USC Football: Why Matt Barkley Will Never Be Surpassed as Heisman Front-Runner
Along with the incredible expectations that are being heaped upon the 2012 USC Trojans, comes the notion that perhaps their fearless leader, quarterback Matt Barkley, may be in line for some personal hardware of his own.
Barkley has been tabbed far and wide to win the Heisman trophy and with good reason.
Besides his marvelous physical and leadership abilities, he will be leading a highly regarded team that features probably the best receiver tandem in the nation in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.
There are many other reasons why Barkley is considered a front-runner for the stiff arming little guy but that is not what this slideshow is about.
Instead, we will look at some of Barkley's competition and whether or not they have what it takes to supplant him as the likely recipient of college football's highest individual award.
So lets get started on the competition and make a case for each of them to win the award that many have already assigned to USC's No. 7.
DeAnthony Thomas (Oregon)
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Okay, let's get this out of the way.
For the sake of full disclosure, let's just say I am not a DeAnthony Thomas fan and Trojan fans know why but that is not why he stands no chance of overtaking Barkley for the Heisman.
Broken promises aside (again, Trojan fans will provide a knowing nod here), Thomas, while admittedly an electric player, simply will not hold up to the rigors of playing that a serious candidate will have to deal with.
In order to make a serious run at the award, Thomas will have to put up big time numbers and at 175 lbs., his body will not take the pounding needed for serious consideration.
Plus, USC gets Oregon at home this year and when (oops), I mean, "if" they win that game, the Trojans will get the northern divisions champion at the Coliseum, which does not portend well for that likely USC opponent. (Yes, I am giving the Trojans the south's division crown.)
That means USC will have beaten the Ducks and Thomas twice.
DeAnthony Thomas a serious Heisman candidate?
Give me a break.
Denard Robinson (Michigan)
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As exciting a player as there is in college football, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson suffers from the same size deficiency as Oregon's Thomas.
And while I have much more faith in Robinson's ability to withstand the hits he will most certainly take than I do Thomas, the Wolverine gunslinger has other issues to deal with.
First he loses a lot of experience on his offensive line including outstanding center David Molk, tackle Mark Huyge and tight end Kevin Koger.
This means that Robinson will need to air it out even more which requires an outstanding receiving corps and in this area, he is missing that true "go to guy" with Junior Hemingway's departure.
Plus, since first impressions are important, Robinson gets to open against Alabama and that is not a good thing by any stretch of the imagination.
Sorry Denard, no Heisman in your future this year...
Landry Jones (Oklahoma)
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If there is a quarterback to be feared in Barkley's pursuit of the Heisman, Oklahoma's Landry Jones was that signal-caller.
Jones is a very talented quarterback, who, like Barkley, turned down NFL riches to return to the Sooners for one last year.
There are two problems with Jones however.
One, despite a plethora of tools for the position, he has been fairly inconsistent, especially last year.
But perhaps even more troubling is that his wide receivers, once a strength of the team, has been whittled down to bare bones with the indefinite suspensions of Trey Franks, Kameel Jackson and Jaz Reynolds.
Now its possible—perhaps even likely—that Bob Stoops allows them back on to the team at some point this year.
But until he does, it leaves only Kenny Stills, while a fantastic receiver in his own right, as the only reliable pass-catcher for Jones.
Hardly the recipe for a Heisman.
Montee Ball (Wisconsin)
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Don't get me wrong, Montee Ball is a helluva running back.
But with the Badgers breaking in a new quarterback after Russell Wilson's graduation, defenses will be trying first to take Wisconsin's running game away.
You know what that means, right?
Even great running backs are hard pressed to succeed in one dimensional offenses.
No Heisman for you, Mr. Ball.
Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina)
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Speaking of marvelous running backs, South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore certainly fits the bill.
Fast and powerful, the junior to be has everything one looks for in a premier tailback.
Unfortunately, he has one other thing as well, a bum knee.
Last year Lattimore tore a ligament and cartilage against Mississippi State and will be coming back from the devastating injury in 2012.
The good news for him is that he has the dedication to return to the form he flashed prior to the injury, but until he actually does it, his Heisman hopes are suspect at best.
Tyrann Mathieu (LSU)
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Probably the most exciting kick returner in the college game today, Tyrann Mathieu set the sport on fire last year when he became a single man wrecking crew both in the return game and in the defensive backfield for the Tigers.
Incredibly dynamic, the "Honey Badger" (or whatever he is calling himself these days) can disrupt opposing coaches' game plans in a myriad of ways.
But he does have his limitations too.
Not a great "cover guy," Mathieu can be had by bigger receivers who can exploit his diminutive (5'9", 180 lbs) size.
However, the biggest obstacle Mathieu has in winning the Heisman is the position he plays.
While it is not unheard of for a defensive player to win the trophy, it is very unlikely and there are too many talented offensive players for this to happen in 2012.
Sammy Watkins (Clemson)
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As is the case with any list, there are bound to be omissions and certainly they are in abundance here.
A case could be made (and for fans of each program, they will) for a bunch of very talented players not the least of which are:
Taylor Martinez (Nebraska)
Tajh Boyd (Clemson)
Collin Klein (Kansas State)
Tyler Wilson (Arkansas)
Aaron Murray (Georgia)
Geno Smith West Virginia)
All very good players and worthy of consideration to be sure.
Others, including wide receiver Sammy Watkins (Clemson), linebacker Jarvis Jones (Georgia) and running backs such as Alabama's Eddie Lacy are just a few other players who will have tabs kept on them as the season progresses.
But can any of them surpass Barkley for 2012?
With a cautionary acknowledgement of Andrew Luck—whose Heisman was almost certified before Robert Griffin III showed up last year—in a word: