2022 Heisman Trophy Candidates: Sun Belt Conference
It is unlikely that the Sun Belt Conference will produce a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2022, but if one was to look for some dark horse Heisman candidates, the Sun Belt does have one particularly strong option plus a few other outsiders who could make some noise. Let’s take a look at the best of the best, the players who could represent the Sun Belt on the national stage in December and write a remarkable college football story this year.
Grayson McCall, Quarterback, Coastal Carolina
If you had to pick one Sun Belt player as a possible Heisman finalist, this is it. Grayson McCall has led Coastal Carolina to a position of prominence in college football. He has played on national television and performed well. He is experienced not only in terms of reading defenses and studying the game, but also in terms of handling pressure and scrutiny. McCall is a dual-threat quarterback who can make plays in different ways from various spots on the field. He is a proven leader who has transformed Coastal Carolina’s identity. He is a proven late-game quarterback who has led 2-minute drills and guided the Chanticleers to big comeback victories. McCall will get a serious look as a Heisman finalist if the top schools’ candidates falter, as was the case last year, and if Coastal Carolina makes a strong run at the Group of Five championship and a New Year’s Six bowl bid. A lot of things have to fall into place for a McCall Heisman candidacy, but no player in the Sun Belt is better positioned to become the surprise Heisman finalist in early December.
Rasheen Ali, Running Back, Marshall
The other Sun Belt candidates are significantly less prominent than Grayson McCall, and therefore have noticeably lower odds of making the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York. Among them is Rasheen Ali, who will need Marshall to produce a strong season and, at the very least, reach the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game. For the Heisman outsiders on small-conference teams, there is simply no way they will elevate their profile enough to get a real look at the Heisman unless they are playing on the Saturday of conference championship weekend. Keep in mind that on the first Saturday of December, not all college teams are playing. In fact, it’s a select, low number consisting of conference championship games plus a few other at-large games, generally no more than 30 or so teams. Players from smaller conferences need to be playing on that day. That’s when more eyeballs and more Heisman voters will be watching them. Such is the case for Ali and most other candidates from the smaller (Group of Five) conferences.
Nate Noel, Running Back, Appalachian State
Noel is in the same boat as Rasheen Ali. He does have the advantage of playing for a program, Appalachian State, which has been the premier program in the Sun Belt Conference over the past four years. If he can lead the Mountaineers to the conference championship, he might get a boost. He would need to flourish late in the season, especially in a conference championship game.
Ali Jennings, Wide Receiver, Old Dominion
Old Dominion is not a high-profile team, so Jennings would have to create historically eye-popping statistics and translate them into a clearly overachieving season for the Monarchs in Sun Belt competition.