Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston dominated college football in his first season as the starting quarterback, finishing a record-setting season with the Heisman Trophy and a national championship. So what can he do for an encore? The redshirt sophomore embraced the big stage last season immediately. In his prime time debut as the starter, he finished 25-for-27 for 356 yards and four touchdowns. In his final game, he led the Seminoles on an 80-yard drive and threw the winning pass to give FSU its third national title. But the stakes will be even higher this season, in what could be his final one in Tallahassee. He's the center of college football and the unquestioned leader of the near-unanimous No. 1 team.
"It's all about what you do now," coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters recently at ACC media days. "You have to live in the moment, you have to proceed to the future, learn from our past experiences, and grow from them, and then be hungry enough to go play great football this fall."
Here's a look at Winston and what history tells us could happen this season:
Winston wins another Heisman, and FSU wins another national title.
Ohio State running back Archie Griffin is the only two-time winner of the award (1974-75), and only three quarterbacks since 1994 have led teams to back-to-back titles: Nebraska (and Bradenton Manatee alumnus) Tommie Frazier, Alabama's AJ McCarron and Southern Cal's Matt Leinart.
Seminole fans won't like the best example for Winston to follow: Florida's Tim Tebow. A year after becoming the first sophomore to win the Heisman, he led the Gators to the 2008 national title and was third in Heisman balloting.
Winston gets sidelined, due to injuries or off-the-field issues.
He has a durable 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame, but there's a reason (according to Yahoo) he took out an insurance policy of at least seven figures. Oklahoma fans know all about this risk.
Sam Bradford won the 2008 Heisman and took the Sooners to the national title game, where they lost to Florida. After turning down the NFL draft for another year of college, he sprained his throwing shoulder in the opener and injured it again a few weeks later. Oklahoma's 8-5 record was its worst in a decade.
In two years at FSU, Winston has also drawn off-the-field headlines with five run-ins with police, ranging from silly (being accused of stealing soda at Burger King) to serious (sexual assault allegations). He was not arrested in any of the incidents, although he performed community service after being cited for shoplifting seafood from Publix.
Returning Heisman winners
Winston finished last season with 4,057 passing yards, 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. If he follows the model of recent Heisman-winning quarterbacks who returned (excluding Bradford's injury-filled season), Winston would finish with 3,977 yards and about the same number of touchdowns and picks.
|Team, School||Stats from Heisman season||Stats from following season|
|Jason White, Oklahoma (2003-04)||3,846 passing yards, 40 TDs, 10 INTs||3,205 yards, 35 TDs, 9 INTs|
|Matt Leinart, USC (2004-05)||3,322 passing yards, 33 TDs, 6 INTs||3,815 yards, 28 TDs, 8 INTs|
|Tim Tebow, Florida (2007-08)||3,286 passing yards, 32 TDs, 895 rushing yards, 23 TDs||2,746 passing yards, 30 TDs, 673 rushing yards, 12 TDs|
|Sam Bradford, (2008-09), Oklahoma||4,720 passing yards, 50 TDs, 8 INTs||562 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs|
|Johnny Manziel (2012-13), Texas A&M||3,706 passing yards, 26 TDs, 1,410 rushing yards, 21 TDs||4,114 passing yards, 37 TDs, 759 rushing yards, 9 TDs|
Jimbo on Jameis
"I think he's continually getting better fundamentally,'' Fisher (above right) said during ACC media days. ''I think as a player you have to continue to grow yourself physically, and his footwork, his eye movement, his eye control, looking guys off even more. And I think understanding defenses even that much better, recognizing certain things, blitzes, scenarios, that much quicker because he can process the game and get the ball out even quicker, which he does tremendously now. But I think you can always get better in those things, and I think being patient — it's going to be a challenge to be patient because people aren't going to try and give up big plays to him this year, but acknowledge them when they're there, and just making sure you don't get bored with the game."
Ward on Winston
If anyone in the Panhandle knows what Winston will go through, it's Charlie Ward. The two-sport star shined in 1992 to raise expectations for himself and the Seminoles, then led FSU to the national title the next year and won the Heisman. Now the head coach at Pensacola's Washington High, Ward has helped mentor Winston.
"He understands what winning the Heisman has done, just from living the last few months — all the scrutiny and notoriety that goes with it … " Ward said. "I do know he understands what this season is about. If anyone's going to put pressure on themselves, it would be him to go out and do the best. He's competitive. He wants to win every game, everything that he does. He's going to push those other guys to do that. He's not going to be complacent with where they are. He's going to push, and coaches are going to push him, and they're going to push each other to go get better."