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October 27, 2010

Heisman Watch: Blackmon grabs attention

The awards watch
A weekly look at the top three candidates for some key postseason awards:
Outland (best interior lineman)
Butkus (most outstanding LB)
Nagurski (most outstanding defensive player)
Thorpe (most outstanding DB)
Rimington (most outstanding center)
Biletnikoff (most outstanding WR)
(most outstanding wide receiver) 1. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
2. Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
3. Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
Doak Walker (best running back)
Mackey (top tight end)
Lou Groza (top kicker)
Ray Guy (top punter)

Justin Blackmon is from Ardmore, Okla., which proves he didn't come out of nowhere.

But Blackmon, a sophomore at Oklahoma State, has risen from obscurity to surface as arguably the nation's best receiver and a legitimate Heisman candidate.

Whether he remains a Heisman candidate may depend on what disciplinary measures he may face. Blackmon was arrested on DUI charges in Carrollton, Texas, early Tuesday while returning from the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game. If he's suspended, Blackmon's Heisman candidacy could end just as it really was gaining momentum.

He put himself into the Heisman hunt with 157 receiving yards and two touchdown catches Saturday against Nebraska's heralded secondary.

Yet, in some ways, that was actually a subpar performance for Blackmon, who leads the nation with 158.8 receiving yards per game. He had a season-low five catches against the Huskers; he has had four games with at least 10 catches. The yardage total was just his fourth-highest.

Through eight games, Blackmon has 62 catches for 1,112 yards and 15 touchdowns, which also leads the nation.

Blackmon had 20 catches last season, and coach Mike Gundy said Blackmon worked diligently in the offseason to become an elite player.

"The biggest factor with him, in my opinion, is after the Cotton Bowl and the offseason and throughout spring ball, he had tremendous work habits," Gundy said. "He understood the importance of preparation and to practice well and train hard in the weight room.

"Those are all the key ingredients of what makes a good football player. Once he realized how important that was, he was able to make that change. Some guys, it takes two or three years to figure that out, and he figured it out after his first year."

No receiver has won the Heisman without also excelling on special teams and Blackmon doesn't return kicks. But receivers have been given more Heisman consideration in recent seasons. Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald finished second to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White in the 2003 voting, and Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree was fifth in '08.

This week's top five:

1. QB Cameron Newton, Auburn: He has rushed for at least 176 yards in four consecutive games against SEC opponents. That includes last week's 217-yard outburst against an LSU defense that had been third in the nation. He has accounted for at least two touchdowns in every game.

2. RB LaMichael James, Oregon: James averages 161.8 rushing yards per game, which leads the nation. He's rushed for at least 123 yards in five of the six games in which he has played. He's also among the nation's scoring leaders with 12 touchdowns. Six of his scores have come on plays that covered between 35 and 84 yards.

3. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State: The nation's leader in passing efficiency, Moore had 16 touchdown passes and only one interception going into Tuesday night's game with Louisiana Tech. He has completed nearly 70 percent of his passing attempts and has thrown for at least 196 yards in every game for the Broncos. He also led a winning drive in a crucial season-opening victory over Virginia Tech.

4. WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State: He has emerged as the most productive receiver in the nation. He has had more than 100 receiving yards and at least one touchdown catch in every game.

5. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford: Also among the nation's most efficient passers, Luck has completed better than 66 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,728 yards and 19 touchdowns with only five interceptions.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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