Tua, Wisconsin's Taylor, Clemson's Etienne lead 2019 Heisman race

Tua's non-stop highlight reel (1:03)

Take a look back at Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa's highlight-filled 2018 season. (1:03)

One of the closest and most interesting Heisman Trophy races culminated Saturday in New York, as Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray took home college football's top individual honor. We can only hope the 2019 campaign has similar suspense.

Next season's Heisman candidate pool is crowded and unique. Tua Tagovailoa, who emerged as the front-runner for the 2018 award early this fall, is back at Alabama. Jonathan Taylor, among the 2018 preseason favorites, also returns after an underappreciated performance for an underachieving Wisconsin team. While the three 2018 finalists -- Tagovailoa, Murray and Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins -- all dazzled as first-year starting quarterbacks, a batch of second-year starters will contend next fall. The Big Ten hasn't produced a Heisman winner since Ohio State's Troy Smith in 2006 but returns at least three candidates for 2019.

We don't know which underclassmen will enter the NFL draft, but it's unlikely Haskins returns to Ohio State or defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, an Outland Trophy finalist, returns to Alabama. I included some on-the-fence NFL draft entrants here, with the understanding that they could go pro.

Let's look ahead at the top contenders for the 85th Heisman Trophy.


Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa

By now, you should know the name. The full name. Tagovailoa announced himself against Georgia in January's College Football Playoff national championship game, then became a star this season by leading a different-looking, record-setting Crimson Tide offense. Entering the playoff, Tagovailoa has 3,353 passing yards with 37 touchdowns, only four interceptions and a 67.7 percent completion ratio with 60 passes of 20 yards or longer. He ranks second behind Murray in passing efficiency (202.3 rating).