After Oregon’s LaMichael James finished No. 3 in the 2010 Heisman Trophy voting and No. 10 last year, it’s natural to wonder if 2012 will finally be the year that a Duck captures the most coveted individual award in all of American sport.
And this thought leads directly to James’ heir apparent, sophomore RB De’Anthony Thomas.
So, what will it take for Thomas to boldly go where no Duck before him has gone and ascend to the pinnacle of solo greatness?
First and foremost, for any Oregon player to win the Heisman, the Ducks will have to hit double-digit wins, and they’ll more than likely need to be in contention for a national championship. This means that Oregon will have to take a defense that has given up an average of 25 points per game to Arkansas State, Fresno State and FCS Tennessee Tech and run the table on the rest of their schedule.
The Ducks’ remaining slate includes home games against Washington, Colorado, Stanford plus and the suddenly ranked Arizona Wildcats, plus road trips to Washington State, Arizona State, USC, Cal and Oregon State.
And when the day is done on the regular season, if eligible, Oregon will have to play in the second annual Pac-12 Championship—and win—to keep Thomas’ name on the ballot.
Though the lineup isn’t as scary as, say, an SEC West or Big Ten Legends schedule, it won’t be easy.
Next, Thomas has to start racking up some serious yards, which means he’s going to have to get more touches, a commodity that has thus far this season been scarce. To illustrate, Thomas has carried the ball only 13 times thus far in 2012 while senior RB Kenjon Barner has 56 carries.
The net result is that Barner boasts 324 yards and six scores through three games, while Thomas has 228 yards and four scores. Evidence that is hopeful for Thomas enthusiasts surrounds the fact that he has been more productive per carry than his elder teammate: Thomas boasts 18 yards per carry while Barner’s YPC is six.
An additional push in Thomas’ direction is the fact that he’s gained 80 yards and had three scores as a receiver, a number that Barner falls well short of with just 45 receiving yards and zero end zone visits.
The truth is that comparing De’Anthony Thomas to Kenjon Barner, while interesting, has little to do with a legitimate Heisman race because if he makes a real run his numbers will have to stack up with the likes of Matt Barkley, Geno Smith and Landry Jones…not a teammate with whom he shares carries.
What really needs to happen to make Thomas’ Heisman hopes blossom into a beautiful flower is for him to be utilized more often, and in a big way, as the Ducks enter the meat of their schedule.
The blueprint for Thomas to win the bronze statuette is clear: Oregon must win at least 10 games, be a legitimate BCS team and he absolutely must get more touches to showcase his athletic ability.
You simply can’t be deemed the best player in college football if nobody sees you play.