Although it is early in the season, standout performances from Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas have created the inevitable Heisman hype.
In Oregon’s first three games both players have easily made the highlight reel and have finished games with pretty stellar stat lines.
Mariota, the redshirt sophomore, looks to be the Heisman frontrunner after his performance in the Ducks 59-14 win over Tennessee.
In that game, Mariota completed 23 of 33 passes, throwing for 456 yards and four touchdowns. For the season so far, the 6-4 211 pound Hawaii native, has thrown for almost 900 yards and seven touchdowns, while completing almost 60 percent of his passes. To add to those numbers, Mariota has threw no interceptions.
But what Mariota has done on the run has been equally noticeable, picking up 262 rushing yards on 15 carries and four touchdowns. Simply put, he is a dual threat.
His quarterback rating rating stands now at 97.4, which is the second highest rating by a player in the last 10 seasons. Russell Wilson holds the top spot at 98.6.
However, in order to win the Heisman, Mariota will need to continue to prove why he is the best quarterback in the conference and the country. Proving that will not be a clear-cut victory for Mariota, who will most likely have to compete with Heisman winner last year, Johnny Manziel and Clemson’s quarterback Tajh Boyd, who have both put up big numbers in the first three weeks.
Although with all the attention, Mariota still says his focus lies on winning games.
“For me that’s (the Heisman) individual acculation,” Mariota said. “Especially around here we don’t even really talk about it, that’s not something that my focus is on. I am just going to continue to do what I need to to make this team work and to make this team be successful.”
Linning up behind Mariota in the backfield, running back De’Anthony Thomas has also been a name thrown around with the Heisman Trophy so far this year.
Thomas has 42 touches for 338 yards in the first three games, averaging eight yards per attempt, and has managed to reach the end zone six times. Thomas also is a threat in the return game and is averaging about 22 yards per kick return. For Duck fans, its hard to forget his 94-yard opening kick-off return in the Fiesta Bowl last year. Thomas is definitely capable of providing that spark in any game.
Thomas appears more steady this season and looks more certain about where is he going with the ball. Thomas had a career-high for carries with 18 in the the Ducks’ season opener against Nicholls State. He also rushed for over 100-yards in his first two games this season.
Although it will be difficult to for Thomas to outshine Mariota in the race for the Heisman, Thomas could cause some heads to turn if he continues to carry the ball as much as he has without losing steam.
The Heisman hype surrounding Mariota and Thomas is similar to when Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart were at USC. In 2004, Leinart threw for 3,322 yards and 33 touchdowns., completing 65.3 percent of his passes. Bush technically won the Heisman in 2005, although Bush returned his Heisman in 2012 following the following the NCAA sanctions. In his 2005 season, Bush rushed for 1,740 yards and 16 touchdowns. Bush averaged 8.7 yards per carry at the conclusion of the season.
Beyond their talents, one thing that Leinart and Bush both had at USC was exposure. If Oregon can continue their success and earn a ticket to the national championship, both Mariota and Thomas will have no problem in getting that same exposure.