MSU’s Brian Lewerke a Heisman ‘darkhorse’

Associated Press

Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke might not be one of “the most intiguing” quarterbacks entering the 2018 season, and he might not even make the cut for some as one of the top players in the country, but he’s apparently still pretty good.

The junior is one of seven players the Associated Press singled out Monday as “Heisman darkhorses.” Here’s the AP’s view of other Heisman longshots looking to improve their odds:

Brian Lewerke, QB, Michigan State

The junior is a dual-threat quarterback who accounted for 3,352 yards of total offense as the Spartans won 10 games last season. With the turmoil surrounding Ohio State’s program, Michigan State could end up as the favorite in the Big Ten East.

Jake Browning, QB, Washington

Browning was sixth in the Heisman voting two years ago after leading the Huskies to the Pac-12 title and the playoff, where they lost to Alabama in the semifinals. His productivity declined last year though as his touchdowns fell from 43 to 19. Browning has thrown for more than 9,000 yards and 78 touchdowns the past three seasons

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

The junior might have set the record for being the earliest to announce that he is entering the NFL Draft. But there is good reason for that as Oliver might be the top pick. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive lineman faces huge odds to win, but with 381/2 tackles for loss the last two seasons and the possibility that coach Major Applewhite could use him on some offensive plays, he could at least get to New York as one of the finalists.

McKenzie Milton, QB, Central Florida

Milton was eighth in the voting last year after he led the Knights to an improbable 13-0 record and a victory over Alabama in the Peach Bowl. He was second in the nation in passing efficiency (179.3) and yards per attempt (10.22), finishing behind Mayfield. UCF though has a new coach in Josh Heupel after Scott Frost left for Nebraska. Also hampering Milton’s bid is a lack of weekly exposure. The Knights first national appearance won’t be until Sept. 15 against North Carolina.

Drew Lock, QB, Missouri

Lock set an Southeastern Conference record last season with 44 touchdown passes. Three SEC quarterbacks have won the award since 2007, but the senior is going to need to produce wins for a Tigers squad that lost five of its first six last season before finishing 7-6.

Cam Akers, RB, Florida State

New coach Willie Taggart says that the theme of his offense is “lethal simplicity.” That is also an apt description of Akers. The sophomore had four 100-yard games last season along with setting Florida State’s freshman rushing record with 1,025 yards. Akers will be counted on early to be a focal point of Taggart’s offense, starting with the Sept. 3 opener against Virginia Tech.

Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma

There have been only three occasions where the same school has produced different Heisman winners in back-to-back seasons. Anderson didn’t even start until mid-season last year, but he finished with 1,442 yards and 18 touchdowns from scrimmage. In his best game, he had 290 yards and four touchdowns from scrimmage in a regular-season win over TCU. At 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, he is a powerhouse with breakaway speed and good enough hands to have grabbed five touchdown receptions last season.