- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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We've given you our thoughts recently on which Pac-12 player has the best shot at winning the Heisman. You've given your thoughts (an extremely tight poll) and now the folks at HeismanPundit.com have offered up their darkhorse candidates for 2012.
They looked at 12 not-as-mainstream candidates who could contend for the Heisman Trophy, and four of them are from the Pac-12.
First, the list:
Eddie Lacy, Alabama
Curtis McNeal, USC
Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michigan
Kenjon Barner, Oregon
James Franklin, Missouri
Braxton Miller, Ohio State
Kiehl Frazier, Auburn
Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State
Cierre Wood, Notre Dame
Christine Michael, Texas A&M
Jesse Callier, Washington
De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
Their thoughts on each of the Pac-12 players:
On McNeal: A total of 150 carries have departed the program and there is little depth behind the senior, who will benefit from defenses focusing on USC’s strong passing attack. Give McNeal at least half of those departed carries and you are looking at a possible 1,500 yard season, if not more.
On Barner: There were times the rest of the year when he looked as good as, if not better than, James. This year, the Ducks lose not only James’ 247 carries, but also the 45 of freshman Tra Carson and the 56 of quarterback Darron Thomas, for a total of 347 carries to be redistributed.
On Callier: I actually think there is a good chance that Washington experiences no dropoff at this position and that Callier establishes himself as one of the top backs in the Pac-12 with a season exceeding 1,300 yards on the ground.
On Thomas: Thomas is obviously an interesting case since he is such an all-around dynamo. Last year, he had just 140 touches, with 39 of them coming in the return game. This was a wise move by Oregon, as keeping the rather slight Thomas fresh and healthy is the key to his effectiveness. It worked, as he had 18 touchdowns and 2,235 total yards. In that vein, Oregon might be tempted to put a huge workload on him in 2012, but I don’t foresee it unless there is a desperate need.
Fun list. With frontrunner Matt Barkley out there, along with Washington quarterback Keith Price, a couple of USC wide receivers and A-list running backs like John White IV and Stepfan Taylor, there is certainly no wanting for offensive talent in the conference. Per usual.
Which players emerge will definitely be one of the more fascinating stories to follow in 2012.
1dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
3dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney