Monday, August 17, 2009

2009 Heisman Watch: Jeremiah Masoli

It’s the most prestigious individual award in all of sports, and Athlon's Heisman Watch spotlights the top 25 candidates to hoist the trophy. Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is next on the 2009 list, which will be released in no particular order.

Oregon has a history of producing Heisman candidates at quarterback and Jeremiah Masoli could continue that trend this season. Amazing, considering he was listed as the fifth-string quarterback entering preseason camp in 2008.

Chip Kelly’s spread-option attack caters to a dual threat under center and Masoli is just that. At only 5-foot-11, but 215 pounds, Masoli is a powerful runner who improved as a passer as the 2008 season went along. He finished with 1,744 passing yards and 13 touchdowns while completing 57 percent of his passes. Add another 718 and 10 scores on the ground and you’ve got one of the nation’s most dangerous playmakers.

Comparisons to former Oregon standout and Heisman contender Dennis Dixon are inevitable. They’re very similar players, though Masoli is more likely to run over a defender than evade and breakaway like Dixon.

Still, Masoli is exactly what the Ducks were looking for when they needed a successor to Dixon last season. He led the Ducks to 31-plus points in six of their final seven games last season — all victories. Only a junior, his best football is likely still ahead of him and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to show why he’s the next great Oregon quarterback.

Why he’ll be holding the hardware: Oregon plays all kinds of showcase games this season beginning with Boise State on the first Thursday of the year. That means Masoli will have plenty of opportunities to show exactly what kind of a difference he can make in a game. 1,000 rushing yards is a realistic possibility

Why he’ll be left out: He’ll have to show he can throw the ball in some key moments this season and we’re not convinced he can win a game with his arm yet. Also, this is a year with plenty of West Coast Heisman candidates, so he’ll have to stand out that much more in his own region.

Final analysis: Masoli still isn’t polished enough to be considered a preseason favorite to reach New York, but that could change if he grows quickly as a passer and the Ducks challenge for the Pac-10 title.

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