Biggest Heisman Trophy Sleepers in the Pac-12

Lisa HornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterFebruary 22, 2013

Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Austin Seferian-JenkinsSteven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

It's way too early to talk Heisman contenders, which means this is the perfect time to amuse ourselves with all things college football until spring camps start. 

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is the clear-cut favorite to win his second Heisman, but there are some players in the Pac-12 who just may have something to say about that.

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was named the Pac-12's Freshman Player of the Year, and he certainly will be on everyone's Heisman watch list. But watch out for running back De'Anthony Thomas. Last season, Thomas' role was limited due to Kenjon Barner's 1,767-yard season, but with Barner gone, the spotlight should be on Thomas.

USC receiver Marqise Lee had a single-game record-breaking 2012 when he hauled in 16 catches for 345 yards last year. Lee finished second (1,721 yards) nationally in receptions behind Baylor's Terrance Williams (1,832). While he's probably not a "sleeper" since he finished fourth on Heisman ballots, he still would be a surprise since so much focus has been on SEC teams.

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley had a breakout 2012, and if he can avoid a sophomore (redshirt) slump, he should be a legit contender. Hundley threw for 3,740 yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his freshman year. UCLA will have some high-profile games this fall, including a date at Nebraska on September 14, and that should help his Heisman campaign. 

Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks hauled in 67 catches for 1,151 yards and five touchdowns but was barely noticed by the national media. With Markus Wheaton (1,244 yards, 11 touchdowns) now off to the NFL, look for Cooks' stats to drastically increase to Heisman-worthy stature.

Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey was the nation's No. 1 rusher for 2012, yet all the talk was about Alabama's Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. Sure, Alabama won the BCS championship, so its players should receive a lot of attention, but Carey was basically forgotten in all of this. Count on Rich Rodriguez to start the Heisman hype in the Wildcats' season-opener on August 31.

Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a school record holder and finished as a John Mackey Award finalist in 2012 as a true sophomore. This Husky is ridiculously talented—he actually played in the defensive end position against Colorado and recovered a fumble.

All of these players will be watched carefully throughout the 2013 season, and who knows, one of them may strike the pose this December.