Heisman Trophy Preview: Loads of offense in four finalists

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is one of four finalists for the 2020 Heisman Trophy, which will be presented virtually tonight for the first time in its 86-year history. ESPN’s broadcast begins at 6 p.m.

Two Alabama teammates, quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver DeVonta Smith, join Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Florida quarterback Kyle Trask as the finalists for the 86th annual Heisman Trophy, which will be announced today. A rundown of the finalists:

MAC JONES, QB, Alabama

BIO: The relatively unheralded recruit showed his gumption just by signing with Alabama in a recruiting class headed by Tua Tagovailoa with Jalen Hurts just having completed a terrific freshman season. Jones waited his turn and proved he was up for the job when he took over following Tagovailoa’s hip injury late last season. There was speculation that five-star freshman Bryce Young might challenge for the starting job before COVID-19 forced the cancellation of spring practice.

KEY STATS: Led the nation with a completion percentage of 76.5 and a pass efficiency rating of 202.35 in the regular season. Passed for 3,739 yards and 32 touchdowns against just four interceptions in the Tide’s 11 games heading into the playoff. His four 400-yard passing games this season are more than any other Alabama quarterback has produced in an entire career. That includes a 418-yard, five-touchdown performance in the Southeastern Conference championship win over Florida.

THE SKINNY: Jones has been dynamic this season, launching some bombs and also expertly taking what the defense gives him without taking unnecessary risks. Scarcely missed a beat even with the ankle injury to dynamic receiver Jaylen Waddle that has sidelined him most of the season. Jones has exceeded just about every outside expectation this season, leading one of the nation’s most explosive offenses. Also has a knack for shaking off mistakes and not letting them affect his play.

TREVOR LAWRENCE, QB, Clemson

BIO: Lawrence has looked ready for a Heisman Trophy moment ever since arriving at Clemson before the 2018 season. As a freshman, he led the Tigers to the national championship, dominating Alabama in a 44-16 victory. Lawrence is 34-1 as a college starter and the lone loss — and perhaps his poorest performance — was in the title game in January 2020, a 42-25 loss to LSU. Lawrence, the likely No. 1 pick in the next NFL draft, could’ve easily opted out of the season, but fought hard for the season to proceed in the pandemic. Lawrence also grew as a leader, front-and-center in Clemson’s efforts to combat social injustice this summer. Lawrence won his third ACC title as a starter and was named the ACC offensive player and overall player of the year.

KEY STATS: Lawrence’s numbers are not as robust as other finalists, partly because Clemson’s early dominance typically sends him to the bench for good stretches of the second half and he missed three games due to the coronavirus. Still, Lawrence completed nearly 70% of his throws for 2,753 yards and 22 touchdowns along with four interceptions in the regular season.

THE SKINNY: At 6-foot-6 with a cannon arm and unflappable manner, Lawrence is what a screenwriter might come up for a film about a star quarterback. Lawrence’s Heisman credentials this season may have slipped some when he went more than a month without playing, but he and the Tigers made the playoff again just the same.

DeVONTA SMITH, WR, Alabama

BIO: Smith returned for his senior season while fellow Crimson Tide receivers Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy left and became first-round NFL draft picks. Smith is the first wide receiver named AP’s player of the year. He averaged 187 receiving yards and caught 11 touchdown passes in the four games after Jaylen Waddle’s ankle injury, then added a 15-catch, 184-yard performance in the Southeastern Conference championship game against Florida.

KEY STATS: Led the nation with 98 catches and 1,511 yards going into the playoff, and his 17 touchdown receptions rank second. Had seven 100-yard games and six multi-touchdown performances. Scored on an 84-yard punt return against Arkansas.

THE SKINNY: Has found a way to continue putting up huge numbers even without Waddle consuming much of the secondary’s attention. Made a leaping one-handed touchdown grab against LSU. Despite all the attention, Tide coach Nick Saban calls him “probably one of the most selfless guys that I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach.” Obliterated the SEC record for receiving touchdowns with 43 — so far.

KYLE TRASK, QB, Florida

BIO: The NCAA transfer portal was made for guys like Trask, a career backup looking for a better opportunity elsewhere. But Trask never considered moving on despite spending most of his high school and college careers waiting in the wings. He stuck it out in Gainesville and ended up with a record-setting senior year, his first as a full-time starter. He finished with 43 touchdown passes, breaking the school’s single-season mark (39) set by 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel, and ran for three more. Trask could become the fourth Heisman-winning QB in school history, joining Steve Spurrier (1966), Wuerffel and Tim Tebow (2007).

KEY STATS: His 43 TD passes lead the nation by 11 and are tied for the eighth-highest total through 11 games in Bowl Subdivision history. Trask threw four or more TD passes in each of Florida’s first six games this year, making him the first player in SEC history and fourth FBS quarterback since 1996 to accomplish the feat.

THE SKINNY: Even when it looked like Trask would get his chance in 2018, he broke a foot in practice days before the game and had to extend his wait. It wasn’t until Franks’ season-ending ankle injury in 2019 that Franks finally made his way onto the field. He quickly proved he belonged. He really shined this season, leading the nation in passing yards (375 a game) and touchdowns. His only downside: The Gators closed with a three-game losing streak that ruined any chance they had of winning a national championship.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.