COOK'S CORNER

SEC’s Bray, McCarron join Lattimore on Heisman radar

Ben Cook

September 12, 2012 at 6:28 pm.

 

Tyler Bray has looked sharp so far this season. (Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE)

SEC players have won three of the last five Heisman Trophies, and before the season began, it appeared that the league had at least three viable candidates for the Trophy again this season.

Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina and Knile Davis and Tyler Wilson of Arkansas were considered among the top Heisman Trophy candidates when the league kicked off its games. So where are those three now when the talk turns to the Heisman?

Lattimore, coming off a knee injury last season, has gotten off to a decent start. In the first two games, both wins for the Gamecocks, Lattimore has rushed 36 times for 150 yards and scored three touchdowns. His 75.0 yards per game ranks him seventh in the SEC. The 6-foot, 218-pound junior has also caught five passes out of the backfield for 29 yards.

“It’s kind of weird,” Lattimore said after South Carolina’s win over East Carolina. “The way I felt last week compared to the way I feel this week, it’s just a huge difference. I wasn’t even thinking about my knee, and it’s feeling great. My knee is feeling great. My body is feeling great. I’m at a good weight right now, and I’m just going to keep pushing all season.”

Lattimore only logged 40 yards on 13 carries against East Carolina to follow up on a 110-yard, 23-carry effort in the opening game against Vanderbilt. Lattimore’s season got off to an inauspicious beginning when he fumbled on his first carry against Vanderbilt.

“After that first play, it wasn’t a good play, and I hated that happening, but I just had to forget about it,” he said. “After a few runs, I started to feel like myself again.”

When Lattimore feels like himself, he is extremely dangerous and certainly is worthy of being in the Heisman Trophy race. He is 13th on the South Carolina’s career rushing list with 2,165 yards, is one TD shy of the school record with 30 touchdowns and has topped 100 yards in a game nine times. He has also caught 22 career passes for 159 yards and one touchdown.

Davis, also coming off an injury, has rushed 34 times for 132 yards and two scores through two games. He’s also caught one pass for 19 yards. The 6-foot, 226-pound junior’s 3.9- yard per carry average is fairly good, but is not Heisman worthy yet. Although he was coming off an injury, Davis has been named to the Doak Walker, Maxwell and Walter Camp Award watch lists.

Davis wasted little time getting into the end zone on his return from last season’s injury. He scored on a 5-yard run with 2:01 left in the first half of the season opener against Jacksonville State.

“It felt really good to be back out there,” he said. “I think I did okay for the first game back, but I’ve got to get a lot better. When I scored, Tyler (Wilson) came up and said, ‘congratulations and welcome back.’ Everybody congratulated me. That was cool.”

Davis finished with 70 yards on 18 carries against Jacksonville State and followed that up with 62 yards on 16 carries in the Louisiana-Monroe loss. While his Heisman Trophy hopes took a hit, Davis still has his eyes on the team’s goal of winning the SEC.

“That is still attainable,” he said. “We haven’t played those games yet. Any game we can win or lose. Yes, it is still attainable.”

Wilson’s numbers were great until he was injured in the second quarter of Arkansas’ loss to Louisiana-Monroe. He took a hit to the head that knocked him out of the game and his Heisman campaign took a blow when the Razorbacks lost to the Warhawks. In less than a game-and-a half, Wilson has completed 30 of 47 passes for 563 yards and five touchdowns and has been intercepted once.

Including last season and the two games this year, Wilson is 12-3 and holds 11 school records, including career completion percentage (63.0), and has produced three of the top-five single-game pass completions totals. He also ranks in the top 10 in school history in career passing touchdowns (36), career pass completions (374), career passing yards (4,941), career pass attempts (594) and career total offense yards (4,888).

He is second in the country with an average of 11.22 yards of total offense per play. His average of 18.77 yards per completion leads the SEC and is third in the NCAA. Wilson also leads the SEC and ranks 3rd in the NCAA in pass efficiency with a rating of 195.30.

There is little doubt that Wilson’s injury was a contributing factor to Arkansas’ loss to ULM, although Razorback coach John L. Smith wouldn’t use that as an excuse.

“We have to pull together,” he said. “We all contributed to the loss. I don’t want to see any finger pointing, which is naturally what you get after a loss. That is an easy thing to do; that is what losers do. They point fingers. So, hopefully we have no losers.

“I hope they wrap their arms around each other and come to work, get better, and get ready for Alabama. ULM came in here and beat us; there is no reason for us not to get ready to beat Alabama.”

Wilson’s Heisman campaign can be resurrected with a win Saturday against Alabama, the No. 1 team in the nation. Until then he will just have to live on his resume to the present, which is a pretty good one.

Since the season started, however, some other SEC players have generated Heisman-type numbers and are worthy of being mentioned in early-season Heisman chatter.

Tennessee’s Tyler Bray, Mississippi State’s Tyler Russell and AJ McCarron of Alabama are having super seasons as are running back’s Mike Gillislee of Florida and Alfred Blue of LSU.

There’s still a long way before the Heisman talk really heats up, but for now, the aforementioned players are on the radar for college football’s most prestigious award.