4. Miami QB Brad Kaaya
Miami’s produced plenty of Heisman finalists, but no ACC Heisman finalists. The last representatives from The U. to make their way to New York were Ken Dorsey and Willis McGahee in 2002 (though Andre Johnson probably should have gone in Dorsey’s place, grumble grumble).
More recent Hurricanes have had some Heisman hype, like Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris, but faltered as time wore on. So what makes Brad Kaaya different this time around?
Well, at least one ACC coach considers him “the model quarterback.” Entering his third season as the starter at Miami, Kaaya made strides from his freshman season to his sophomore campaign, and should improve further as a junior.
Kaaya passed for 3,238 yards a season ago, improved his touchdown-to-interception ratio and did so playing behind an at times shaky offensive line. If Mark Richt gets the Hurricanes to ACC title contention in 2016, Kaaya could develop into the top ACC Heisman contender by season’s end.
3. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson’s freshman campaign for Louisville was a revelation. Jackson’s skill set deviates from the quarterbacks who typically captained a Bobby Petrino offense, but the Cardinals built around his dual-threat explosiveness.
Smart choice. Jackson scored 23 total touchdowns, 11 on the ground, and came a few first downs shy of entering into the illustrious 1,000-1,000 Club. Never mind four digits both passing and rushing in 2016, though — Jackson’s capable of joining the 2,500-1,000 Club as a sophomore.
Louisville’s stymied somewhat playing in the same division as Florida State and Clemson. Should the Cardinals shock college football and jump into the Atlantic race with the Seminoles and Tigers, however, expect Jackson to garner his share of Heisman attention.