6. NOTRE DAME QB DeSHONE KIZER
DeShone Kizer went from third on Notre Dame’s depth chart to a celebrated standout and potential Heisman candidate in remarkable time. Everett Golson’s transfer after losing the starting quarterback job to Malik Zaire opened the door for Kizer to replace Zaire, after the latter suffered a season-ending injury Week 2.
All Kizer did with his opportunity was pass for 21 touchdowns and rush for another 10. Kizer looked every bit the ideal quarterback for Brian Kelly’s spread system, combining surprising speed on a prototypical pocket-passer’s frame.
Kelly is once again faced with an intriguing, spring quarterback competition. Zaire looked good in Notre Dame’s 2014 Music City Bowl win, and even better in his limited appearances in 2015. However, Zaire’s overall, in-game sample size is dramatically smaller than Kizer’s.
5. OKLAHOMA QB BAKER MAYFIELD
Baker Mayfield’s 2015 numbers warranted Heisman consideration. What does the Oklahoma dual-threat (triple-threat if you count his dance moves) have planned for an encore? He already passed for an absurd 36 touchdowns against just seven interceptions and rushed for another seven scores. He surpassed 4,100 total yards in 13 games
Another offseason in offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s system could take Mayfield to even greater heights and into the 2016 Heisman race. Riley’s previous quarterback protege, East Carolina’s Shane Carden, made a significant jump in his production in his second season playing in the coordinator’s scheme.