This slot nearly went to quarterback Jeremy Johnson, but at 20-to-1 in Bovada’s most recent odds among 2015 Heisman Trophy candidates, the rising junior signal caller is a full-fledged contender entering his first season as a full-time starter.
With the rocket-armed Johnson taking over behind center for fleet-footed Nick Marshall, expect the Tigers to put the ball in the air much more in 2015 than they did in the first two seasons under head coach Gus Malzahn – and the head coach has a history of pulling the right strings with his QBs – remember, Malzahn has coached quarterbacks that threw for 5,065 yards (Paul Smith, 2007) and 4,059 yards (David Johnson, 2008) as the offensive coordinator at Tulsa. Of course, he also tutored Cam Newton to the Heisman in 2010.
Should Malzahn turn Johnson loose in the passing game next season, the biggest beneficiary of such a change would be D’haquille Williams, who made the surprising decision to return to Auburn for his senior season instead of jumping to the NFL.
A JUCO transfer in 2014, Williams became he Tigers’ leader in receptions and touchdown catches in his first season on campus. As a 6-foot-2, 230ish-pound target and the only returning starter in the receiving corps for the Tigers in 2015, Williams will receive lots of attention next fall.
Similar to Treadwell, Williams is a long shot to win the Heisman because of the position he plays. However, Williams might actually have a better chance than Treadwell to put up Amari Cooper-like statistics in 2015. If he can stay healthy (he missed two games with a sprained knee ligament) and out of trouble (he was suspended for the Outback Bowl), the 124 receptions, 1,727 yards and 16 TDs Cooper had in 2014 for Alabama (which earned him a trip to New York as a Heisman finalist) aren’t completely out of the question for Williams.
It’ll be extremely difficult, especially with Auburn’s history of high-powered rushing attacks and talented tailbacks Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson receiving the bulk of the carries next season, but far from impossible.
Next: Scooby Wright