There’s no doubt about it, Oregon football is loaded with talent heading into the 2021 season.
Oregon brings back a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball, led by elite skill position players and arguably the deepest receiving corps, linebacking corps, backfield, and secondary in the Pac-12. This is enough to make the Ducks early favorites to contend for the conference title and a potential playoff berth, representing the Pac-12.
Most playoff contenders have that one Heisman candidate that they can rely on to carry them to a couple of wins. Clemson had Trevor Lawrence (who never won it but was a finalist), Ohio State had Justin Fields (also a finalist), and Alabama has had Tua Tagovailoa, DeVonta Smith, and Mac Jones.
Obviously the list goes on and on, but if you’re a national title contender, chances are you have that one Heisman Trophy candidate to really become the star of the show.
Well, Oregon may just have two heading into the 2021 season.
I get it, it’s too early to speculate about Heisman finalists and there’s nothing worse than fanbases who boast about September Heismans, but the Ducks have two guys who could realistically make a run at the coveted award this season which should translate to title contention.
Who are Oregon football’s two Heisman candidates?
The first one is pretty obvious. Kayvon Thibodeaux is a projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft so obviously he has to be on just about every major award watch list. It’s nearly impossible for defenders to win the award, but he will be one of the top contenders and the No. 1 candidate in college football on that side of the ball to take home the hardware.
Flip it over to the other side of the ball, however, and a potential dark-horse who no one seems to be talking about is CJ Verdell.
Look, I get it, he was second on the team in rushing yards last year with 285 but he wasn’t his normal self in a COVID-19 year. He rushed 65 times for 285 yards and a team-high three touchdowns but he was a shell of his 2019 self. But he still has the talent and potential to break the 1,000 yard mark, and then some.
In fact, Verdell rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons in Eugene, posting a total of 2,238 yards and 18 touchdowns on 5.6 yards per touch. If that’s not proof that he can be a workhorse back, I don’t know what is. Travis Dye may take some carries from him, but Verdell should be the lead back and, often times, the hot hand.
Don’t be shocked if Verdell is in the Heisman conversation in the middle of the season after a hot start.
Most contenders have one real Heisman threat; Oregon has two.