Well, that was quick. The 2018 Heisman Trophy ceremony was barely over before USA Today had published its list of the "top 10 contenders" for 2019.
Adrian Martinez was on that list.
Here's a name to watch coming out of the Big Ten, as the latest Scott Frost quarterbacking pupil to put up crooked numbers and set school records at the helm of a high-powered offense. As a true freshman in 2018, Martinez threw for 2,617 yards with 17 touchdowns with another 629 rushing yards despite missing all of one game and being physically limited in several others with a knee injury. As seen during his coaching career, Frost's quarterbacks explode as second-year starters. Martinez will be no exception.
I don't know if Marcus Mariota qualifies as a "Frost quarterback" in the classic sense –– Frost was Oregon's wide receivers coach at the start of Mariota's career, its offensive coordinator at the end –– though the two remain linked anyway. Mariota didn't make a huge jump in Year 2 compared to Year 1, which might be because his first season was so strong –– 7.1 yards per carry, 163.23 passer rating, 37 total touchdowns. Mariota also had the benefit of a redshirt season.
But McKenzie Milton certainly displayed the "explosion" mentioned for second-year starters. UCF's quarterback went from a 57.7 percent passer as a true freshman to 67.1 as a sophomore, 5.9 yards per attempt to 10.2, 10 touchdowns to 37 and a 112.97 passer rating to 179.29.
Martinez won't be able to make such a dramatic jump in 2019 as his freshman numbers were better. Combine that with Frost's track record, and it's not a shock to see Martinez on the list. In the Hail Varsity offices we started kicking around that idea –– Do you think Adrian will get some Heisman buzz? –– among the staff in early November.
And here we are barely a month later. The Associated Press's Ralph Russo also included Nebraska's quarterback in his roundup of 2019 candidates.
The Big Ten is well represented on both lists. Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, third in this year's voting, will be one of the leaders if he's not playing NFL football. Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor received first-place Heisman votes in each of his first two seasons and will be back for a third. Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore and Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins also made USA Today's list.
The Grab Bag
- Kyler Murray’s Heisman win over Tua Tagovailoa was one of the closest of the past decade.
- It was a long journey for Gary Andersen to end up back at Utah State.
- Derek Peterson on what Nebraska’s win over Creighton meant for Tim Miles.
- Greg Smith catches up with Nebraska running back commit Rahmir Johnson after his weekend visit.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.