Before the start of this football season, the Heisman prognosticators did the unthinkable; they mentioned two running backs from the State of Arizona as Heisman dark horse candidates. Neither of the two will end up being a finalist for the 2013 Heisman. Nonetheless, their stock is rising rapidly for their future Sunday football value, particularly following a successful Pac-12 Weekend. On October 19, one ran for 236 yards against a team that had the week earlier knocked off a Top 5 ranked team and the other ran for 158 yards and scored three touchdowns against a Top 20 opponent.
Arizona Wildcat Ka’Deem Carey is near the top of everyone’s running back draft board. Assuming he foregoes his senior year, Carey is projected to go by the second round and after his forty carry performance against Utah, he is gaining even more attention from NFL General Managers and Coaches. Carey has remarkable open field running skills that more than make up for his less than blazing speed. He is also a workhorse, seeming to increase in effectiveness as the game moves on. If there are questions, they relate to his ability to hold onto the football and questions about character. Carey was alleged to have been involved in a domestic violence incident, which was later dropped. But with the financial investment a team must make with a high draft choice and Roger Goodell’s less than zero tolerance for behavior unbecoming the game, Carey could be his own worst enemy.
ASU Sun Devil Marion Grice honed his running back skills on the JUCO level playing for Blinn College in Texas before coming to ASU last year. He has not accumulated eye-popping yardage stats but he has demonstrated an uncanny ability to be a factor in both the run and passing game. More importantly, he has a nose for the end zone, scoring 18 times after only seven games of the season, including four touchdowns against each Wisconsin and USC. Some compare his skills to Matt Forte of the Bears, although Grice is a smaller version. Also, Grice’s pass blocking ability is more comparable to a matador at a bull fight than an NFL caliber running back. He better work on that if he hopes to have his name called as a projected third to fourth rounder in next year’s draft.
Despite their identified shortcomings, I am a strong buyer of both Carey and Grice stock. The NFL offensive game is evolving with the spread and up-tempo offenses. Guys like Darren Sproles, Ray Rice and even Danny Woodhead are having as much value as bruising backs such as Marshawn Lynch and Steven Jackson.
I think both Carey and Grice will have a featured role on Sundays starting next year, Heisman hopeful or not.