1. QB Adrian Martinez, Soph. Nebraska
The general belief was that time logged in was the only thing missing.
Martinez was the hand-picked quarterback by Scott Frost to run the Nebraska offense, and he was thrown to the wolves as a true freshman in a tough situation. There were plenty of square pegs in round holes for the Huskers, and it was a true transitional period, but Martinez kept on improving.
There were true freshman mistakes, but he still completed 65% of his passes for 2,617 yards and 17 touchdowns with eight picks, and he ran for 629 yards and eight scores.
Now that he knows what he’s doing, on the high side, there’s a chance he becomes Johnny Manziel when it comes to explosion, magic, and total yards. It’s not insane to suggest he could push past 3,500 passing yards and hit 1,000 rushing yards, and it’s not crazy to think there could be a Manziel vs. Alabama – or Lamar Jackson vs. Florida State – moment that takes over the Heisman race.
He can get on the map with a big first four weeks to build up the stats – including in a high-profile date at Colorado – before hosting Ohio State. Rip up the Buckeyes, and it’s Game On for the Heisman. He almost did it last year – throwing for 266 yards and a score, and running for 72 yards and two touchdowns – in the 36-31 loss.
And then it all ties into the team. The 2018 Huskers left five wins – at least – on the table, but a more mature team comes up with around an 8-4 season. That’s what the Huskers will do this year.
What other quarterback will put up massive numbers on a good team that probably won’t be in the College Football Playoff hunt?
Alternative … QB Kelly Bryant, Sr. Missouri
There’s a reason he went to Missouri, and there’s a reason he’s staying there after the NCAA handed down a bowl ban for this year. Bryant wants to develop into an NFL quarterback and put up a big season in the high-powered Tiger passing attack.
Get ready for him to turn it loose and look the part, and he has the schedule to make things interesting in the Heisman race. If he starts strong – beating West Virginia, South Carolina and Kentucky – he’ll be set up for the showdown at Georgia. The Tigers get a week off to prepare, and he’s amazing in an upset, a finalist spot is possible.