Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jameis Winston could not have asked for a better first season on the field with the 2013 national champion Florida State Seminoles. Florida State enters the 2014 season as the favorite to hoist the championship trophy again, but the microscope Winston and the Seminoles are under now is much stronger than it ever was during their undefeated 2013 season.
As a result of his actions both on and off the field, Winston will need to prove to the football world he can succeed under immense pressure.
Up until their destruction of the Duke Blue Devils in the ACC Championship, Winston and the ‘Noles were secondary to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the pressure cooker. As a matter of fact, “Famous Jameis” and Florida State did not even seriously enter the national championship discussion until the Seminoles demolished the Clemson Tigers on the road last October.
Then, when Alabama was stunned by the Auburn Tigers and the three-peat chances were swept away, the Seminoles became the topic of conversation for the final month. However, besides Winston’s heroic performance in leading Florida State over Auburn in Pasadena last January, the Seminoles did not suffer from the season-long wrath of the media.
Things are much different now for Florida State. The Seminoles have the bullseye on their backs heading into the season as the No. 1 overall team, and Winston has his own target due to his incredible play on the field and immature actions off the field. Winston has the talent and potential to be a top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, but his off-field problems are only hurting his chances.
Even though charges were eventually dropped, Winston was accused of sexual assault in 2012 and saw investigation into the matter this past November. This served as a distraction to Florida State and the entire college football world, but Winston and the Seminoles came out unscathed.
However, things have only gotten worse for Winston this offseason. In April, he was cited for stealing crab legs from a Publix store. When told the store had video evidence of this, the QB stated that he could not recall the event. Winston was also reported for theft at a Burger King last summer for stealing soda.
Needless to say, his reputation has taken a sharp nosedive for these incidents. As a result, NFL teams have reason to be concerned about drafting him, as he could be spending most of his time in trouble with the league rather than actually playing football.
Which Jameis Winston will show up in 2014? The star QB of 2013 was living the good life: first-year starter, reasonable expectations, not garnering too much unwanted attention. Now, Winston and the ‘Noles are at the center of the college football universe. Fans and the media will be watching every breath Winston takes this season. With all eyes on him, he now has the pressure to show he has matured and can bring another national title to Tallahassee.
If Winston can do it, he may go down as one of the greatest college football players of all time. If not, he could be just another good college quarterback.
The same applies to Florida State, which expects nothing less than to win the inaugural college football playoff. Lucky for the Seminoles, their three arguably toughest games (Clemson, Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Florida Gators) all happen to be at home. Their opening night game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys will be tough, but fortunately it’s on a neutral field at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
Florida State’s two toughest road games (Louisville Cardinals and Miami Hurricanes) are definitely winnable, so another undefeated season is very possible. It’s extremely possible if Winston lives up to the hype and if their defense has another dominant season.
Winston and the Seminoles had a fantastic 2013 season under much less pressure; let’s see if the All-American and his team can stand up to the pressure and capture another championship.