Arizona Wildcats sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey is on his way to consensus All-America honors, which will launch him into the preseason discussion for the Heisman Trophy in 2013.
Carey enters the bowl season as the nation’s leading rusher with 146.42 yards per game. He has picked up six first-team All-America mentions, including from The Sporting News and the Walter Camp Football Foundation — two of the five All-America teams recognized by the NCAA.
Carey will be a consensus All-American if he picks up a nod from The Associated Press or the Football Writers Association of America, whose teams will be released this week.
He’ll look to finish strong and possibly lock down the rushing title in Saturday’s New Mexico Bowl vs. Nevada.
Is it too early to start thinking about Carey and the 2013 Heisman? Of course not.
He picked up at least a couple of third-place votes (from the Arizona Republic’s Paola Boivin and the Arizona Daily Star’s Greg Hansen) when the 2012 Heisman was handed out Saturday to Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. As we think of Carey in 2013, we have to recognize that the Heisman is basically an award for a quarterback on a really, really good team.
Only two running backs have won since 2000 — USC’s Reggie Bush (since vacated), who was a transcendent talent on a team that went to the national championship game after the 2005 season; and Alabama’s Mark Ingram, who rode the Tide’s undefeated season to a narrow win over Stanford’s Toby Gerhart in 2009.
So, Carey isn’t a quarterback and Arizona isn’t going to compete for the national championship next season. Those are two things working against him. He’ll have to post huge numbers, probably in excess of his 2012 regular season of 1,757 yards.
In addition to Carey, let’s take a look at which players figure to be the favorites heading into 2013 (in no particular order):
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M – It’s so hard to repeat. Not only does the Heisman winner have to compete against everyone else in the country, he has to compete against the standard he set when he won the award. Voters punish any slide in stats. And the Aggies’ starting offensive tackles could be NFL-bound, weakening the offense.
Braxton Miller, Ohio State – He probably should be the preseason favorite. Miller, after a sophomore season in which he passed for 2,039 yards and ran for 1,271, will lead a team that is eligible for the postseason after having to sit out 2012. The Buckeyes, following their 12-0 season, will roll through the Big Ten and be in the national championship hunt, increasing Miller’s chances for “Heisman moments.”
Aaron Murray, Georgia – The junior could jump to the NFL, but he’ll be the nation’s highest-profile pocket passer if he returns. Murray threw for 3,466 yards and 31 touchdowns in the regular season as the Dawgs came within a few seconds of playing for the national title.
Marcus Mariota, Oregon – Mariota, the first-team All-Pac-12 quarterback as a redshirt freshman, is just as talented as Manziel; he just didn’t as many opportunities. The Ducks should be back competing for the national title, too.
Tajh Boyd, Clemson – Another junior with a decision to make about the NFL, Boyd has thrown for 3,550 yards and rushed for nearly another 500. Lots of firepower around him, too, including receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, the latter of whom could go to the NFL.
Others: Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois; Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville; Brett Hundley, UCLA; AJ McCarron, Alabama
WR Marqise Lee, USC – The junior-to-be might be the nation’s most exciting player, but the fourth-place finisher in this season’s Heisman voting will be working with a new starting quarterback.
RB DeAnthony Thomas, Oregon – The Black Mamba will have to compete with Mariota as the headliner of the offense, which will be difficult, but no one questions his breathtaking skills. The question is, can he handle a larger workload in the absence of Kenjon Barner? If so, watch out.
RBs Todd Gurley, Georgia; Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon, Alabama – Anybody who saw the SEC championship game knows these running backs won’t take a backseat to anyone. It’s just a question of the opportunities. If Lacy leaves for the NFL, then Yeldon’s carries and chances go way up.
THE DEFENSIVE PLAYER
DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina – A defensive player (Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o) just finished second in the Heisman. Clowney might not have the same narrative as Te’o — off-the-charts intangibles, a senior leader of the nation’s No. 1 team — but he’ll be in the discussion if he duplicates his sophomore season to date: 13 sacks, 21.5 tackles for loss.
(We’re assuming there is no chance that fourth-year Georgia junior linebacker Jarvis Jones returns next season.)
KEEP AN EYE ON
At the end of spring, Manziel hadn’t even secured the starting job at Texas A&M, so you never know who is going to emerge. Here are three quarterbacks who should be graduating to starting roles next season for traditional powers, which means they have a chance: Oklahoma’s Blake Bell, Michigan’s Devin Gardner and USC’s Max Wittek.