Gene Menez
Tuesday September 2nd, 2008

These early-season Heisman Watches are always the most difficult to do. Candidates have such a small sampling of games, and most of those are against a slew of Directional State U nobodies. For that reason the Watch will wait to drastically move contenders up and down the list. That's not to say, however, that the opening week of games was without its share of Heisman developments, beginning with one from the Watch's preseason favorite, Beanie Wells.

Last week: 13 rushes, 111 yards, 1 TD; 3 receptions, 10 yards in a 43-0 victory over Youngstown State. Heisman-o-meter: Health has always been the No. 1 concern with the injury-prone Wells, and just as the big back was confirming his place at the top with a 43-yard touchdown romp, he goes down with a non-contact injury in the third quarter of Game 1. As of Tuesday morning, Ohio State still had not disclosed what's wrong with Wells' right foot or how long he will be out. Since it's not certain whether he will miss even one game (though that seems likely with the overmatched Bobcats coming to town and USC looming in two weeks), he remains No. 1, though a very tenuous one. Up next: Saturday vs. Ohio.

Last week: 9-of-14 passing, 137 yards, 1 TD; 9 rushes, 37 yards in a 56-10 victory over Hawaii. Heisman-o-meter: The incumbent didn't need to be his Heisman self against Hawaii (he did hit Louis Murphy over the middle, leading to a 48-yard touchdown, and still led the Gators in rushing attempts), but the game may have been telling nonetheless. After Tebow had guided the Gators to the Hawaii 3-yard line with more than three minutes left in the third quarter, coach Urban Meyer replaced Tebow with backup Cam Newton, who ran two straight times for the touchdown. Could this be a hint as to how Meyer plans to use his Heisman winner this season? Saturday's matchup with Miami should provide a few more answers. Up next: Saturday vs. Miami.

Last week: 26-of-45 passing, 323 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT; 9 rushes, 46 yards in a 52-42 victory over No. 20 Illinois in St. Louis. Heisman-o-meter: The savvy operator of the spread had the Tigers' scary good offense in midseason form against the Illini. As always, he got rid of the ball quickly, avoided errors (except for the interception he threw that was returned for a touchdown) and moved the chains with his feet when necessary. He'll be a candidate all season, but receiver Jeremy Maclin, who almost made this list, may start stealing some of Daniel's Heisman love. Up next: Saturday vs. Southeast Missouri State.

Last week: 25-of-33 passing, 208 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT; 9 rushes, 63 yards in a 48-21 victory over Villanova. Heisman-o-meter: Let's not get carried away here. Saturday's game was against Division I-AA Villanova. That said, this was the most impressive we've seen White throw the ball. The open field running wizard threw the ball with touch, he threw it with pace and he even threw the ball downfield some, much different from the swing-pass heavy, horizontal passing game from the previous coaching regime. If he continues to do this against more legitimate competition, watch out. Up next: Saturday at East Carolina.

Last week: 8 rushes, 59 yards, 3 TDs; 2 receptions, 53 yards in a 45-21 victory over Georgia Southern. Heisman-o-meter: Quarterback Matthew Stafford (275 yards passing, two touchdowns) actually played like the true Heisman candidate from Georgia, but as I said earlier, the Watch will not make any drastic alterations after only one game. Moreno did get loose a couple times -- one on a 40-yard screen play, which he capped by plowing his shoulder into an Eagles defender, the other on his 24-yard touchdown run during which he grabbed the back of his right leg, sending a scare through Georgia fans everywhere. It turned out just to be cramps. Up next: Saturday vs. Central Michigan.

Last week: 9 receptions, 73 yards, 1 TD in a 49-24 victory over Eastern Washington. Heisman-o-meter: The receiver known as Crab was actually the third most productive Tech wideout last Saturday as the I-AA Eagles covered up the deep ball, leading to big days from Detron Lewis and Eric Morris. Perhaps coach Mike Leach is saving the new wrinkles for tougher weeks, but there was no Crabtree kickoff return or a rush from a direct snap, something he may have to do to keep up with multipurpose threats Jeremy Maclin of Missouri and, if he gets healthy, Percy Harvin of Florida. Up next: Saturday at Nevada.

Last week: 26-of-35 passing, 338 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT; 1 rush, 6 yards in a 52-7 victory at Virginia. Heisman-o-meter: What kneecap injury? Starting for the first time with the job actually his, Sanchez showed no ill effects from that freak preseason left knee injury, keeping plays alive by scrambling out of the pocket. He even hit a few deep balls, something that was lacking from USC last season, as the Trojans' offense rolled. There is so much talent on this team that any of their three running backs (Joe McKnight was on the list last week) could receive consideration, but Sanchez played like the team's true contender on Saturday. Up next: vs. Ohio State on Sept. 13.

Last week: 26 rushes, 210 yards, 2 TDs in a 38-17 victory over Akron. Heisman-o-meter: As this Badgers bruiser has battled nagging injuries the last two years, he has made brief cameos on this list and become one of the favorites of the Watch because of his surprisingly fast wheels to go with that plus-sized frame. After the second 200-yard rushing day of his career, he returns to the Watch, but his stay again may be short lived. Coaches have said that running backs Zach Brown and John Clay, who combined for 27 carries against Akron, will see their share of touches, eating into Hill's production. Up next: Saturday vs. Marshall.

Last week: 26-of-42 passing, 451 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs; 19 rushes, 10 yards in a 52-42 loss to No. 6 Missouri in St. Louis. Heisman-o-meter: Even though the Illini lost, Williams showed significant progress as a passer from last season. Instead of taking off and running when he didn't see anyone open, he was more patient with his progressions and showed some nice touch on the ball. The result was a night in which he set career highs for passing yards and touchdowns. Some credit for Williams' aerial success though goes to a Missouri defense that continually left receivers open downfield. Up next: Saturday vs. Eastern Illinois.

Last week: 17-of-22 passing, 183 yards, 2 TDs in a 57-2 victory over Chattanooga. Heisman-o-meter: BYU quarterback Max Hall, Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell, Missouri receiver Jeremy Maclin, even Bradford's teammate DeMarco Murray could've landed in the 10 spot, but the Watch will stick with last week's No. 10, Bradford, who, according to all reports, had no trouble running the Sooners' new no-huddle offense. But look out for Murray (124 yards, 2 TDs); if he's fully recovered from offseason knee surgery, he has the physical gifts to overtake Bradford as Oklahoma's candidate. Up next: Saturday vs. Cincinnati.

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