Adrian Martinez

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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.

Nebraska finally wins first game under Scott Frost with blowout of Minnesota

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Well, it took a while, but Scott Frost has his first win as head coach of Nebraska. The Huskers (1-6, 1-4 Big Ten) picked up their long-awaited first win of the season in a 53-28 victory over Minnesota (3-4, 0-4 Big Ten) on Saturday.

Nebraska jumped out to a 28-0 lead on the Gophers in the first half, but a late touchdown by Minnesota at the end of the first half and two scores in the third quarter brought about some concern form the Husker faithful as the lead was trimmed to 28-22.  Fortunately for Nebraska, that was as close as Minnesota would get as the Huskers went on a 25-6 run to close out the game.

Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez completed 25 of 29 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns and he rushed for 125 yards and another touchdown for his finest start yet at Nebraska. Devine Ozigbo (152 yards, 2 TD) and Maurice Washington (109 yards, 1 TD) also had big days on the ground in the win as Nebraska rolled up 382 rushing yards as a team.

After the game, it was time to celebrate the win that took longer than expected to celebrate in the Frost Era in Lincoln.

After the game, Frost was awarded the game ball in honor of his first win with the program.

Nebraska was the last program form a power conference to record a win this season. UCLA picked up their first win last week.

Nebraska will now be in great shape to make it two straight wins for Frost as the Huskers will host Bethune-Cookman next week in Lincoln. The game against the FCS program was thrown together as a way to makeup a game against Akron wiped out due to inclement weather in Week 1.

Minnesota, one of two teams without a win in Big Ten play (Rutgers), will look for their first win in the conference next week when they host Indiana. Indiana comes to town after losing a close game to Penn State.

Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez could play in Week 3 as video of hit sent to Big Ten and Pac-12 for review

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After leaving his first official game as Nebraska’s starting quarterback on Saturday with a knee injury, freshman Adrian Martinez is reportedly day-to-day according to head coach Scott Frost. The even better potential news is there is a shot Martinez could be able to play in Week 3 as Nebraska looks to rebound from their season-opening loss to Colorado.

Frost provided the status update on his first major recruit to Nebraska with the media on Monday, saying the staff received very positive news about Martinez’s injury. At least, the news was as good as could have been hoped for given the situation.

Frost did not rule out the possibility Martinez may be able to play this weekend. Of course, the best course of action now is to be cautiously optimistic and not rush their quarterback back to the field if it would risk any additional damage to his body. After reviewing the film of the game, Frost said video footage of a Colorado defender going after Martinez’s leg to the Big Ten and Pac-12 for review.

In the meantime, Frost will prepare Nebraska’s offense for this weekend’s matchup with three quarterbacks preparing for action in the event Martinez is a no-go.