Kenjon Barner: In a crowd of talent for the Heisman Trophy

Kenjon Barner eluded the question like it was a lumbering defensive end.

“Where do you think you stand in the Heisman race?”

Oregon’s senior running back deserves to be asked the question. Barner’s averaging nearly seven yards per carry, and he’s found the endzone 15 times this year. His numbers are even more remarkable considering he’s watched the second halves of games from the bench more often than not. Ah, the luxury of a blowout.

“I don’t know, man,” Barner eventually said. “I don’t worry about that. That’s not my concern.”

But it’s a concern for Heisman voters, many of whom tabbed Barner’s teammate De’Anthony Thomas as the Ducks’ best shot at the award to begin the season. However after Thomas’ slow start to conference play — last week’s electrifying punt return aside — it’s the veteran, the man who backed up Oregon’s last Heisman finalist, generating the most buzz.

HeismanPundit.com compiled a list of ironclad rules, “The 10 Heismandments,” detailing the shortest road to the golden stiff-arm. Most of the rules are standard and work in Barner’s favor: “2. Juniors and seniors have the overwhelming advantage in the Heisman race.” But even the quirkier rules apply to No. 24.

“10. The winner must be likeable.”

Barner’s million-dollar smile and easy demeanor rank up there with Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, the last two NCAA studs to hoist the trophy.

Maybe the biggest hurdle Barner faces is the overwhelming talent around him. There’s Thomas, eating up precious carries and converting them into points. Under center, a certain redshirt freshman quarterback is still waiting for his first career loss. Unlike Collin Klein’s situation at Kansas State, Barner doesn’t have the keys to the car. He can only do what’s asked of him, when it’s asked of him, and capitalize on his opportunities.

An interesting thing happened on Oct. 20. With Kansas State eviscerating West Virginia (and Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith’s own Heisman campaign), Klein played into the fourth quarter. The game was out of reach, and Klein was still slinging the ball, padding his impressive stats.

That simply does not happen under head coach Chip Kelly.

So whether the problem is a product of the Ducks’ success or not, it might be a good thing the award doesn’t concern Barner. But if he continues to warrant profiles in the New York Times, don’t bet against him taking a postseason trip to New York City.


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Matt Walks

Matt Walks