Why Arizona State's Marion Grice Is a Heisman Dark Horse

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Why Arizona State's Marion Grice Is a Heisman Dark Horse
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Marion Grice's versatility and ability to score make him a dark horse Heisman candidate going into 2013.

There is a lot of hype surrounding Arizona State football coming into 2013, and if all goes as planned, don't be surprised to see Marion Grice in New York come awards season.

ASU running back Marion Grice came to ASU last season as a JUCO transfer from Blinn College.

He put together a solid season while sharing time with Cameron Marshall and freshman D.J. Foster in 2012. Grice accounted for 19 total touchdowns, ran for 679 yards, had 425 receiving yards and averaged 6.6 yards per carry last season.

With Marshall graduated, Grice will get even more touches in 2013, and more touches means more touchdowns.

With a year under his belt at ASU, Grice should be able to perform at an even higher level than last year.

Grice's versatility, game-changing ability and nose for the end zone will make him a Heisman Candidate come year's end.

 

Versatility

Last year, Johnny Manziel went from obscurity to the national spotlight. ESPN's Kevin Gemmell says that Grice might be on that same path: 

You have to start with ASU’s Marion Grice, who is going to continue putting up fantastic dual-threat numbers as a runner and receiver. He’s packed on more weight and ASU offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said they've expanded the playbook now that he and quarterback Taylor Kelly are a year into the system.

Grice is the most versatile Sun Devil on ASU's roster. He can line up in the backfield or as a wideout and be just as successful.

His sneaky-quick speed and good hands make him a threat anywhere on the field.

The title of the video to the right is self-explanatory, but after just watching a minute of the video anyone can see how special a player Grice is.

There are plays where he puts his head down and runs between the tackles, plays where he runs a flat route and turns it up the sidelines and plays where he simply beats his man off the line and makes an over-the-shoulder catch like a wide receiver.

He can do it all, and do it well.

 

Game-Changing Ability

To win the Heisman, a player needs to be a game changer. Grice is a game changer.

Last year, ASU traveled to Tucson to play their annual rivalry game against the University of Arizona. It's the biggest game of the year for both schools and Grice stepped up by having his best game of the year.

He carried the ball 18 times, had 156 rushing yards, averaged 8.7 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns in ASU's win.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Grice's breakaway speed makes him a game changer.

In the Sun Devils' Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl victory, Grice ran for 159 yards on 14 carries and scored two touchdowns. He averaged 11.4 yards per carry in that game.

When the lights shined brightest, Grice rose to the challenge.

ESPN's Travis Haney (Subscription Required) lists Grice as the No. 4 player he expects to have a breakout season in 2013 due to his ability to make key plays:

I’m cautious, but it sounds as if betting on Grice seems like one of the spots that should guarantee returns. As Graham almost immediately pointed out, Grice, as a newcomer, scored a touchdown every 7.5 carries (19 total touchdowns in 144 touches) last season. So he was essentially De’Anthony Thomas without the Oregon spotlight. Graham said Grice, the JC transfer who outran incumbent Cameron Marshall, could wind up a dark horse Heisman candidate. Big talk, right? Except Grice will have enough big-game opportunities, that’s for certain. In addition to the Pac-12 schedule, the Sun Devils host Wisconsin and play Notre Dame at Jerry World.

Being compared to Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas?

Not too shabby.

Grice's success will play a pivotal role in how ASU fares in 2013, and as Haney said, he will have plenty of big games to prove he's worthy of Heisman consideration.

 

Nose for the End Zone

Grice knows how to score.

As stated earlier, he scored a touchdown every 7.5 carries last season. Basically, if ASU needed a touchdown, it was a sure bet Grice was getting the rock.

Last year's Heisman winner, Johnny Football, won the award for his ability to score essentially at will. Grice has that ability and will showcase it even more in 2013.

Ben Haber of houseofsparky.com writes that, while Grice had a great 2012 campaign, more touches in 2013 basically guarantees more touchdowns:

The 6'0, 204-pound senior has a knack for exposing defenses with his bulldozing strength and dynamic open field speed. Grice's downhill approach allowed him to capitalize on red-zone chances nine out of 44 times (20%). For comparison's sake, the nations leading rusher, Ka'Deem Carey, registered a 16.8 percentage in the same situations. The numbers are slightly skewed because of sample size, yet it certainly doesn't hurt Grice's candidacy to be one of the top ball carriers in the nation. In spite of being criminally underutilized, Grice shockingly accumulated the third most touchdowns in the conference. 

The video on the right shows how, despite Grice's smaller build, when he gets the ball he's going to the house.

Despite a wall of defenders, Grice still manages to get into the end zone for the score. That is exactly what he does best, score.

He can make guys miss in the open field with his arsenal of moves or put his head down and power forward, no matter what he's going to make it to the end zone.

If Grice can improve on what he did well in 2012 and get more touches, he will be in New York for the Heisman ceremony at the end of the season.

 

All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from ESPN.com.

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