Even with the departures of Utah State running back Robert Turbin to the NFL and Utah’s Harvey Langi to a Mormon mission, the state of Utah is filled with running back talent.
All three major schools (Utah, BYU and USU) boast candidates for the Doak Walker Award, given to college football’s premier player who can tote the pigskin.
John White, Utah, Senior
Of the three in-state candidates it is the speedy, elusive and undersized White who will get the most early hype. The 5-foot-8 senior from Torrance, Calif. (Harbor JC) was also named a preseason third team All-America.
Last year White rushed for 1,519 yards and 15 touchdowns, and averaged a whopping 116 yards per game.
He also helped lead the Utes to a Sun Bowl win over Georgia Tech and was named the game’s MVP.
This year, the Utes’ second in the Pac-12 Conference will be vital for White to get out of the gate fast and impress voters.
Kerwynn Williams, Senior, Utah State
This flamboyant 5-foot-9 inch, 184-pound speedster from Las Vegas may be the one to watch because of his impressive statistics last season — even when Turbin got most of the carries and the accolades.
In limited action Williams still gained 542 yards on just 81 carries, an unreal 6.7 yards per carry.
That amazing stat ranked him third all-time on Utah State’s single-season rushing average list. But when you consider that Williams is not just a ground gainer (he nearly amassed 1,000 yards in punt and kick returns) you realize he is a very special player indeed.
2012-13 is Williams’ year to shine. No longer is he under the immense shadow of Turbin, and it will be interesting to see how he stacks up against the higher-profile players in the country. We could all be very surprised at how he turns out.
Michael Alisa, Junior, BYU
Alisa is certainly the lesser known of the three award candidates, but after a reportedly strong spring that helped distance himself from the other BYU running backs, the burly 6-foot-1, 213 pound native of Laie, Hawaii is ready to carry the load. (See the video!)
In the Cougars’ second season as an independent Alisa is probably the least likely — though he’s undoubtedly the largest among the state’s three award candidates — to be a factor.
That could also be due to last year’s numbers as a sophomore when Alisa rushed for just 455 yards and three touchdowns on about the same number of carries as Williams. (85, to be exact.)
In limited situations as a starter, however, Alisa showed his potential, rushing for 91 yards in a win over San Jose State and a season-high 99 against Idaho, both of which were wins.
Alisa also had a 5.4 yards per carry average.
The state hasn’t had as many running back talents in years. So for Utah college football fans, it will be a treat to watch all three backs ply their trade.
All three are so different from each other. White is a quiet lightning bolt who shows up to the field and plays more like a bulldozer. Williams is a flamboyant, multi-talented speedster who’s known as much for his hair as for his electric playing style. And Alisa is pretty much how he’s advertised, a no-nonsense throwback who finds holes and runs through them, off-tackle.
White is the odds-on favorite to have a great year, but Ute fans don’t need to be reminded about promising running backs (Matt Asiata) who suffered a debilitating injury early on, when so much was expected. Williams wants out of Turbin’s shadow and Alisa comes into the season with something to prove.
Because football is so unpredictable, anything can and will happen and that alone will make this season even more exciting to watch.
The PwC SMU Athletic Forum Board of Directors will name the semifinalists on November 9, and the Doak Walker Award National Selection Committee will cast votes to determine the finalists, who will be announced on November 19. The committee will cast a second vote beginning on November 26 to determine the recipient. The National Selection Committee consists of former NFL All-Pro and college All-America running backs, media members and selected special representatives.
The recipient of the 2012 Doak Walker Award will be announced live on The Home Depot College Football Awards on Thursday, December 6, on ESPN. The Doak Walker Award Presentation Banquet will be held in Dallas, Texas, in February 2013.
Obviously White, Williams and Alisa hope to be there and hear their names called.
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