Just like Johnny Manziel before him, Jameis Winston is a relatively unknown redshirt freshman who is ready to light the college football world ablaze. Could he, also like Manziel, win the Heisman trophy?
It was about this time last year when the world got introduced to Manziel, but it was a much less ceremonial introduction than Winston. The just 18-year-old Florida State quarterback absolutely ripped apart the Pittsburgh defense. And this isn’t something to be taken lightly. While Pitt may not be a nationally ranked team, last season their defense ranked 20th in the nation. That 20th ranked defense also returned eight of its starters.
But putting that aside, there is no denying that even as a standalone, Winston’s debut was stunning. In fact, when compared to what Manziel did in his first game of his freshman year, Winston absolutely blows the Texas A&M QB out of the water. In the first half alone, Winston was 11-of-12 with three passing touchdowns including opening up his college career with 11 straight completions. For the game, he had four touchdowns in the air, one rushing touchdown, 25-of-27 completed passes and a staggering 356 passing yards.
To put that into a little context, Manziel didn’t record his first 300+ yard passing game until week four and he never came anywhere close (83.3) to the 92.6 completion percentage of Winston in his first start.
It was one of the best single-game performances by any player in FSU history. And yes, this was the first time, the first stage, where Winston ever completed a college pass. As it just so happens, he completed 24 more after that.
FSU isn’t the most highly touted school, has a pretty soft schedule and its national championship aspirations are well, kind of like Texas A&M’s last year, but Winston is the real deal. He won’t get to go toe-to-toe with Alabama like Manziel did and won, but Winston will have the opportunity for statement games of his own, namely week six against No. 8 Clemson and week 12 against No. 10 Florida. It will be in large part, the same Florida team Manziel made his college debut against.
Winston will have to live in Manziel’s shadow for sure, but there is a benefit to being the next guy in line. Before Manziel, no freshman, redshirt or otherwise, had ever won the Heisman. It was inconceivable before Manziel, but now it isn’t. And Winston has the benefit of that because now he will certainly be on the voters’ radar.
Can Winston win the Heisman? There is no doubt about it. He has the raw tools, the skills and the ability to get it done. But will he? That is an entirely different question in and of itself. After all, Winston might not only have to compete with last year’s Manziel but this season’s as well.
He is a dark horse candidate, but if he continues to decimate defenses like he did Pitt, dark horse won’t even be close to describing Winston and his Heisman bid.
Marilee Gallagher is a baseball writer for RantSports.com. You can follow her on Twitter @MGallagher17 like her page on Facebook, or join her network on Google.