been pretty for Martinez and his passing game has been questionable, but he has shown the ability to be an effective passer at times and is a dynamic runner. Entering his third season as a starting college quarterback he should be continuing to improve. His game will benefit from have a solid offensive supporting cast with Rex Burkhead, Kenny Bell and a couple decent tight ends. If the Martinez from last season’s Ohio State game shows up every week in 2012 he will have his name in the race at the end of the season.
Le’Veon Bell – Bell rushed for just under 1000 yards last season and should see a nice boost to his stats this year with Edwin Baker leaving for the NFL. The Spartans lose a lot of important pieces to their passing game and will rely on Bell heavily to carry the offense. Bell is a big and physical back and will be a top running back in the league by the end of the season. He may not be in the Heisman race this year but a solid season would position him to be an early contender for the 2013 Heisman race.
Rex Burkhead – Burkhead rushed for over 100 yards seven different times in 2011 and scored 17 total touchdowns. With Martinez getting a lot of carries it will be hard for Burkhead to get the stats he needs to compete with Ball and other running backs around the country in the Heisman race. But if anything happens to Martinez, one of the best teams in the Big Ten will be relying heavily on Rex to carry the load and he will get those carries needed to impress Heisman voters.
To stay updated on sporting news and analysis of the Big Ten, subscribe to receive Examiner Alerts from Big Ten Examiner Kevin Cline. You can also follow Kevin on Twitter.