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Top 10 2013 Heisman Trophy Candidates in Pac 12

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Top 10 2013 Heisman Trophy Candidates in Pac 12

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Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

With the college football season ready to kick off and fall camps wrapping up, it’s time for the hype machines to get rolling on campaigns for the Heisman Trophy. While you certainly aren’t going to be able to win the Heisman on opening weekend, or even in the opening month (Geno Smith), you can definitely get your name out there as a rising star to watch with a dominating performance out of the gate. So which playmakers out of the Pac 12 could make their case for college football’s highest prize?

There are plenty of great football players in the Pac 12 conference, but they’ll have their work cut out for them. The Heisman hasn’t been won by a player out of the Pac 12 since Reggie Bush in 2005 (unless you ask the NCAA then it was Matt Leinart in 2004). For those elite guys looking to take home the hardware at a position other than quarterback, it’ll be even tougher. Since 2000, 11 of the 13 Heisman Trophies given out have gone to quarterbacks, including the last three. Can someone out of the Pac 12 buck that trend?

There is also plenty of quarterback talent, however, in the conference that they could keep the QB trend rolling right along. Nine teams in the conference will take the field with a quarterback who started for them last season and many of them are poised to have very big years. They will need to be spectacular, however, to bring the spotlight out west. The talent is there to get it done, though.

But not everyone is cut out to make a run at the Heisman. The Pac 12 has a few key stars who stand out above the rest who have a leg up on the competition to bring the Heisman home to the left coast. With that being said, let’s count down the top 10 Heisman Trophy candidates that the Pac 12 has to offer in 2013.

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10. Ed Reynolds, Stanford Cardinal

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Ed Szczepanski - USA TODAY Sports

There’s a movement in college football to see the Heisman Trophy go to a defensive player so that it would truly be an award for the best collegiate football player and not just the best offensive player. To date, just one primarily defensive player has won the Heisman, Charles Woodson in 1997, but momentum is building for the second defensive star to take home the hardware. Could it be another defensive back, like Stanford Cardinal safety Ed Reynolds?

Last season, Reynolds was dynamic at the back end of Stanford’s defense, racking up five interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns. He led the nation in interception return yardage and proved he had a nose for the end zone with the ball in his hands. If quarterbacks continue to try and test the Cardinal secondary deep, he could have plenty more highlights to add to his film. Perhaps David Shaw could even find some different ways to get Reynolds the ball, like as a receiver or on special teams. It worked out nicely for Woodson.

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9. Marion Grice, Arizona State Sun Devils

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Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

For a running back to take home the Heisman Trophy, they really need to be something special. If you ask Arizona State Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham about running back Marion Grice, he thinks that’s exactly what he’s got. The junior college transfer came to Tempe and immediately made an impact in the backfield, showing his complete skillset out of the backfield. He rushed for a team-high 679 yards, averaging 6.59 yards per carry and found the endzone 11 times on the ground. He was also a dynamic weapon in the passing game, catching 41 passes for 425 yards and eight touchdowns. That kind of versatility can turn some voters’ heads in a hurry.

Grice will have to contend with a crowded backfield, however, as sophomore D.J. Foster looks to build on a freshman campaign that saw him break out as a dual-threat in the backfield as well. The entire backfield will likely take a back seat in 2013 as Graham turns his star under center loose with a more wide open passing attack and legitimate threats at receiver. He’ll have to fight for his touches, but Grice has the talent to turn those touches into bronze this December.

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8. Keith Price, Washington Huskies

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Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports

Before the 2012 season, Keith Price was picked by many as a darkhorse Heisman candidate following a strong sophomore season for the Washington Huskies. Things fell apart quickly, however, and Price suffered through a rough junior campaign behind a shaky offensive line. He completed just 60.9 percent of his passes for 2,728 yards with 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. It was a disappointing step back for Price and a major blow to his confidence.

But that should all be behind him in 2013. The senior has recommitted to being a leader of this offense and Steve Sarkisian is committed to putting the offense in Price’s hands. UW will be playing an up-tempo attack that will rely on Price to make key decisions at the line of scrimmage to make the plays to keep the offense clicking. Price has a strong running game behind him with Bishop Sankey and his top receiver Kasen Williams on the outside. He would feel better about his chances with Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but there are still plenty of weapons for him to work with for a bounce-back season.

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7. Anthony Barr, UCLA Bruins

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea - USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of defensive players with a chance to break the streak of offensive players winning the Heisman, Anthony Barr is set up to be a monster off the edge for the UCLA Bruins in 2013. Barr was a fullback up until last season and learned to play defense on the fly and made it look easy. He finished second in the country with 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss. He simply grew stronger as the season wore on and was an unblockable force by season’s end and could have been taken in the first round of the NFL draft but came back and could work his way into the top 10 of the 2014 Draft.

That’s a positive trend that could take him all the way to New York City for the Heisman presentation in December. This offseason, Barr has bulked up from his 235-pound playing weight in 2012 up to a stout 255-pounds for fall camp. He has worked to become a more complete defender, working on his ability to drop into pass coverage and read quarterbacks to create more turnovers with his play this fall. If he can add that element to his game while continuing to be a wrecking ball in opposing backfields, Barr could force his way into the Heisman conversation.

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6. Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona Wildcats

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Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats quickly became one of the more explosive offenses in the Pac 12 under first year head coach Rich Rodriguez thanks in no small part to the breakout season of running back Ka’Deem Carey. The sophomore found immediate success in Rodriguez’s spread attack and led the nation in rushing in 2012 with 1,929 yards, averaging 6.37 yards per carry and 23 touchdowns on the ground. With another few carries per game, Carey might have broken the 2,000-yard rushing mark.

And that should be a very attainable goal for him in 2013. Carey has had a rocky offseason, but the back feels that he’s learned from the experiences and is ready to become a leader for the program. He’ll have an experienced offensive line to run behind again and a coach motivated to find ways to get him the ball. There are questions about what the dynamic will be with a new quarterback (such as how much of the rushing game they’ll constitute) and whether or not the passing game will keep opposing defenses from loading up the box to stop Carey. If the team can find balance, Carey could break through with a season for the ages.

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5. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State Sun Devils

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Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

After coming out of nowhere to win the starting quarterback job last fall, Taylor Kelly proved to be the perfect man to lead the Arizona State Sun Devils. He ended up as the second most efficient quarterback in the Pac 12 and No. 8 in all of college football. He completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 3,040 yards with 29 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. As Kelly went, the Sun Devils followed as he threw for 21 touchdowns and no interceptions in ASU’s victories and eight touchdowns and all nine interceptions in the team’s losses.

As the key to the team’s fortunes, Kelly should be in line for a much bigger role in 2013. Arizona State has made their plans to open up the playbook in year two under Graham well known this offseason and that means more responsibility being pushed through Kelly at quarterback. That gives the junior a major opportunity to break out this season with early marquee games on the schedule. If he lives up to the challenge, Kelly should earn himself plenty of attention as a Heisman hopeful.

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4. Brett Hundley, UCLA Bruins

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Kelley L. Cox - USA TODAY Sports

Brett Hundley came in as a redshirt freshman in 2012 and immediately put the UCLA Bruins on his back. He was an instant-impact player who made plays with his arm and his legs, putting his incredible athleticism on display week after week. In just about any other season, he might have been the most impressive redshirt freshman in college football with his 3,740 yards passing with 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions to go along with 355 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on the ground.

His team has rallied around him from day one and he can take the Bruins to new heights in 2013 by returning them to the Pac 12 title game (for the third time) and possibly winning it. If he can get them over that hump, it will mean he has some impressive wins on his resume in a highly competitive Pac 12 conference along with a non-conference marquee showdown against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. An impressive showing against the slate of games in store for UCLA could be enough to push Hundley into the thick of the Heisman conversation.

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3. De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon Ducks

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Jennifer Stewart - USA TODAY Sports

After a dazzling freshman season, De’Anthony Thomas was a popular pick to be a Heisman contender in 2012. The touches just didn’t come, however, as the Oregon Ducks were filled to the brim with offensive playmakers. Thomas spent much of the season attracting attention from defenses and opening up lanes for other offensive stars to push through. DAT was still able to rack up 1,146 yards rushing and receiving with 16 offensive touchdowns while being a dangerous return man as well with a pair or return touchdowns.

In 2013, Thomas is going to get moved all over the field as one of the Ducks’ offensive leaders this fall. He is a matchup nightmare for defenses with the ability to break off huge plays and find the end zone every time he touches the ball. If given the opportunities, Thomas could rack up some of the biggest stats in the country and put a highlight reel together that most players won’t match in a dozen careers. Will he get enough chances to fuel the Heisman hype machine?

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2. Marqise Lee, USC Trojans

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Gary A. Vasquez - USA TODAY Sports

After putting together a season that should have gotten him invited to the Heisman ceremony in 2012, Marqise Lee is back with the USC Trojans to make it happen in 2013. Lee walked away with the Biletnikoff Award last season after catching 118 passes for 1,721 yards with 14 receiving touchdowns. He showed off some versatility in the return game as well and even spent some practices lining up as a defensive back. While none of that was enough to get him to New York City, you can be Lane Kiffin is going to scheme up some new ways to make it happen this fall.

There will be some challenges, however, for Lee to match his incredible sophomore season. The Trojans will be breaking in a new quarterback and there’s no telling how the chemistry will be between Lee and the new signal caller, especially early in the season. The Trojans also have a young, blossoming talent in Nelson Agholor which could take some deep looks away from Lee throughout the year. There’s no denying Lee’s talent, however, and that talent is big enough to get him a Heisman before he leaves college.

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1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon Ducks

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Scott Olmos - USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon Ducks found their quarterback of the future when they handed the starting quarterback job over to redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota in 2012. He responded with the most efficient season of any quarterback in the Pac 12 and the No. 6 most efficient QB in all of college football. He completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 2,677 yards with 32 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Mariota was just as gifted with his legs, rushing for 752 yards and five touchdowns. All of that, and he rarely played much past halftime.

With Mark Helfrich taking over, you can expect Mariota to take more control of the Oregon offense in 2013. The sophomore is likely one of the most naturally gifted passers that the Ducks have had in Eugene and he will get the opportunity to show that off this fall. Combined with his athletic talents and the overwhelming offensive firepower around him, Mariota should have an explosive season. That recipe for success also makes him the Pac 12’s best bet to bring a Heisman Trophy to the West Coast in 2013.