By Kevin McGuire
Can a freshman win the Heisman Trophy again? As this year’s Heisman Trophy race hits midseason form, there is one freshman standing out and belonging in the conversation. History may still be against him, but last year proved it is certainly not impossible.
QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
It takes a truly special year by a freshman to deserve the kind of Heisman respect that leads to an invite to New York. Fortunately for Florida State, its freshman quarterback is having just that kind of season so far. Jameis Winston put voters on notice in his first career start back in week one when he completed 25 of 27 pass attempts for 356 yards and four touchdowns on the road in the ACC opener between Florida State and new ACC member Pittsburgh. Since then, Winston has yet to slow down.
Though Winston has shown the ability to take off and pick up some yards with his legs, the success of Winston has come mostly from his strong arm. Entering the week, Winston has already passed for 300 yards three times and has thrown multiple touchdowns in each game of the season, including a five-touchdown performance against Maryland. One of his many notable plays this season came at the end of the first half of a road game at Boston College, when Winston kept a play alive and unloaded a deep ball down the right side of the field for a touchdown.
Winston currently leads the ACC in passing touchdowns (17) and has just two interceptions this season. Winston is also second in the ACC in third down completion percentage, completing 75 percent of his third down attempts (18 of 24) with four touchdowns. Inside the red zone continues to be an area where Winston thrives as well. The freshman quarterback also has nine red zone touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Freshmen usually make mistakes. But Winston is not your typical freshman.
It used to be that freshmen would not even be in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy, but this is a new age for the highest individual honor in college football. Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the award last year, so that norm has been erased. Some voters have come out and suggested a freshman should not win the Heisman Trophy based off of the publicized offseason exhibited by Manziel, but will those opinions create a bias working against Winston’s chances?
Heisman Match-Up of the Week
Florida State at Clemson: The big game of the weekend could serve as a Heisman test for Winston and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd. The Florida State freshman and Clemson senior are among the leaders in the ACC’s passing categories, and both teams enter with undefeated records. Not only will the winner take a big step forward in the ACC championship chase, but the winning quarterback will have a big win to add to their Heisman profile. Will a Heisman moment be witnessed?