Heisman Week: Pac-12 loaded with dark horses

Waiting for the next Superman.

My colleague Aaron Torres ran down the favorites to capture the Heisman Trophy in 2012, but I doubt you saw any major surprises there. That’s why they’re the favorites.

The last two Heisman winners, though, have come from way off the radar – Auburn’s Cam Newton in 2010 and Robert Griffin III of Baylor a year ago.

It seems unlikely that any of our five dark horse candidates will be sporting their Superman socks in the Big Apple in December, but you never know. This time last year, RG3 supposedly couldn’t carry Andrew Luck’s jock.

Moving in alphabetical order down a list heavy with Pac-12 names:

Casey Pachall

Casey Pachall, QB, TCU

If you’ve seen Pachall play, you undoubtedly remember the gunslinger with a big arm and even bigger persona.

Pachall had his coming out party in a November win over Boise St. on the blue turf in which he threw 473 yards and 5 TDs in leading the Horned Frogs to an upset over the heavily favored Broncos.

Pachall and TCU now head to the Big 12 with some bad vibes surrounding the program following an offseason of tumult. Texas Christian may have the most talented passer in the league, however, and a strong showing in year one in the conference would likely get Pachall some notice. The defensively challenged Big 12 could make for a nice launching pad for a Pachall Heisman run, too.

Keith Price, QB, Washington

When last we saw Price, he and last year’s Heisman winner were duking it out in an Alamo Bowl shootout that made Chris Spielman want to puke. Price came up on the losing end that night, but he returns this year as the dynamic triggerman for one of country’s up-and-coming programs in Washington.

The Huskies’ junior quarterback actually nudged out Matt Barkley in 2011 to finish second in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency and should really bloom in his second season piloting Steve Sarkisian’s offense. UW faces a brutal schedule this season, but the Huskies certainly have the pieces to potentially challenge Oregon for the league’s North division. If so, Price will have a big hand in that.

Silas Redd, RB, Penn St.

Last season was one of few smiles in Beaver Stadium in the wake of stunning allegations of sexual abuse leveled against longtime PSU assistant Jerry Sandusky and the passing of legendary coach Joe Paterno. A quick turnaround under new coach Bill O’Brien wouldn’t erase all the trauma suffered by the program and school in ’11, but it might go a long way towards bringing some happy back to Happy Valley.

As a sophomore last season, Redd pounded out nearly 100 yards rushing per game, one of the few bright spots on a truly dismal PSU offense. If the Nittany Lions are going to get things moving in the right direction, Redd will have to play a huge role, because having Matt McGloin under center at QB is begging for a season of offensive frustration otherwise.

With the media glare still focused on State College, albeit for entirely different reasons, a big year from Redd could garner plenty of Heisman-like attention.

De'Anthony Thomas

De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon

You probably know Thomas as “Black Mamba,” the Ducks’ electric multi-purpose threat who averaged nearly 11 yards per carry – yes, 11 – as a true freshman a year ago.

Thomas and teammate Kenjon Barner make up the nation’s most frightening backfield in 2012. With decorated predecessor LaMichael James off to the NFL, there should be that many more opportunities available for Thomas to take it to the house.

Thomas returns kickoffs, too, having scored twice on returns a year ago. Those kinds of highlights never hurt a Heisman candidacy.

Marquess Wilson
Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington St.

Mike Leach has brought his air show to Pullman, guaranteeing the Cougar faithful plenty of passing yards, points and pirate lectures.

Craig James’ arch nemesis actually enters the scene at Wazzu with impeccable timing. Wilson and QB Jeff Tuel could potentially offer a Pac-12 man’s version of the Graham Harrell-Michael Crabtree combo that provided the foundation of Leach’s best teams at Texas Tech.

Without Leach, Wilson was still one of the most productive pass catchers in the country a year ago, averaging 115.7 yards receiving per game. Imagine what playing in the Air Raid could do for his numbers this fall.