Jameis Winston is the Heisman trophy winner in 2013, and he could easily hear his name called again in 2014. The Florida State Seminoles quarterback became the second freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, and the second in as many years.
Just like the 2012 winner, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel—who was again a finalist—Winston will have a shot in 2014 at becoming just the second man to win the award twice.
What will Winston have going for him that Manziel didn't have this season? Here's a look at the factors that make Winston's chances to repeat better than Manziel's and excellent overall.
The Weapons and Protection Will Be There
Winston could lose super junior offensive lineman Cameron Erving, at least one of three junior running backs (James Wilder Jr., Devonta Freeman and Karlos Williams) and junior tight end Nick O'Leary going into the 2014 season. He will definitely be without senior receiver Kenny Shaw and center Bryan Stork, but don't think for a second the Seminoles' offense will be without protection or weapons.
Junior wide receiver Rashad Greene—who should be back—and sophomore Kelvin Benjamin will be the leaders of a talented receiving corps. Diminutive but dynamic freshman Levonte Whitfield will be a year older and even more of a playmaker. The same could also be said for junior Christian Green and freshman Isaiah Jones.
In the backfield, the trio of junior running backs that return will give the 'Noles the type of weapons Winston needs behind him.
As for the offensive line, that's always a trickier proposition. The Seminoles have allowed 2.23 sacks per game this season. That's only 80th in the nation, so this could be Winston's biggest impediment. That said, Florida State has a bevy of returning players on the O-line to fill in for Erving and Stork.
Juniors Tre' Jackson and Austin Barron should return, and the presence of sophomores like Ruben Carter, will only improve the chemistry of a unit that has spent parts of the last two seasons together.
Defense Matters Too
Some may only look at the offensive side of the ball as it pertains to Winston's 2014 Heisman potential, but overall team success matters. Thus, the defense on next year's squad is key as well.
An already stellar defense could come back even stronger. Aside from the strong possibility of losing junior defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and third-year linebacker, Christian Jones, the Seminoles should be able to absorb any attrition due to injury.
This unit is deep, athletic and well coached.
Underclassmen like Eddie Goldman, Mario Edwards Jr., Terrance Smith and Ukeme Eligwe are just waiting to explode once they get more playing time. That group of freshmen and sophomores combined for 8.5 sacks in 2013. Their potential is scary.
Before this season, the 'Noles lost seven players from a defense that ranked No. 2 in the nation last year under defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, who was hired away by Kentucky to be its head coach. Like any program with a strong defensive philosophy and system in place, Florida State followed up as the No. 3-rated unit in the nation in 2013.
You almost take it to the bank that this defense will again be dominant in 2014. Manziel lost Luke Joeckel and defensive playmakers like Damontre Moore to the NFL after last season. Those departures affected A&M's bottom line, because it didn't have the same depth that the Seminoles will have next season.
The Schedule Is Negotiable
Perhaps it is unfair, but losses drastically impair a candidate's opportunity to win the Heisman. Manziel and Texas A&M had four of them this year. His 3,732 passing yards and 33 touchdowns are great, but they didn't overshadow that big number four in the loss column.
Winston will likely come in as the favorite in 2014, so it is hard to imagine he drops off if the Seminoles don't. When you look at Florida State's opponents for the 2014 season, it is easy to see the team performing at a level comparable to this season.
Early and Midseason 2014
The Seminoles will open the season with a relatively tough, but seemingly winnable "neutral site" game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. From there they play The Citadel.
The team's conference schedule will include a tough home game against the Clemson Tigers, a nonconference game against Notre Dame and road dates at the Louisville Cardinals and Miami Hurricanes.
With senior Tajh Boyd headed for the NFL and Sammy Watkins almost a lock to enter the draft, Clemson could take a step back in 2014. Considering Florida State blasted the Tigers 51-14 in Death Valley this season, the Tigers aren't likely to scare the Seminoles much.
The Cardinals will almost certainly be without Teddy Bridgewater, who many think will leave for the NFL and be selected No. 1 in the 2014 NFL draft. Without him, Louisville won't stand a chance.
As for the rivalry game with Miami, the gap between the 'Noles and 'Canes seemed quite large this season. Florida State won by 27 in November, but the game was in Tallahassee. Still, Florida State should be a heavy favorite in next year's matchup as well—even on the road.
Finishing the season at home against the Florida Gators and, presumably, a week later in the ACC championship game could be somewhat difficult. The Gators were a shell of themselves in the second half of this season, but the team could improve and represent the toughest game on the Seminoles schedule.
The conference championship doesn't figure to offer the 'Noles any more issues in 2014—should they get there—than it did this season.
Unless Virginia Tech or Miami make a significant jump, it is hard to see any team besides Florida State winning the ACC. Based on its opponents, anything less than a 12-1 record would be a surprise. That mark should be sufficient for another Heisman run for Winston.
Manziel plays in the SEC which generates tougher matchups. Playing in the ACC gives Winston a better chance to maintain his spot as a favorite. This is yet another advantage Winston will have that Johnny Football did not.
Competition and Growth
Who's Going to Stop Him?
Of the other finalist for the award this season, the only one who could be around to challenge him in 2014 is Auburn's Tre Mason. Based on the number of carries Mason's already had this season, any smart adviser would tell him to bolt for the NFL now rather than roll the dice on staying healthy another year in school.
Alabama's T.J. Yeldon is a thought, but awesome skills players in Alabama sometimes get lost in the deep pool of future NFL talent that makes up the Crimson Tide offense every year. Baylor's Bryce Petty and Ohio State's Braxton Miller are also possibilities, but can their teams avoid dreaded losses better than Florida State can?
Winston Will Only Get Better
Even with all of the aforementioned things in Winston's favor for next season, perhaps the most important factor is his potential growth and improvement. We must remember, as great as this season was for him, he's still only a freshman. He had 3,820 passing yards, 38 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions in 2013.
Yet, Winston has the potential to be even better next year. If that is the case—as it should be—he'll be even tougher to keep away from the trophy.
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