Only 76 players in the history of college football have earned the designation of Heisman Trophy winners. First awarded in 1935, the Heisman Trophy is considered the sport’s pinnacle of individual achievement.
SaturdayBlitz.com is tracking the race to the 78th Heisman Trophy throughout the 2013 college football season via the Heisman Top 25. Every week throughout the season, we are tracking the progress of the contenders, both their on-field impact and media presence.
It’s easy to forget that Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk was held in the same prestige in recruiting circles as former South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore and former Auburn RB Michael Dyer. After initially choosing offensive juggernaut Oregon, Seastrunk seemed like he could be in line for the brightest future.
That sentiment disappeared when Seastrunk became the focal point of an NCAA investigation surrounding Willie Lyles. Seastrunk’s decision to leave the Ducks in favor of Baylor – just 37 miles from his home town, Temple – could leave him as the strongest finish to a collegiate career of the three.
It took the rising junior most of last year to find his place in the Bears offense. Once he did, though, it took coach Art Briles no time to realize Seastrunk needed more carries. Despite not starting – or receiving more than seven carries in a game – until November, Seastrunk rushed for 1,012 yards on just 131 attempts. He also posted huge games against strong competition, including a 185-yard, 1-TD effort in a landscape-changing, 52-24 upset over No. 1 Kansas State. And as Johnny Manziel knows, nothing launches a Heisman candidacy like taking down No. 1.
Seastrunk rushed for 100 yards or more in five of his six starts and went for 130-plus yards three times. Perhaps more importantly, the Bears went 5-1 when Seastrunk received the bulk of the carries.
How Lache Seastrunk Wins The Heisman
This sounds elementary, but Briles must decide Seastrunk is the man from Day 1 and stick with him throughout the season. Then again, it’s an easy choice if Seastrunk continues his trend of electrifying play he displayed over the final six games of last season.
Unless Seastrunk goes for 2,000-plus yards in 2013, he will likely need Baylor to be successful on the national scene as well. “Success” at Baylor carries a different meaning than it does elsewhere. QB Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy after a 9-3 regular season, so it’s not as if the Bears must win a BCS national championship. Still, it wouldn’t hurt Seastrunk’s chances if Baylor would at least pretend like it could find a defense.
Being the focal point of one of the nation’s top offenses would certainly bode well for Seastrunk. He has a chance to do so. The Bears ranked fourth in passing yardage and points scored and 14th in rushing yards.
Perhaps Seastrunk’s biggest struggle is Baylor’s schedule. The Bears don’t have any marquee non-conference matchups and won’t really be in the national spotlight through the first two months. A Thursday night, nationally televised game at home against Oklahoma might provide the greatest opportunity for Seastrunk to announce his candidacy. Baylor must be relevant enough at that point for voters to pay attention. A three-game stretch to close the season features contests against Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas. Finish strong and Seastrunk has a chance.
• 131 rushes, 1,012 yards (7.7 yards per carry)
• 7 rushing TDs
• 9 receptions, 107 yards, TD
Compared To Past Heisman Winners
Mark Ingram, 2009: Ingram came from off the radar to win the 2009 Heisman Trophy largely because Alabama made its march toward the BCS national championship. He had a great season, running for 1,658 yards and 17 TDs and catching 32 passes for 334 yards and 3 TDs. Still, Ingram likely would have been an afterthought if not for the perception of dominant SEC defenses and the Crimson Tide’s team achievements. It’s easy to forget, but Stanford RB Toby Gerhart out-rushed Ingram by 200 yards and scored 11 more rushing TDs that season.
Reggie Bush, 2005: Bush’s skill set more closely resembles that of Seastrunk’s than does Ingram’s. During his Heisman campaign, Bush rushed for 1,740 yards and 16 TDs, but he did much more than that. He also caught 37 passes for 478 yards and 2 TDs and returned a punt for a TD as well. Having the quintessential Heisman moment doesn’t hurt, either. Bush enjoyed his on a sensational punt-return touchdown against Washington (of which, unbelievably, a YouTube search couldn’t produce video). Seastrunk will have some chances late in the season to turn in the types of sensational plays that will stay in voters’ minds during the first weekend of December. That might be his greatest chance to win the hardware.