The sophomore product of Canyon del Oro High validated his coach's praise Saturday night in UA's loss to Oregon State. Carey rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns -- nine yards and two scores more than Montee Ball and Johnathan Franklin accrued combined against the Beaver rush defense.
Those are impressive enough statistics even before taking into consideration that Ball was coming off a Heisman finalist season in which he rushed for 33 touchdowns, and scored six more receiving to surpass Barry Sanders' total output from the legendary 1988 campaign. Franklin had entered into far-too-early Heisman discussion for this season when Oregon State came to Pasadena, averaging more rushing yards per game than over 70 teams.
Neither could solve the Beaver defensive front. Carey didn't just solve it by finding holes, he created them. He literally carried Beaver tacklers to the end zone with him on one score in the second half.
Carey started slowly in his true freshman season, with then-offensive coordinator Robert Anae struggling to find carries to distribute between Carey and senior Keola Antolin in the pass-heavy version of the spread offense. But the local kid broke out late in the season, and has yet to show signs of a sophomore slump in his first campaign as the feature back.
In Carey, Arizona may just have its first star running back since Trung Canidate. There have been a host of quality backs to come through Arizona Stadium since Canidate left after the 1999 season, but none have produced near his 1600-yard, 11-touchdown level.
Clarence Farmer had a sensational sophomore campaign in 2002, but his tribulations thereafter became symbolic of the Mackovic era. Mike Bell, an in-state who spurned Arizona State for the red-and-blue, was a rock throughout trying years in the program. Perhaps because he never played with the same starting quarterback throughout
Chris Henry had all the tools NFL scouts love, but didn't produce. Nicholas Grigsby's battles with injuries hindered his ability to become that breakout feature back long alluding UA.
The superstitious might look at the numbers the aforementioned successor's to Canidate's throne and get nervous, because most peaked as sophomores. Grigsby and Farmer both had their sole 1000-yard campaigns, and Bell reached his career high for touchdowns as sophomores.
But then, if history repeats itself, Carey is headed for a big season. He already has 538 yards and seven touchdowns, well on his way to eclipsing the 1000-yard mark and on pace to challenge Canidate's 16-touchdown benchmark for rushing scores.
Saturday's trip to Stanford will demonstrate just how ready for prime time Carey is. Oregon State proved its defensive rush mettle against Wisconsin and UCLA, two very good ball carrying teams, but a small sample size nonetheless. Few teams are as good against the rush, provably over more than a season's worth of games, as the Cardinal.
Carey has a long way to go before he can labeled anything, star or otherwise. But right now, he's burning awfully bright. Another breakout showing and the s-word will be on the tip of many tongues.