We’re less than two months away from the start of the 2013 college football season, and that means preview countdowns! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.
Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.
The expectations surrounding sophomore quarterback Jameis Winston have already reached outlandish proportions. So despite my misgivings around putting a first-year passer on this list at all, trust me, you’re sure to find more infuriating assessments of him whether you’re a ‘Noles fan or not. The ridiculous bar that’s been set for him aside though, it would appear that Winston’s the real deal and the face of this offense going forward. Having already beaten out the heir apparent to EJ Manuel, now-West Virginia QB Clint Trickett, he’s just got to show it on the field.
Lucky for him, FSU’s schedule lays out pretty nicely for him (and the team) to get off to a hot start. The opener — a road game against Pittsburgh — should be the toughest test for the team until mid-October’s trip to Clemson. By that point, one would assume he’s already made himself nice and comfortable in the Florida State offense. He’s a former four-star recruit with a phenomenal arm and boatloads of athleticism. Winston will also get protection from one of the best offensive lines in the ACC, plus the support of a strong running game and an experienced group of receivers. There are plenty of playmakers who can not only pick up the slack for the learning-on-the-go Winston, but will actually make him look better over the course of the season.
That’s not to say there can’t/won’t be some bumps in the road, however. Winston was also a regular player on the Seminoles’ baseball team this spring, serving as both an outfielder and relief pitcher. He’s incredibly talented, of course, to be able to play two different sports at such a high level. But will the constant stress — especially on his throwing arm — end up catching up with him? He’ll get the summer off for the most part, so he should be able to rest up until camp starts. I’d keep an eye on the velocity of his passes as the year wears on, though.
Jameis Winston is unlikely to come out of nowhere to win the Heisman this year, though I’d also think it’s just as unlikely that he flames out of the starting job during the course of the season. He’s an elite talent, one with a great deal of upside. With a manageable schedule for Florida State, along with a veteran group of players to support him on both sides of the ball, he’s got a great chance to succeed. The Seminoles should be in for a fun fall.