Top Heisman Trophy contenders for 2023 college football season

Caleb Williams wins the 2022 Heisman Trophy (12:54)

USC quarterback Caleb Williams accepts the 2022 Heisman Trophy award. (12:54)

The 2022 Heisman Trophy ceremony has come and gone, and college football's top honor went to a player who now will have a chance to become just the second player to win the award twice, joining Ohio State's Archie Griffin (1974 and '75).

USC's Caleb Williams won the award but still has multiple seasons to play before taking his talents to the NFL. Stetson Bennett, C.J. Stroud and Max Duggan had great years and led their teams to the College Football Playoff, but Williams' outstanding season couldn't be topped in voters' minds.

It's never too early to look ahead at next year's contenders, led by Williams. A look at the 2023 Heisman race:

Top contenders

USC QB Caleb Williams

Can Williams repeat? It's unlikely, given it has happened only once in the history of the award, but he'll surely be a favorite, odds-wise, going into next season. What's unique about Williams' case is that he'll be set up even better than he was this past year to succeed. Williams will now have two years of playing in the Lincoln Riley offense under his belt as well as a plethora of talented options around him once again. USC will need to replace Jordan Addison and most of a strong offensive line, but the biggest challenge might be the fact that Williams will have to surpass the bar he set this season: over 4,000 passing yards, 47 total touchdowns and a surplus of Houdini-like scrambling highlights that helped him secure the award this year. -- Paolo Uggetti

North Carolina QB Drake Maye

Considering he was kinda sorta discussed as a contender in 2022, Maye should be on the preseason list headed into 2023 after a breakout redshirt freshman season. Maye threw for 4,115 yards, 35 touchdowns and seven interceptions to win ACC Player of the Year honors and lead North Carolina to the ACC championship game. Top receiver Josh Downs is headed to the NFL draft, so a new favorite target is needed moving forward. But there is a reason many believe Maye is in position to be a high NFL draft pick in 2024. One ACC coach said this about Maye: "He's got great pocket presence. He's special. He's just got 'it.'" -- Andrea Adelson

TCU QB Chandler Morris

Morris beat out Max Duggan in camp and was the Horned Frogs' starter before an injury. Sonny Dykes loves how he throws the ball, and TCU will reload at receiver. In Morris' first start against Baylor's Big 12 champion team in 2021, he had 531 yards and three TDs. His 461 passing yards were third in Big 12 history for a player in his first career start. After watching Duggan become a Heisman finalist in his senior year, Morris will take the reins, ready to have a breakout season of his own. -- Dave Wilson


Texas QB Arch Manning

Look, we're not saying he's going to win a Heisman as a freshman, but the quarterback spot will be up for grabs after Quinn Ewers' struggles in 2022, and the Longhorns will have talented players around him, including outstanding tight end Ja'Tavion Sanders -- a quarterback's best friend. Sarkisian likes to throw it, so if he wins the job, he'll get a shot to produce. And if there's anyone who's used to dealing with the burden of expectations, it's Manning. -- Wilson

Ohio State QB Kyle McCord

Consider this a placeholder for whoever becomes Ohio State's -- or Alabama's! -- starting quarterback next year. There could be some twists and turns in both QB battles, but we know that McCord was C.J. Stroud's backup this season, and we know that he was super sharp in tiny doses. He finished the regular season 16-for-20 for 190 yards and a touchdown, and he has the recruiting pedigree (No. 33 overall recruit in 2021, No. 6 pocket passer) to suggest he could put up something approaching Stroud-like numbers for a full season if asked to, especially with the skill corps options he will have at his disposal. -- Bill Connelly

Clemson QB Cade Klubnik

He was the No. 1 dual-threat QB in the class of 2022, and when, after weeks of speculation and expectation, he took over for the struggling DJ Uiagalelei in the ACC championship, he proceeded to obliterate North Carolina's defense, going 20-for-24 for 279 yards and a touchdown. He has all the tools, he has exciting young receivers (Antonio Williams, Beaux Collins, Cole Turner) and he has a workhorse back next to him in Will Shipley. No one would be surprised if he turned himself into a front-runner rather quickly. -- Connelly

Momentum players

Florida State QB Jordan Travis

Now that Travis has announced he is returning to Florida State for his sixth season of eligibility, it is time to truly appreciate what he did in 2022, and what that should mean for 2023. Those outside Tallahassee might regard him as a "running" quarterback," but that would be disregarding his passing ability -- and that was on full display in leading the Seminoles to a 9-3 season while earning second-team All-ACC honors. Travis is the first player in Florida State history with at least 20 touchdown passes and seven rushing touchdowns in a season, and the fourth player in school history with at least 3,000 total yards and 30 total touchdowns in a season. The others happen to be Heisman Trophy winners: Charlie Ward (1993), Chris Weinke (2000) and Jameis Winston (2013). -- Adelson

Texas Tech QB Tyler Shough

A 6-5, 230-pound senior, the former Oregon transfer could still toy with entering the NFL after starting in the Texas Bowl. The Red Raiders played three different QBs this year, but Shough started all three of Tech's wins over Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma, including passing for 436 yards and two touchdowns in the 51-48 OT win over the Sooners. Against Kansas, he threw for 246 yards and ran for 76 more with a touchdown. A full year in Zach Kittley's system in Lubbock would result in huge numbers. -- Wilson

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr.

No quarterback had more passing yards in the nation than Penix, who finished with 4,354 after transferring to Seattle from Indiana. Had it not been for back-to-back losses against UCLA and ASU, Penix would have likely been a Heisman finalist. And there's a good argument to be made that he should have been in New York regardless. But the Huskies will get their quarterback for one more season. Penix announced he would be returning to school next year, and the way he shined over the course of this season makes him not only a rising contender, but perhaps just one or two games away from being a favorite. -- Uggetti

Michigan RB Donovan Edwards

We don't yet know the intentions of Michigan's star back, Blake Corum, who recently underwent season-ending surgery on an injured knee. If he chooses to return to Michigan and again finds fifth gear, then he automatically becomes a front-runner. But if he doesn't, the Wolverines' run game might not miss a beat with Edwards taking over instead. In two games as the feature back, he rushed 47 times for 401 yards and three TDs against Ohio State and Purdue, and he's already proved himself one of the nation's better receiving threats out of the backfield. He's the total package. -- Connelly

Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr.

The Heisman is generally a quarterback award for obvious reasons, but who was the only non-QB to win in the past seven years? A receiver (DeVonta Smith, 2020)! And who emerged as the scariest receiver in the country down the stretch? Harrison. The sophomore had 1,157 yards and 12 touchdowns for the season but raised his game late, averaging 112 yards per game and 16.4 yards per catch over the final five games of the regular season. He has the pedigree and the production, and he'll be on just about every preseason All-American list to start 2023. -- Connelly

LSU QB Jayden Daniels

In his first year at a new school, battling a few injuries and learning a completely new system, all the Arizona State transfer did was throw for 2,774 yards and 16 touchdowns, rush for 818 and 11 more scores and lead LSU to an upset of Alabama and an SEC West title. If he chooses to return to Baton Rouge in 2023, he would enjoy solid continuity in the receiving corps with Malik Nabers, Kayshon Boutte and others returning, and he could produce at an even higher level. -- Connelly

Redemption stories

Former NC State QB Devin Leary

NC State launched a Heisman campaign for Leary in August called "D Leary Delivers" after he threw for 3,433 yards, 35 touchdowns and five interceptions the previous season. But his year got off to a slow start before he suffered a season-ending pectoral injury in October. Now he is in the transfer portal, so perhaps he will end up being a Heisman contender after all. -- Adelson

Oklahoma Sooners QB Dillon Gabriel

After suffering a concussion on a brutal late targeting hit against TCU, Gabriel missed the Texas game the next week as well. He finished the regular season with 2,925 yards passing and 24 TDs to 6 INTs. Most of his numbers were right on track with his consistent career trajectory. If Oklahoma improves and Gabriel produces, he'll get his time in the spotlight. -- Wilson