Pac-12 Football's Dark-Horse Heisman Candidates for 2013

Lisa Horne@LisaHornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterApril 22, 2013

Pac-12 Football's Dark-Horse Heisman Candidates for 2013

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    We are a little less than eight months away from the 2013 Heisman Trophy award presentation.

    Texas A&M quarterback Johhny Manziel, the 2012 winner, will certainly be a front-runner, but let's not count out South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney or Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. 

    But what about the Pac-12?  

    In the Conference of Champions, there are plenty of elite players who could strike the pose this December. Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota is a legitimate contender. So is USC receiver Marqise Lee.

    Oregon State, once it settles its quarterback dilemma, could produce a Heisman winner in either Cody Vaz or Sean Mannion—once head coach Mike Riley finally decides who will be the starting quarterback. 

    In the meantime, there are players who may have the kind of year that thrusts them into the spotlight. 

    Here's are six Pac-12 players to watch. We're not making any predictions, of course, but we are expecting  big things from them this fall that could change the whole Heisman race.

Brett Hundley, Quarterback, UCLA

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    Last season, Brett Hundley debuted his arm (and legs), passing for 3,745 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushing for 355 yards and nine touchdowns. 

    Hundley did all of that under his second head coach and playbook in two years. Now that there's a lot more stability in the program, coupled with a stout offensive line led by Xavier Su'a-Filo, Hundley's production—as well as that of the entire Bruin team—should see a dramatic rise this fall. 

Kevin Hogan, Quarterback, Stanford

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    After Kevin Hogan replaced Josh Nunes as the starting quarterback last fall, the post-Andrew Luck era officially began. So far, it's been a glorious breath of fresh air.

    Hogan is undefeated in his six starts, including a 17-14 overtime win over Oregon, a 27-24 win over UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship Game and a 20-14 win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. 

    Remember when we all wondered how Stanford would rebound from Andrew Luck?

    Carry on, Cardinal. 

Ka'Deem Carey, Running Back, Arizona

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    Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey rushed for 1,929 yards and 23 touchdowns and was the country's leading rusher last season, yet he didn't receive a lot of attention from Heisman voters. Carey has, however, recently received a lot of attention over his offseason woes

    As of now, no official suspension has been announced, but even if Carey were to be suspended, Arizona's first three games of the season are against Northern Arizona, UNLV and UTSA, and his absence won't affect the outcomes of those games.

    Still, if Carey can avoid suspension and pick up where he left off last season, look for his status to rise with Heisman voters.

De'Anthony Thomas, Running Back, Oregon

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    I know what you're thinking. Why is De'Anthony Thomas on this list? He should be on the preseason Heisman list, right?

    The problem for DAT is the Ducks have played a lot of night games and a lot of Heisman voters don't get to see the wake he leaves on football fields. Complicating the matter is that around half of the Ducks' games were only aired on the Pac-12 Network—a lot of potential viewers and voters didn't have the opportunities to watch this remarkable back show off his talents from the backfield or on special teams.

    That should change this fall. The Ducks play host to Tennessee on September 14 in a game that will have a wider national reach.

    Keep your eyes on DAT, man. 

Taylor Kelly, Quarterback, Arizona State

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    Taylor Kelly passed for more than 3,000 yards last season and had an outstanding touchdown-to-interception ratio of 29-9. Kelly's 67.1 completion percentage was also "a school record (300+ passes)," according to the Sun Devils' official website.

    The Sun Devils have a front-loaded schedule this year, including a brutal four-game stretch of Wisconsin, at Stanford, USC and Notre Dame (at Arlington, Texas), so there are plenty of potential big-game moments in Kelly's future.

    Splitting those four games—at the minimum—could see Kelly receive more attention from Heisman voters provided he keeps up his stellar level of performance.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tight End, Washington

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    School record-setting tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins wasn't at the Washington Huskies' spring game last Saturday—he's suspended from team activities until his legal situation is resolved. 

    But the John Mackey Award finalist should be back soon and will be instrumental in the Huskies' new up-tempo, no-huddle offense. Seferian-Jenkins had 852 reception yards last season and averaged more than 65 yards per game. That's impressive for any receiver, much less a tight end.