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One Burning Question: Kent State

Is Dri Archer a legitimate Heisman contender?

Kirk Irwin

Finally, the final of our "One Burning Question" series is here as we take a look at the Golden Flashes of Kent State. Today's question isn't necessarily burning as it pertains to the team, rather, it's a debate that ranges the entire spectrum of college football.

Know about Dri Archer? No? Start reading up. Archer took the MAC by storm last year, rushing for 1,429 yards and 16 touchdowns while also being the team's leading receiver. The coupling of him and Trayion Durham in the backfield led to a combined 2,700-plus yards on the ground and 30 touchdowns. Archer also returned three punts to the house in 2012 while averaging 37 yards per return. All of this was enough for him to garner 1st-team All-American honors as an all-purpose player.

He'll probably be the most explosive player that the Lions line up against all year.

But, do all of these accolades and all of this talent make Archer a legitimate Heisman contender? Since 2000, only 19 players from non-power conferences have been in the top-10 in voting for the Heisman and, of those 19, only four have been running backs (LaDanian Tomlinson, DeAngelo Williams, Ian Johnson and Kevin Smith). Here's how their numbers stack up:

Year Player Yards Average TDs Record Place
2000 Tomlinson 2,158 5.8 22 10-1 (#16) 4th
2005 Williams 1,964 6.3 18 6-5 (N/A) 7th
2006 Johnson 1,714 6.2 25 12-0 (#8) 8th
2007 Smith 2,567 5.7 29 9-4 (N/A) 8th
AVERAGES 2,101 6 24

As you can see, LT was the closest to taking home the bronze statue, probably due to his ridiculous 406-yard game against UTEP in November of that year, a performance one could have deemed his "Heisman moment" if he had gone on to win the trophy. When you compare these numbers to the two running back who have won the trophy in the past 13 years, USC's Reggie Bush and Alabama's Mark Ingram, you can see that the numbers are much better from the lesser-known players as Bush and Ingram only averaged 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns. Both of those guys played in the national championship, though.

So, what exactly would Archer need to do to take a trip to New York? Well, Kevin Smith proved that even super-human numbers won't get you anywhere close to winning. He does have the advantage of returning punts and being an all-around player to rack up stats. He does have the opportunity for those moments everyone needs early on in the season with games at LSU and at Penn State. As a running back, he would probably need to put up numbers near that of Barry Sanders in his record-breaking, Heisman-winning season of 1988 (maybe combined through rushing and receiving). Oh, and Kent State would have to run through the MAC again this year and head to a BCS bowl for some national recognition.

So yeah, it's probably a pipe dream. If Archer played for Michigan or Ohio State or Oklahoma or South Carolina, he'd be near the top of everyone's list, but the dim lights of Kent, Ohio don't shine down as brightly on this star which is a shame because he's one of the best college football has to offer this year.

To close out, here are some words from a Golden Flash in our midst, Jared...

Dri Archer is a threat to find the end zone every time he touches the ball thanks to a lethal combination of speed and field vision. He is not easily contained, as made evident by this just plain bonkers 74-yard touchdown run against Bowling Green, easily the most exciting play of the entire 2012 college football season. Archer would be on the Heisman shortlist if he were with a major program, but the Venice, Florida speedster and former two-star prospect ended up at the only FBS school to offer him a scholarship. His size scared away other programs, and he's had no problem proving them wrong as a Golden Flash. Archer has a huge advantage by sharing the backfield with Trayion Durham, another Doak Walker Award candidate who rushed for 1,316 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2012. The elusive Archer is much more difficult to catch once Durham has worn down a defense with his more physical, north-south running style.

And from Hustle Belt blogger Matt Sussman:

He's exciting and productive enough to win the Heisman, but he plays at Kent State so his odds are bupkus unless the team goes 13-0 and reaches a BCS game. This will not happen. Still, he had maybe the most electrifying season in the MAC since Randy Moss and could be the most versatile player the conference has ever seen. He can run between the tackles, go outside, line up in the slot, and return kicks and punts. (Kent State had the best starting field position after kickoffs in the country because teams were too frightened to even kick to him. He isn't going to win the Heisman, but he will turn heads -- usually those of defensive backs, followed by a deep sigh and a return to the sideline.

For more Kent State news, head over to All-MAC-Everything SB Nation blog, Hustle Belt.

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