With the Baylorverse mostly bereft of news today and my promise not to being preparing for UCLA until next week in effect, it's time to look to Baylor's best chance to bring home another bronze man in 2013: RB Lache Seastrunk.
I know what you're thinking: Mark, you've really got to let this obsession with Lache Seastrunk go. It's not healthy and you're only going to get hurt. Fat chance on that! Lache has been freed and was nothing less than the most exciting offensive player the Baylor Bears had in the last five games of the regular season, a stretch in which, need I remind you, we went 4-1. Correlation doesn't equal causation, but it might almost equal causation. What I'm trying to say that is that Baylor wins a lot when Lache Seastrunk is doing Seastrunkings on opposing defenses. And I enjoy watching those Seastrunkings because they're awesome. Check them out for yourself if you don't believe me.
Getting back to the point at hand, now is the time when you're going to start seeing, if you haven't already, watch lists of varying size and scope for next year's Heisman Trophy. Having just won one a few days ago, Johnny Manziel obviously deserves a spot on these lists, as does Jadeveon Clowney, probably the best non-Teo candidate in recent memory to have a real chance at becoming the first pure defensive player in history to win the award. Having finished fourth in the voting this year, USC's super-sophomore wideout Marqise Lee should make just about every short list, as should Braxton Miller, who got a bit of buzz despite the fact that his Buckeyes were in football purgatory this season and everybody agreed with a wink and a nod not to include him in the conversation initially. Because of the offense they run in Eugene and the way he ran it this year, fellow sophomore Marcus Mariota will get his fair share of attention, as will whatever pocket-passing SEC QB du jour makes a run and gets a bump from his conference's standing (ie, A.J. McCarron, Aaron Murray). All of those players are and probably should be fine choices if you were putting together a list of the favorites for next year's award at this point.
Today, I humbly submit that there is one name glaringly omitted from the list that deserves recognition for how he finished 2012, and you already know who that is. Starting at the macro level for the entire 2012 season, Lache Seastrunk's campaign doesn't jump off the page as one rocketing a heretofore underwhelming former-5* recruit to the forefront of the college football consciousness. Looking to the future, however, I think it a tremendous oversight not to include him. Let's look first at his overall statistics for this year, when he actually led Baylor in rushing despite barely playing in basically half the season:
Seastrunks 874 rushing yards are good enough for 72nd in the country this season, about half of Jordan Lynch's nation-leading 1,771. His 6 rushing TDs put him tied for 130th behind such notable runners as our own Nick Florence (9) and SMU QB Garrett Gilbert (7). I'm not arguing that his overall season stats merit consideration for Heisman watch lists alone, even though his 7.6 yards per carry is second in the country among players with over 100 attempts behind only Dri Archer. Looking more closely at the way Seastrunk finished the season will show you what I'm arguing.
In the last five games of Baylor's season, Seastrunk never had fewer than 15 rushing attempts in a game and averaged 8.06 yards on those attempts. Per game, he racked up 160 total yards (that includes receiving) and 1.0 touchdowns. Average those numbers alone out over 12 games with similar usage patterns and you get 1920 yards of total offense and 12 touchdowns. Note that those numbers are taken from averages against Big 12 defenses which, despite the negative reputation, are better than those of the non-conference opponents we typically play.
To do this a little more scientifically (but not much), I'm going to start at Lache's last five games and work backwards, forgetting for a moment for the quality of opponent he'll face to start next season in Buffalo, SMU, and ULM but upping his carries per game slightly to take into consideration the fact that we'll likely lean heavily on our running game in 2013 with a first-year QB in Bryce Petty. I won't go too high since I'm not sure how many carries per game our offense wants to give him and he'll still have to split time with Glasco Martin, so I'll settle at 20 carries per game,* a small increase from the end of this season but still an increase. Glasco probably gets the majority of carries inside the red zone since he's the bigger back, but I don't think a jump to something like 1.0-1.2 rushing TDs per game is at all unreasonable.
*Note: It's entirely possible that with more carries on the season, Seastrunk's average per game actually comes down. This happens often with faster backs in order to reduce wear on them over the course of a year. Longer runs could also bring down his average per game, though in that situation, the yardage necessary would remain. Either way, 20 carries per game seems simultaneously ambitious and conservative. Just keep that in mind.
Using Lache's 8.06 yards per carry from this season's last five games, multiplied by 240 (20 carries per game times 12 games) gives you 1934 yards rushing yards, almost certainly the absolute upper end of Lache's potential for next season and a phenomenal year in every respect. Not even Terrance Ganaway in 2011 (when he rushed 250 times, by the way) matched that number. Lowering his ypc to the average over this entire year of 7.6 gives a much more realistic, but still incredibly impressive, 1824. That's just in rushing yards. Lower it another half-yard to 7.0 puts him at 1680, 133 yards over where Ganaway set the Baylor single-season record last year.
Should Lache put up a year of almost 1700 yards rushing and somewhere between 12 and 15 TDs (or more), notwithstanding any potential increase in his receiving stats, I have a hard time believing that kind of year, combined with his highlight reel, won't garner him at least some buzz for the Heisman Trophy. That's not too far off Reggie Bush's 2005 (when he won), Mark Ingram's 2009 (when he won), or LaMichael James' 2011 (when he finished 10th). The keys as I see it will be increasing his touchdowns into the 15-18 range (where Ingram was) and, of course, ensuring Baylor as a whole has a good year. Though the last two winners came from teams with 3 (Baylor) and 2 (Texas A&M, so far) losses, any more than that and it's extremely difficult, if not downright impossible, to win the award.
The goal as I see it for Lache's production for him to have a serious chance at the award should be 2000 total yards. Given good health (knock on wood) and continued improvement in learning the playbook and protections (because it could lead to more chances as a check-down option in the passing game), it's conceivable that Seastrunk hits that mark. If he can while playing against a Big 12 schedule, he has as good a chance as any to take home the award. I would be extremely surprised if any player from a BCS conference, regardless of his team's eventual finishing record, ever surpassed that total and didn't get Heisman consideration.
The hashtag I'm going to use on twitter will be #LacHeisman2013, and I hope you join me. He's our best chance in 2013 to bring the Trophy back to Baylor University, and I'm extremely excited about his potential for next year. #LacHeisman2013 has begun!
If demand rose high enough, I might even make LacHeisman shirts. Just saying.