An offhanded comment by Jimbo Fisher during national signing day caused a slight stir when he said that the wide receivers, such as Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph, who had signed with Florida State would have two years with Jameis Winston.
Winston will be entering his redshirt sophomore year in 2014, meaning he's eligible to leave for the draft as soon as the Seminoles' 2014 campaign is over. Fisher, however, thinks otherwise.
“Everybody says he’s going to stay one year and leave,” Fisher said to 247Sports. “Which I don’t think that’s true. I think it will be two.”
These could have been the words of a highly optimistic coach, and who could blame him? Coaches would prefer that the face of their program stays with the team as long as possible. Pete Carroll famously felt betrayed when Mark Sanchez left early for the NFL, saying “The facts are so strong against this decision. After analyzing all the information, the truth is there—he should’ve stayed for another year.”
But with Winston, it turned out not to be too much of wishful thinking, as he told the Associated Press that, in fact, "whatever [Fisher] says most likely is true," which has continued his habit of talking about playing his redshirt junior year.
"Obviously I'm a big baseball person, so that's an accurate statement because I plan on playing baseball next season anyway," said Winston.
Some Seminoles fans will take the news blindly and begin hastily ordering three-peat t-shirts in anticipation of the dynasty that is about to be formed in Tallahassee. Others will try to take it with a grain of salt, and try to look at the plausibility of the Heisman winner staying in school for another semester.
In regards to football, staying another year couldn't do much to help the young quarterback's draft stock. He's already projected by many as the No. 1 pick in next year's draft, though it will be loaded with other prospects like Marcus Mariota who have been mentioned as potential franchise quarterbacks. Unless he's dead set on winning another Heisman Trophy (and can't pull it off in 2014), he's already gone as far as he can in that regard.
"Andrew Luck did it. Peyton Manning did it. Why can't Jameis Winston do it?" Fisher said to the Orlando Sentinel. "Education is critical to him. He's a great student. … We assume every kid wants to run to the money. That money is going to be there one way or the other. As a quarterback, the more you play, the more you develop. You watch a lot of quarterbacks fail in pro football, and I think it's because they don't have that foundation; they've only had one or two years of development."
When Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley stayed in school recently, it was because they believed their team was on the cusp of securing a national title and themselves a Heisman. Winston already achieved this in his first year, so using them as a comparison is a bit harder to do.
Matt Leinart could be comparable in this case, as the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national title champion stayed in 2005 for hopes of a repeat. USC would go on to lose in the BCS title game against Texas, and Leinart would fall from No. 1 in the draft to No. 10, never doing much in the NFL.
What Leinart didn't have, however, was another sport he had the desire to go professional in. Major League Baseball eligibility for college students states that the player must "have either completed their junior or senior years or are at least 21 years old," and Winston will be 21 when the 2015 draft rolls around. If he has the desire to play both sports, it would be wise for him to play his junior year, something he seems to be planning on doing already.
When it comes down to it, it depends on how you look at it. If you want Winston to be at Florida State for two more years, it's easy to make the argument. He wants his degree and he wants to play baseball too. If you don't buy for a second that he'll pass up millions of dollars, then all you need to do is argue that the risk of injury is too high and he'll still be eligible to be drafted in the MLB anyways.
And if these types of arguments are already occurring in February, it's going to be a long offseason.