Could Cam Akers Win the Heisman in 2017? 

It’s no secret that Florida State signed one of the best running backs in recent memory when five-star recruit Cam Akers put pen to paper last year. Akers, who hails from Mississippi, was ranked as the No. 2 overall recruit per the 247Composite Rankings, the highest ranked running back in the consensus rankings since Leonard Fournette was the top overall recruit in 2014. Expectations for the true freshman are sky high and he only bolstered those after an impressive spring game debut.

One writer thinks Akers could exceed those expectations. Ben Kercheval (@BenKercheval) at CBS Sports recently posted “Making five bold predictions for the 2017 college football season” in which he claims Akers will become the first true freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

I’m putting my nonexistent, figurative money on Florida State running back Cam Akers, one of the crown jewels of the 2017 recruiting class. Going all-in on a true freshman goes against my grain. It doesn’t matter how talented a first-year player is … it’s still a first-year player. The adjustment period to the college level has shrunk with the growing popularity of summer camps and the 24/7/365 nature of football, but it still exists. It’s extraordinarily hard for a player to come right out of high school and consistently play at a high level for the entire regular season. (It’s hard for most players in any year.) – Kercheval

Kercheval goes on to add that Akers plays running back, one of two positions (along with quarterback) that has won the Heisman every year since 1997. He goes on to credit Florida State’s commitment to the run game, between averaging 5.0 yards per carry last year and Jimbo Fisher’s ability to bring in young, talented offensive linemen.

The latest Vegas odds (depending where you look) have Cam Akers at +4000 odds to win the Heisman trophy in 2017. Interestingly, he is the only true freshman listed on nearly every site and is still listed despite teammate Deondre Francois holding +1400 odds further up the list.

Despite both quarterbacks and running backs dominating the award since 1997, running backs have only won the trophy five of those times (yes, we’re counting Reggie Bush). A player needs to have a truly spectacular year at the running back position to win the trophy. Here are the five players and the type of seasons they had when the won:

  • 1998 – Ricky Williams, Texas: 2,124 yards, 5.9 yards per carry, 27 touchdowns, 262 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown
  • 1999 – Ron Dayne, Wisconsin: 2,034 yards, 6.0 yards per carry, 20 touchdowns
  • 2005 – Reggie Bush, USC: 1,740 yards, 8.7 yards per carry, 16 touchdowns, 478 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns
  • 2009 – Mark Ingram, Alabama: 1,658 yards, 6.1 yards per carry, 17 touchdowns, 334 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns
  • 2015 – Derrick Henry, Alabama: 2,219 yards, 5.6 yards per carry, 28 touchdowns

*Bowl stats included.

If the data above shows us anything, it says that a running back needs to have a truly insane season to win the Heisman trophy. Derrick Henry is the most recent back win the award and he needed to carry the ball nearly 400 times in Alabama’s offense to put up those numbers.

However, it is not out of the question to see Akers be in contention for the award. Throughout his tenure at Florida State, Jimbo Fisher has been consistent about featuring a No. 1 RB in his offense, as seen by his use of Dalvin Cook and Devonta Freeman over the years, and giving them the majority of the touches. Akers could realistically become the feature back in short time and get the brunt of the carries and put up some good numbers.

Also, it seems the trend for Heisman winners is becoming younger and younger. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow became the first true sophomore to win the award in 2007 and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first redshirt freshman to win it in 2012 (Florida State’s own Jameis Winston followed him as a redshirt freshman a year later).

Sooner or later, a true freshman will win the award. Why not Akers?

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