2022 Heisman Trophy Candidates: Conference USA

In 2022, Conference USA won’t look the same as it did in 2021. The Marshall Thundering Herd have been in C-USA for the past several years, but now Marshall will play in the Sun Belt Conference, as will Old Dominion and Southern Mississippi. A lot of college sports realignment has affected and will continue to affect Conference USA. Several other schools are going to leave the league after this season, and more schools are going to come in and join the conference in the coming years. With so many schools in transition, it is going to be hard for any one player to rise above the rest of the tumult and uncertainty enough to make a serious run at the Heisman Trophy. However, if anyone might have a chance to pursue the famous stiff-arm trophy, these four players have a legitimate case to make.

Frank Harris, Quarterback, UTSA

Texas-San Antonio was the champion of Conference USA in 2021, defeating Western Kentucky in a 49-41 fireworks show in the C-USA Championship Game. Frank Harris is the veteran quarterback who leads the UTSA offense. If the Roadrunners – who lost only one game last season – can at least defend their conference championship, Harris should get some national recognition and publicity. If UTSA can improve upon last year by going unbeaten in the regular season, that might be the kind of achievement which can elevate Harris’s profile and UTSA’s national reputation. What might ultimately be required for Harris to get significant Heisman consideration is for UTSA to become the first Conference USA team to qualify for a New Year’s Six bowl game in the current bowl system, whose existence dates back to the 2014 season. If Harris can pull that off, he will get some Heisman votes he otherwise wouldn’t receive.

DeWayne McBride, Running Back, UAB

The UAB Blazers are going to have a challenging 2022 season for the simple reason that their elite, esteemed coach, Bill Clark, has had to step away from coaching due to health problems. UAB has overachieved more than most programs in recent years, and that is connected to Clark. Because Clark was so respected in the coaching profession, UAB has a chance to surprise national pundits and Heisman voters. If the Blazers do overachieve and win the Conference USA title in a year when UTSA is the clear favorite atop the conference, McBride – the team’s best offensive player – could get an unexpected ticket to New York in December.

Ronald Awatt, Running Back, UTEP

The UTEP Miners were better than expected last season, good enough to make a bowl game. The Miners lost to Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl. If the Miners can improve upon last season’s results and make a real run at the division championship, Awatt – the standout running back on the team – could get some Heisman publicity. Being realistic, UTEP probably needs to win the division championship and not get blown out in the C-USA Championship Game if Awatt is to pick up any meaningful amount of Heisman votes on the ballot.

Zakhari Franklin, Wide Receiver, UTSA

Frank Harris is the quarterback for the UTSA Roadrunners, and Franklin is his top receiver. If Franklin makes tons of jawdropping plays which make their way to the highlight shows, he could become a part of the national discussion, but let’s be honest: These highlight-style plays would need to be incredible, and they would need to happen every week for Franklin to become a serious player in the Heisman conversation.

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