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CFT Previews: Six-pack of Heisman dark horses

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The early frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 will be Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. But history suggests the preseason favorite or favorites for the Heisman Trophy have a rough time getting to the end of the season as the frontrunner. Every season sees new Heisman contenders come and go and the favorites going in may run into a rough patch that does significant harm just because they were the favorite at the start of the season.

The preseason oddsmakers have labeled Lawrence and Tagovailoa as clear favorites for the Heisman Trophy this season, which leaves the pool full of possible darkhorse candidates. Here are six players who may already be flying on the radar or have a shot to skyrocket up the charts with some big performances this season.

ADRIAN MARTINEZ, NEBRASKA
Quarterback

Expectations are high for Nebraska this season as Scott Frost begins his second season on the job. One reason for the optimism this season, aside from the schedule and a wide-open division race, is quarterback Adrian Martinez. As a freshman, Martinez passed for 2,617 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed for 629 yards and eight touchdowns. His dual-threat ability should electrify the Nebraska offense this season and could be why the Huskers potentially play for the Big Ten title at the end of the year. A good spotlight performance against Ohio State in Lincoln would fuel the Heisman buzz if things go well for Martinez.

SAM EHLINGER, TEXAS
Quarterback

A year removed from throwing for 3,296 yards and 25 touchdowns while leading Texas to a regular-season victory over Oklahoma and a Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia, Sam Ehlinger should certainly be on the radar for the Heisman Trophy. Similar production this year with the Longhorns already starting the year in a good spot on the playoff radar should keep Ehlinger in the mix. Improving the touchdown total and leading the Longhorns back to the Big 12 championship game could very well result in a trip to New York at the end of the year for the Texas gunslinger.

SHEA PATTERSON, MICHIGAN
Quarterback

If the Michigan offense truly does improve by opening up the playbook and picking up the pace, as has been the big difference expected this offseason with a new offensive coordinator in charge in Ann Arbor, then Shea Patterson could have a shot. Patterson passed for 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns with seven interceptions last fall, his first with the Wolverines since transferring from Ole Miss, but those numbers likely won’t cut it. So if the Michigan offense does focus their gameplan more to Patterson’s skill set and comfort level, and if the Wolverines score some big wins along the way to a possible Big Ten title shot (which would include beating Ohio State in conference play and likely a non-conference victory over Notre Dame in October), then Patterson may have some possible marquee moments lined up.

AJ DILLON, BOSTON COLLEGE
Running Back

Quarterbacks may rule the Heisman Trophy conversation these days, but a running back can sneak up every now and then. As a true darkhorse candidate, last year’s leading rusher in yards per game may have the steepest uphill climb. AJ Dillon rushed for 110.8 yards per game last season in 10 games. And his touchdown total of 10 would certainly need to go up this year too. He should get plenty of chances to run the ball at Boston College, so the numbers could pile up.

JUSTIN HERBERT, OREGON
Quarterback

Perhaps the Pac-12’s top Heisman Trophy candidate is one the NFL scouts are already watching closely. Justin Herbert opted to return to Oregon for one more season rather than turn pro, and now he could have a chance to lead the Ducks back to the Pac-12 this fall. If he does, then he will likely remain in the Heisman discussion all season long. Herbert passed for 3,151 yards and 29 touchdowns last season. Improving the pass completion percentage would help, but scoring big wins against Auburn to open the season and later against Washington may be the key to a trip to New York.

JK DOBBINS, OHIO STATE
Running Back

Sure, Ohio State may have one of the more talented transfer quarterbacks looking to keep the offense humming this season (Justin Fields), but the Buckeyes may be wise to rely more on running back JK Dobbins this season. Dobbins saw his rushing total take a dip last season after a brilliant freshman season in 2017 (1,403 rushing yards down to 1,053 yards despite nearly 40 more rushing attempts), but he is still one of the top running backs in the Big Ten and it shows. If Dobbins is used more early on this season as the new quarterback gets situated in the offense, Dobbins should rack up some big numbers to get started. Spotlight games at Nebraska, home against Penn State and at Michigan spread out this season and down the stretch give Dobbins a chance to make some loud noises in the Heisman race.

We might as well talk about Jalen Hurts…

Oklahoma has been the home to the last two quarterbacks, with Baker Mayfield winning the award in 2017 and Kyler Murray taking the trophy back to Norman last season. Head coach Lincoln Riley could not have stepped into a better quarterback situation than he did when he took over for Bob Stoops in 2017. Now, with Murray off to the NFL, the Sooners bring in former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts. While Hurts may not be exactly the same kind of quarterback Mayfield or Murray were the past two years, the Sooners are gaining an experienced starter who has led his previous team to the national championship game in back-to-back seasons. There is a lot to like about this combination, even if Riley has a few things to work on with Hurts to get the offense where he wants it.

The odds a school claims three straight Heisman Trophy winners are likely against Oklahoma this season. No school has ever had three straight Heisman Trophy winners (Yale and Army have each had back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners; USC had back-to-back winners but one (Reggie Bush) has since been officially vacated; Ohio State has back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners courtesy of the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Archie Griffin). Could history be made? Sure. Why not? But the streak probably comes to an end in Norman this year, even if the season goes well for Hurts and the Sooners.

Missouri corner Christian Holmes dives into transfer portal

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Thanks to a potential departure from the Missouri Tigers football roster, we have our first, but certainly not last, portal post of the day.

Matt Zenitz of al.com was the first to report that cornerback Christian Holmes is heading toward the NCAA transfer database. A Missouri Tigers football official subsequently confirmed that Holmes has entered his name into the portal.

Normally standard operating procedures for football players in such situations, Holmes hasn’t yet addressed his impending departure on his personal Twitter account.

Holmes was a three-star member of Mizzou’s 2016 recruiting class. He was the highest-rated corner in the Tigers’ class that year.

During his time in Columbia, the Georgia product played in 35 games. He started a dozen of those appearances, including eight this past season.

The past two years, Holmes totaled 19 passes defensed, four tackles for loss and two interceptions. He returned one of those passes for a touchdown in 2018.

An injury sidelined Holmes for the entire 2017 season.

Missouri Tigers football is coming off a 6-6 season that led to the firing of head coach Barry Odom. Less than two weeks later, Appalachian State’s Eli Drinkwitz was hired as Odom’s replacement.

Odom, incidentally, landed on his feet as Arkansas’ defensive coordinator.

Purdue turns to Air Force for new D-line coach

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For the second time this week, Jeff Brohm has a new addition to his Purdue football coaching staff.

Tuesday, Marty Biagi was hired as special teams coordinator. Two days later, Terrance Jamison was hired as defensive line coach.

Jamison will replace Reggie Johnson, who wasn’t brought back for the 2020 season after three years with the Big Ten school.

“Terrance is a talented coach with a great background in defensive line technique and skill development,” the Purdue football head coach said in a statement. “He is an outstanding addition to our staff.”

Jamison spent the past two seasons as the defensive line coach at Air Force.

From Purdue’s release on Jamison’s hiring:

Jamison worked with an Air Force unit that finished in the top 20 in all of the Football Bowl Subdivision in a number of categories, including rushing defense (7th, 100.5), defensive touchdowns (12th, 3), total defense (17th, 319.6) and scoring defense (20th, 19.8).

Jamison has also spent time as line coach at Texas Tech (2017-18) and Florida Atlantic (2014-16). He’s also served as a defensive staffer at Wisconsin and Cal. With the Badgers, Jamison combined to serve four seasons as a student assistant (2008-09), quality control assistant (2011) and a graduate assistant (2012). With the Golden Bears in 2013, he was a quality control coach.

Minnesota’s Phillip Howard shifts gears, pulls name from portal

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For the third time in two days, this time to the benefit of the Minnesota Gophers football program, a player has reversed course on his portal intentions.

First, linebacker Andrew Pryts opted to return to Stanford. Then, it was wide receiver Kobay White shifting gears and making his way back to Boston College. Now, it’s Phillip Howard’s turn to pull his name out of the transfer database as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has reported that the cornerback will remain a part of the Minnesota Gophers football team.

Howard had first entered the portal earlier this month. On his Instagram account Wednesday, Howard seemed to intimate a change of heart by posting a picture of himself in a Gophers uniform.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Trials and tribulations… My story different ⏳

A post shared by Phillip Howard (@_philllyyy) on Jan 22, 2020 at 3:37pm PST

Howard was a three-star member of Minnesota’s 2016 recruiting class. He took a redshirt his true freshman season.

As a wide receiver, Howard started seven of the 11 games in which he played in 2017. That season, he caught 11 passes for 132 yards. The following season, he caught two passes for five yards.

In between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, however, Howard moved to the defensive secondary. This past season, Howard played in 11 games as a cornerback. He had one interception and one forced fumble.

On social media, QB Jarren Williams confirms intent to transfer from Miami

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For Jarren Williams, his move on from Miami is unofficially official.

Late Thursday afternoon, it was reported that Jarren Williams had signaled his intention to leave Miami by putting his name into the NCAA transfer database.  The news surfaced three days after Houston transfer D’Eriq King, now the overwhelming favorite to win The U’s starting job heading into the offseason, transferred to Miami.

Thursday evening on his Instagram account, Jarren Williams confirmed in a statement that his intent is indeed to transfer from Miami.

First, I want to start by saying that these decisions are never easy. But, after prayer and counsel, I have decided to enter my name into the transfer portal.

“I want to thank all of my teammates for that everlasting brotherhood, the coaching staff for giving me an opportunity and the diehard fans for their support for UM. I cam here with dreams of winning National Championships and my only regret is that I will not be able to achieve that goal.

“Life is a journey and in this world you will be confronted with a fork in the road. I am at that fork and sometimes you can’t look back. I am looking forward to what God has in store for me next. With that being said, I wish UM all the best and a Championship year! #GoCanes

History would suggest there’s the slightest of possibilities that Jarren Williams could return to Miami. In December of 2018, the true freshman quarterback was set to transfer before being talked out of it by then-head coach Mark Richt.

It was the first of many ups and downs for Williams at the school.

Following a much-discussed quarterback competition, Williams began the 2019 season as Miami’s starting quarterback.  After starting the first five games, a shoulder injury knocked the redshirt freshman out for the next two; a non-football issue sidelined him for another.

Williams regained the job in the week leading into the Florida State game, helping the Hurricanes to its most lopsided win over its rival since 2001 and triggering the firing of FSU’s head football coach.  A week later, Williams led Miami, 2-3 at one point in the season, to its third straight win and fourth in five games as The U overwhelmed Louisville 52-27.

It was a historic performance for Williams personally in the win over the UofL as he threw six touchdown passes in just 21 attempts.  The half-dozen scoring tosses set the football program’s single-game record.

For the season, Williams threw for 2,187 yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions.  The Hurricanes went 4-6 in games he started.

With Williams’ departure, Miami could head into spring practice with five quarterbacks on the roster: King, rising redshirt junior N’Kosi Perry, rising redshirt junior Tate Martell, rising redshirt freshman Peyton Matocha and true freshman Tyler Van DykeEspecially when it comes to Martell, that sinal-calling roster is most certainly subject to change.