Why Jameis Winston Can Be the Johnny Manziel of 2013

Amy DaughtersFeatured ColumnistAugust 12, 2013

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston recently distanced himself from Johnny Manziel, per ESPN, but the truth is Winston could be this season’s version of Johnny Football.

At least on the field.

Winston said, “If I get the [Johnny] ‘Manziel disease,’ I want every one of y’all to get your mics and just start [hitting me] on the head.”

But before everyone unsheathes the microphones, Winston must first win the starting job from redshirt sophomore Jacob Coker.

And that’s precisely where the similarities between Manziel in 2012 and Winston in 2013 begin; neither had the starting job coming into fall camp of his redshirt freshman season.

Assuming Winston gets the nod, there are at least four components that link the young hopeful with the phenomenon that was Manziel’s 2012 season.


Both Can Kill You Both Ways

With 3,706 yards passing and 1,410 yards rushing, Manziel accounted for 71 percent of the Aggies' 7,261 total yards in 2012.

As a senior at Hueytown High School in Hueytown, Ala., Winston pumped out 2,424 yards passing and 1,063 yards rushing, signaling major dual-threat capabilities.

Manziel’s more prolific performance in yards, meanwhile, carried Texas A&M all the way to the No. 3-ranked offense in the FBS last season.

Both Manziel and Winston have similar abilities to change the face of an offense in a single season.


The Supporting Cast

Being that football is a team sport, no individual—regardless of talent—can dictate the course of a season without the right teammates around him.

Manziel had one of the most experienced offensive lines in the nation coming into 2012, a unit that was ranked No. 9 nationally with 95 shared starts, according to Phil Steele’s preseason rankings.

In 2013, Winston will have the No. 10-ranked offensive line with 96 shared starts.

Next, at wide receiver, Manziel last season had the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 5 targets returning from the year before,. Winston, on the other hand, has the Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5 back at his disposal.

Finally, both Manziel and Winston will play their redshirt freshman campaigns without the top rusher from the year.

The Aggies lost Cyrus Gray, who put up 1,105 yards in 2011. The Seminoles lost Chris Thompson to the draft, who gained 755 yards in 2012.

Though this might seem like a detriment on the surface, the loss of the top back sets up an opportunity for a dual-threat quarterback to shine on the ground.


The Next-Level Opportunity

Though on the surface, Texas A&M coming into 2012 and Florida State coming into 2013 may seem worlds apart, the situation is more similar than one might assume.

Where the Aggies hadn’t reached double-digit wins since 1998, the Seminoles haven’t achieved perfection since 1999.

And though these are Different aims, they both are take-it-to-the next-level goals.

Yes, where Manziel had the capabilities and opportunity to be “the guy” to put A&M back on the national radar—in the SEC, no less—Winston could be “the guy” to finally get the ‘Noles back in the national championship game.


Heisman Hopes

This is where all the components come together: ability to transform the offense, the right guys on the roster to help make it happen and a national storyline everyone will be eager to see unfold.

Add in that both Manziel and Winston play for big-time programs that could generate a legitimate Heisman candidate, and the bronze statuette seems doable.

To illustrate the importance of that last point, harken back to what Jordan Lynch did at Northern Illinois last season. Lynch dual-threated his way to 3,138 yards passing and 1,815 yards rushing in 2012, accounting for 75 percent of the Huskies' total offense.

To put this into perspective, Lynch gained 163 yards fewer than Manziel and outgained Ohio State’s Braxton Miller by 1,643 yards. 

To put a finer point on it, Lynch was the fourth-most productive rusher in the FBS last season, behind Ka’deem Carey of Arizona, Stefphon Jefferson of Nevada and Montee Ball of Wisconsin. Of course, those three guys were all running backs.

So what did Lynch earn—in Heisman bucks—for his glorious season that powered the first MAC team to a berth in a BCS bowl?

Well, the big payoff was a seventh-place finish, with 52 points, in the Heisman voting.