10. Georgia Tech QB Justin Thomas
Georgia Tech stumbled badly last season, quickly erasing much of the buzz generated from the Yellow Jackets’ outstanding 2014 campaign — an outstanding campaign Justin Thomas helped engineer.
Thomas might be flying under the radar heading into the 2016 season, but should the Ramblin’ Wreck rebound from the disastrous results of a year ago, Thomas can expect a return to the national stage.
Thomas is the most well-rounded quarterback Paul Johnson’s had captaining Tech’s option offense. He’s explosive on the run, exceeding 1,000 yards in 2014, but also dangerous with the pass, throwing 18 scores that same season. It’s easy to sleep on Thomas as an ACC Heisman contender coming into the season, but he’s proven more than capable of producing at an elite level.
9. North Carolina WR/Ret. Ryan Switzer
The dynamic, multifaceted skill set of North Carolina senior Ryan Switzer perfectly embodies the innovative offensive approach Tar Heel head coach Larry Fedora champions. He’s a speedy and elusive receiving option out of the slot, last year catching a team-best 55 passes.
While Switzer’s receiving stats are solid — six touchdowns and 697 yards — they’re not enough on their own to generate any real Heisman talk. Combine his importance to the Tar Heel offense with game-changing ability on special teams, however, and Switzer can build a case comparable to that of Desmond Howard in 1991.
Switzer’s returning chops garnered him Freshman All-American status in 2013, and could lead off highlights in 2016 if North Carolina finds itself back in the ACC title race.