It’s that time of year again. Kirk Herbstreit of College GameDay came out with his 12th annual Herbie Awards today, handing out his college football superlatives for this upcoming season. Like last year, Oregon Ducks litter Herbstreit’s homage to the nation’s elite players, coaches and programs.
Kenjon Barner appeared at number four on Herbstreit’s opening list, Starring Role: Best Running Backs, behind South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore, Wisconsin’s Montee Ball and Arkansas’s Knile Davis. The case could be made for Barner at number one, especially with Davis and Lattimore both returning from season-ending injuries, but in Herbie’s defense, it’s awfully hard to justify putting a career back up at the top of this list. Barner also appeared at number two behind Denard Robinson on the Ouch! The Ankle Breakers list.
Keep this in mind, in LaMichael James’ Doak Walker Award winning 2010 season he rushed the ball 294 times for 1731 yards. In Barner’s career as a back up, he has rushed the ball 304 times for 1856 yards. That’s 10 more rushes and 125 more yards. Of course, James put those numbers up in the constant grind of the regular season, while Barner’s been able to space out his carries over the course of three years. If Barner, though, can keep his YPC over six, as he’s done throughout his career, he’ll be attending some award ceremonies come winter—much like his good buddy James did while at Oregon.
Barner’s partner-in-crime in the backfield this year, De’Anthony Thomas, was number two on Herbie’s Right to Excite: Most Exciting Players list. Oregon fans have the right to gripe at Herbstreit for not naming him number one. Especially after seeing what the dynamic wide receiver/running back/returner did in his true freshman campaign last year. But he is behind only West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, who, like Thomas, has the ability to take it to the crib every time he touches the football. Austin is a tantalizing talent who, in his senior year, is one to tune in to. Keep an eye on him and quarterback Geno Smith as sleepers to win the Big-12 in their inaugural season there.
Neither Brian Bennett nor Marcus Mariota appeared on the list of best dual-threat quarterbacks, but you have to figure that’s because Chip has yet to name a starter. Both would likely be on the bubble for one of the last two spots after VT’s Logan Thomas, KSU’s Collin Klein and Michigan’s Denard Robinson.
Dion Jordan got noticed as one of the best defensive ends in the game in Herbie’s list, End Game: Defensive Ends—The Dirty Dozen. Luckily for Jordan, Herbstreit expanded his usual five players per list pattern to twelve for the defensive ends this year. Jordan came in at number nine and looks poised for a monster season coming off the weakside for coordinator Nick Allioti’s much-hyped defensive unit.
Oregon has put together quite the “Big Three” on defense with Jordan on the line, Michael Clay in the middle and John Boyett in the secondary, but the four-year starter, Boyett, failed to appear on Herbie’s Top Safties list. As much as I respect Herbstreit’s college football knowledge, I think it’s fair to say he missed on this one. Boyett, or maybe USC’s T.J. McDonald, could be the best safety in the nation, and curiously, both missed the list.
Michael Clay missed out on being named one of the top five outside linebackers, but finds himself on the Shhhh, Don’t Tell: Best Kept Secrets list at number four. Certainly Clay is no secret to Oregon fans, but Herbie wisely highlights Clay as a player that fans around the nation will soon know more about. Last year, studs Lamar Miller of Miami, C.J. Mosley of Alabama and Logan Thomas of VT appeared on the same list. Mariota, or Bennett for that matter, very well could have topped this list had a starter been named by now.
Speaking of Mariota, Herbie named the redshirt freshman quarterback the number one Ahead of the Curve player, saying, “Marcus Mariota will provide a big spark for Oregon.” Ducks fans saw what the smooth operating Mariota could do in the spring game, and will likely know in the next week or so whether he will be shining this fall. Herbstreit seems to think so, as does this reporter.
Herbstreit was right on point last season, picking UCLA to win the South and lose to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. Unfortunately for Ducks fans, he missed on picking Oregon over Alabama in the National Championship game, though he was pretty close on that prediction. This year, he’s picking USC to beat Oregon in the Pac-12 championship. He has USC losing to Florida State in the title game. Florida State as National Champions? Color me confused on E.J. Manuel leading the perpetually underachieving Jimbo Fisher led Seminoles to a National Championship. But besides that, and John Boyett’s exclusion, I’d say Herbie did a pretty good job in his 12th annual look at the upcoming football season. Let’s not forget the best part of the Herbies, though—it means college football season is just around the corner.