2022 Heisman Trophy Candidates: Atlantic Coast Conference

The Atlantic Coast Conference produced a Heisman Trophy finalist last season, and the noteworthy part of that story is that the quarterback was not from Clemson. It will be fascinating to see if the ACC can get another non-Clemson Heisman Trophy finalist, or if it needs Clemson to pick up the slack for the conference at the Heisman ceremony this year.

D.J. Uiagalelei, Quarterback, Clemson

Uiagalelei has to be considered a Heisman quarterback because Clemson quarterbacks do make the Heisman Trophy ceremony when they play well. Deshaun Watson was a Heisman finalist. Trevor Lawrence was a Heisman finalist. Great Clemson quarterbacks having great seasons do become Heisman finalists, which means they are top-three or top-four vote-getters for the award. The question with D.J. Uiagalelei is if he can actually play well. He played in a few games in 2020 as a freshman when Trevor Lawrence tested positive for COVID-19. Uiagalelei came into the 2021 season with some meaningful experience. This is why people were so high on him entering September of 2021. However, once the season actually began, Uiagalelei panicked. He got nervous. He didn’t trust himself. He was rattled and intimidated by opposing teams and by the speed of the college game. He was a bundle of nerves for most of the season. He was like a pitcher who simply can’t throw the ball over the plate and is always missing due to nibbling at the strike zone and being excessively cautious about not making a huge mistake. Uiagalelei had the yips, and now everyone is wondering if he can put that shaky part of his college career behind him. He does have the natural tools. He is strong and powerful. He has an electric, live arm. He is light on his feet and can scramble. The raw material is there. He just needs to put the pieces together. If he can, he’ll be a Heisman finalist, and Clemson will have a great season.

Tyler Van Dyke, Quarterback, Miami

Tyler Van Dyke was unexpectedly thrown into the Miami lineup last year when starting quarterback D’Eriq King suffered a severe injury. Van Dyke made the most of his opportunity under former head coach Manny Diaz. He changed the trajectory of the Miami season and played a central role in winning a few games the Hurricanes probably would have lost without him. Now Van Dyke gets to work under new head coach Mario Cristobal, who has recruited at a very high level. If Miami wins the ACC championship for the first time (it has not happened since the Hurricanes joined the league in 2004), Van Dyke will have an excellent Heisman case to make to voters.

Devin Leary, Quarterback, North Carolina State

The North Carolina State Wolfpack have never won the ACC Atlantic Division championship. They have never played in the ACC Championship Game. If they can beat Clemson and finally win the ACC Atlantic, Leary could become a Heisman finalist. Nothing less will do. He has to register a huge achievement to get enough publicity for the award.

Kedon Slovis, Quarterback, Pittsburgh

One year after Kenny Pickett quarterbacked Pitt to the ACC title and finished third in the Heisman voting behind Bryce Young and Aidan Hutchinson, Slovis pretty much has to do the same thing as Pickett: He needs to win the ACC championship and raise the profile of Pittsburgh football. Kenny Pickett established the standard required of a Pitt quarterback in the Heisman race.


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