The USC Trojans' 2012 season hasn't gone quite as planned. At 18th in the BCS standings, they will finish the year far from their top-ranked preseason projection, but they should still have a deserving Heisman Trophy finalist in WR Marqise Lee.
Four-year starting quarterback Matt Barkley was supposed to be the one representing the Trojans at the renowned ceremony in New York City for college football's most prestigious individual award. However, the super sophomore receiver has enjoyed a year of video-game numbers as one of the nation's most outstanding players.
That's sort of a phrase to use, isn't it? Does anyone else have serious trouble playing NCAA Football on Heisman mode?
Anyway, Lee's all-purpose stat lines in his bid for the Heisman Trophy are nothing short of spectacular. So much so, that embedding the numbers even in some flimsy paragraph doesn't do them justice.
98 receptions, 1447 yards (14.8 average), 13 TDs
23 attempts, 677 yards (29.4 average), 1 TD
Lee also has 10 carries for 110 yards to boot. What makes his season more amazing is the fact that fellow Trojan wideout Robert Woods caught 111 passes and 15 touchdowns just one year ago.
A lifelong receiver in Woods and a staple under center for all of his years at USC in Barkley seemed much more likely to be holding the Heisman at season's end, but Lee—who was recruited as a safety and played just one year of receiver in college—is the likely candidate for the Trojans as the year winds down.
Speaking of playing safety, Lee lined up there against Arizona State last week for a 4th-and-1 play, which forced Sun Devils QB Taylor Kelly to do some extra thinking at the line of scrimmage. It resulted in a delay of game penalty and a subsequent punt (h/t ESPN Los Angeles ).
Put it this way: There's a reason USC Athletics just put together a highlight reel stating the case for Lee as a Heisman contender this past week.
The 6'1", 195-pound Lee has blazing speed and agility, making folks look silly in the open field. Combine that with his gifted ball skills, and it's impossible not to be mesmerized by how he plays the game.
The others on the short list of Heisman hopefuls probably include Kansas State QB Collin Klein, Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o, Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel and Oregon RB Kenjon Barner. That's fine, but can't there be room made for Lee as the fifth and final rep to trek to NYC?
If the Heisman does indeed go to the "most outstanding player" in collegiate football, it's hard to make a case against Lee not being at least a finalist. He brings so much versatility and value to the table, and has done nothing but produce all year long.
With two games remaining at No. 17 UCLA—which just gave up 34 points to lowly Washington State in Week 11—and Te'o and the third-ranked Fighting Irish, Lee will have ample opportunities to prove himself on the biggest stages.
I do "beLeeve" he will.