Lamar Jackson’s Heisman Trophy run did not come out of nowhere. Last year he provided some obvious clues about what lay in store with a spring game performance that, even through the critical lens required to assess any April box score, hinted at a huge sophomore leap: 24 of 29 passing, 519 yards, eight touchdowns. That stat line served as proof that the vast potential Jackson flashed in a Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M in 2015 (four touchdowns, 453 total yards) was not anomalous.
No one this spring may have bolstered his Heisman CV to the extent Jackson did last spring, but several players made compelling cases that they shouldn’t be discounted in the race this fall. Here are five guys who established themselves as dark-horse candidates over the previous three months.