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Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey deserved invite to Heisman ceremony

Ka'Deem Carey celebrates after he rushed for 206 yards and four touchdowns in an upset of No. 5 Oregon on Nov. 23. Photo by Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Ka’Deem Carey celebrates after he rushed for 206 yards and four touchdowns in an upset of No. 5 Oregon on Nov. 23. Photo by Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The ballot for the Doak Walker Award arrived via e-mail last week.

About 15 seconds later, I was done.

Didn’t need time to think about it. Already had. There were three good candidates, but only one right answer:

Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey.

Carey, in fact, is the right answer a trio of important “best of” running back questions.

Who should be a first-team All-American? Carey.

Who should win the Doak Walker Award for the nation’s best running back? Carey.

Which running back should have been invited to the Heisman ceremonies? Carey.

Yep. Carey’s the right answer.

I tried to not make that a function of having watched him all season — didn’t want to be a “homer” — but the numbers back me up, the Pac-12 coaches back me up, and I’m confident that extensive film study would do the same, revealing the most complete back in America.

Running. Blocking. Pass-catching.

Ability to run as hard in the fourth quarter as the first quarter.

Ability to pile up significant yardage vs. ranked teams (170.7 per game).

Ability to do it in every game, in every situation.

That’s Ka’Deem Carey.

We already know he is NOT one of the six players invited to New York City for the Heisman ceremonies. A snub? If you don’t want to listen to me, then check out ESPN’s experts poll, which had Carey tied for fourth in the Heisman race.

This we know: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is going to win the stiff-armed trophy. After that, the field was wide open.

Boston College running back Andre Williams, who is likely to win the Doak, is one of the invitees. I have no problem with that. Hard to argue with the numbers — 2,102 yards, 175.2 per game, five games with more than 200 yards.

But did he do it every week like Carey? No.

Has he caught a pass this season? No.

Carey has 26 receptions.

Here’s who else gets to go to New York:

–Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch (questionable competition).

–Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (being rewarded for his entire career more so than this season.

–Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (reigning Mr. Heisman didn’t match 2012′s excellence).

–Auburn running back Tre Mason.

It's hard for one guy to bring down Ka'Deem Carey. Photo by Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard for one guy to bring down Ka’Deem Carey. Photo by Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

That’s where it gets interesting.

Mason wasn’t even on the Heisman radar until the past couple of weeks. He was brilliant; no doubt. He rushed for 164 yards vs. Alabama and 304 against Missouri in the SEC title game.

He had the “Heisman” moment. He plays on a great team.

Heisman voters love those two things.

Mason’s late emergence calls into doubt whether Carey will repeat as a consensus All-American, but his season-long body of work doesn’t compare to Carey’s. Mason had only three 100-yard efforts in the first eight games of the season.

If there are going to be two running backs in New York City, one of them has to be Carey.

“I think he’s the best back in the country,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez.

“He does it within the framework of the offense. He practices hard. He’s just been a real joy to coach. I think he’s had an even better year than he had last year, even though his numbers might not be as good.”

Actually, some of Carey’s numbers are better. He is averaging more yards per game (156.0 to 148.4), although his yards per carry average has dropped from 6.4 to 5.3, a function of a lesser supporting cast.

Which makes this season’s success all the more impressive.

Compare Carey’s cast to Mason, who also plays in an up-tempo zone-read attack. Mason has future NFL linemen blocking for him. His quarterback, Nick Marshall, is more dynamic. The Tigers have a deep threat at receiver.

Auburn can always attack all parts of the field, unlike Arizona.

Auburn opponents have to pick their poison. Arizona opponents always pick Carey to try to stop.

“You’re always going to key on Ka’Deem,” said quarterback B.J. Denker.

“He’s never running with five linemen against five defensive guys. He’s always going against an extra number, sometimes two. … No, he doesn’t have it that easy.”

And yet Carey is the only guy in the nation who has rushed for at least 100 yards — at least 119, actually — in every game this season. No, none of it was easy.

Did Carey hurt his image and cost himself votes with his off-field problems after last season? Perhaps. If so, he has nobody but himself to blame. Rodriguez, fairly, suspended him for the season-opener.

For sure, Carey’s behavior cost him several months of positive off-season news, as the athletic department shelved a publicity campaign and put him on interview lockdown until mid-August.

Arizona has dutifully gotten the word out about Carey to national media through the season with a dedicated web page, videos and direct e-mails. But last week — when voters were making final decisions — was a missed opportunity, as Carey was unavailable to the media, outside of about a five-minute interview on the Pac-12 Networks.

Carey will get some air time later this week at the Home Depot College Football Awards Show on ESPN. He, Williams and Washington’s Bishop Sankey are the three finalists for the Doak Walker Award.

Carey was chosen last week over Sankey and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota as the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, as voted on by the league coaches.

“That means a lot,” Carey said.

“That just means all the hard work over the years paid off. Coming to Arizona was the best choice I could have made.”

Carey in the past month or so made no secret about how much he would like to receive an invite for the Heisman ceremonies. Didn’t happen. It’s an insult to say that will add any extra fuel to his tank, because it implies he needs any.

He doesn’t. He always runs hard.

Carey — who is not dropping hints about his plans for what happens after his junior season — gets one more showcase this year, in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl against Boston College and Williams on Dec. 31.

“I think if you tune in on New Year’s Eve, you’ll find out who’s the better back between those two,” Denker said.

Maybe the rest of the nation will find out then.

It’s just a shame that’s not more widely known right now.

Because Ka’Deem Carey is the best running back in the country.

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