Was Jameis Winston’s 2013 Heisman Season the Best…Ever?

Image via Zennie62/Flickr
Image via Zennie62/Flickr

In a few hours Florida State QB Jameis Winston will be crowned the winner of the 2013 Heisman trophy, becoming just the second freshman (Case Keenum Johnny Manziel being the other) to earn that distinction.  While it is difficult to argue that anyone else has been more impressive in 2013, I am curious about how Winston stacks up to other 19 year old college QBs.  As you read in Tyler Wilson and the curse of the old QB, age DOES matter when evaluating college prospects, so let’s take a look at the greatest 19 year old quarterback seasons in my database.

jameis-winston

NOTE: These numbers are based on games played against bowl-eligible opponents.  Click here to read more about this methodology.

QB Year Age College Conf. % Multi-TD pass games Comp % TD:INT AY/A
Winston, Jameis 2013 19 Florida St ACC 86% 72.3% 3.7 13.0
Hundley, Brett 2012 19 UCLA PAC12 56% 65.4% 4.8 8.6
Moore, Kellen 2008 19 Boise St WAC 86% 68.0% 2.3 8.5
Mariota, Marcus 2012 19 Oregon Pac12 56% 66.2% 6.3 8.5
Kolb, Kevin 2003 19 Houston CUSA 57% 56.9% 3.3 8.3
Smith, Alex 2003 19 Utah MWC 33% 63.9% 3.5 7.8
Keeton, Chuckie 2012 19 Utah St WAC 67% 63.2% 9.0 7.7
Leak, Chris 2004 19 Florida SEC 67% 55.6% 2.5 7.3
Stafford, Matt 2007 19 Georgia SEC 63% 56.7% 1.6 7.3
Golson, Everett 2012 19 Notre Dame IND 10% 57.2% 1.4 6.7
Henne, Chad 2004 19 Michigan Big Ten 63% 59.6% 2.1 6.4

Hands down, no debating, Winston’s 2013 season was the best 19 year old QB season ever.  His Adjusted Yards per Attempt (AY/A) was 51% better than the second best player and it’s not like this list is a bunch of nobodies.  Kolb, Smith, Stafford, and Henne were round 1-2 selections.  Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley will likely continue that trend when they declare.  Impressive stuff.

Understanding that Winston is a young phenom, let’s see how he stacks up to the best passers in ACC (recent) history.

QB Year Age College Conf. % multi-TD pass games Comp % TD:INT AY/A
Winston, Jameis 2013 19 Florida St ACC 86% 72.3% 3.7 13.0
Rivers, Philip 2003 22 NC State ACC 78% 69.4% 6.3 9.5
Hamilton, Joe 1999 22 Georgia Tech ACC 71% 65.3% 2.0 9.0
Druckenmiller, Jim 1996 24 Virginia Tech ACC 67% 57.5% 3.7 8.9
Harris, Jacory 2011 21 Miami (FL) ACC 71% 63.0% 2.8 8.8
Taylor, Tyrod 2010 21 Virginia Tech ACC 56% 57.4% 3.8 8.8
Boyd, Tajh 2013 23 Clemson ACC 43% 65.5% 1.9 8.7
Yates, TJ 2008 21 UNC ACC 50% 57.5% 3.0 8.7
Vick, Michael 2000 20 Virginia Tech ACC 25% 55.5% 1.8 8.7
Weinke, Chris 2000 28 Florida St ACC 70% 57.3% 2.0 8.6
Ponder, Christian 2009 21 Florida St ACC 57% 70.2% 2.6 8.4
Wilson, Russell 2009 21 NC State ACC 57% 57.8% 3.4 8.4

Again, Jameis Winston finds himself comfortably atop a list that includes four first round picks and a handful of other strong players.

Ok, I hear you saying “but his team is so dominant blah blah blah.”  Ok, fine.  Let’s compare Winston’s performance against quarterbacks from the most dominant teams of the BCS era…

QB Year Age College Conf. % Multi-TD pass games Comp % TD:INT AY/A
Winston, Jameis 2013 19 Florida St ACC 86% 72.3% 3.7 13.0
Tebow, Tim 2008 21 Florida SEC 82% 64.2% 7.7 10.4
Young, Vince 2005 22 Texas BIG12 88% 69.0% 3.0 10.1
Leinart, Matt 2004 21 USC Pac12 86% 61.6% 7.0 10.1

Let’s remember that Leinart won the Heisman and a national championship that year, VY should have won the Heisman and DID win a national championship.  Tebow was coming off a Heisman and also won the NC.  So, even if you’re trying to discount his performance because of his team, he clearly outperformed others in that same situation.

Thus far we’ve established that Winston’s 2013 was the best 19 year old season, the best ACC season, and the best season among QBs on dominant, title-contending teams.  To the final question: Was Jameis Winston’s 2013 Heisman Season the Best…Ever?  Here’s a look at the highest graded QB seasons in my database of more than 500+ college seasons.  Of the 11 other quarterbacks on this list, seven were first round picks and nine were drafted in the first three rounds.

QB Year Age College Conf. % Multi-TD pass games Comp % TD:INT AY/A
Winston, Jameis 2013 19 Florida St ACC 86% 72.3% 3.7 13.0
Petty, Bryce 2013 22 Baylor Big12 100% 59.2% 19.1 12.6
Griffin, Robert 2011 21 Baylor BIG12 67% 69.5% 5.0 11.5
McNown, Cade 1998 21 UCLA Pac12 71% 58.6% 2.7 10.8
Bradford, Sam 2008 21 Oklahoma Big12 100% 68.3% 4.9 10.6
Smith, Akili 1998 23 Oregon Pac12 67% 53.9% 3.3 10.5
Wilson, Russell 2011 23 Wisconsin Big Ten 89% 69.9% 5.0 10.5
Smith, Alex 2004 20 Utah MWC 80% 69.6% 7.0 10.3
Tebow, Tim 2009 22 Florida SEC 40% 68.5% 5.6 10.2
Moore, Kellen 2010 21 Boise St WAC 100% 68.7% 5.3 10.2
Kolb, Kevin 2006 22 Houston CUSA 71% 65.5% 15.0 10.1
Young, Vince 2005 22 Texas BIG12 88% 69.0% 3.0 10.1

While I am far from declaring Jameis Winston to be the greatest prospect or greatest college quarterback, I think it’s fair to say that his 2013 might have been the greatest college QB season of all time.  I know that’s a bold claim, but no matter how I slice it, I can’t come to any other conclusion.

If you thought this article was stupid, awesome, or somewhere in between continue this conversation with me on Google+ or Twitter.

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Senior Bowl Quarterbacks

Without Geno and Barkley, this game really takes a hit.  In the long run, only two or three quarterbacks per draft class end up panning out and I think Geno and Barkley are the 2013 class’ best chances.  Let’s see if any of the six Senior Bowl quarterbacks will make a splash in the NFL.  Here’s how I rank them heading into this week.

#1 Landry Jones, Oklahoma  (SOUTH)

Remember in 2010 when everyone was sky high on Landry Jones and thought he was a sure fire RD 1 pick?  Well, there’s good news and bad news to this statement.  The bad news is that Landry has not progressed as a player since 2010.  His growth has plateaued and he likely ‘is what he is,’ leaving little room for growth in the NFL.  On the other hand, the good news is that Landy Jones in 2012 performed almost identically to Landry Jones in 2010, meaning that he’s still a high performing quarterback, relatively speaking.  Away from his comfy Oklahoma environment, it  will be interesting to see how Landry performs this week.

#2 EJ Manuel  (SOUTH)

The good news about EJ Manuel is that he still appears to be growing as a quarterback.  In virtually every metric his numbers improved from 2011 to 2012, indicating that there’s still upside.  Perhaps with superior NFL coaching, the raw talent that everyone has loved will blossom into a star caliber player.  The frustrating part about EJ is that the production, in the form of high TD passing game performances, isn’t there.  Consider that in 2011 AND 2012 combined, he only had SIX meaningful games with 2+ TD passes.  Compare this with single season performances from guys like Drew Brees (8 in 2000), Tom Brady (7 in 1999), and Andrew Luck (7 in 2011) and it’s clear to see that something is awry.  Manuel is an interesting player, but I’d like to see more.

#3 Ryan Nassib  (NORTH)

In the same way that Landry Jones ‘plateaued’ between 2010 and 2012, the same could be said for Nassib.  He threw touchdowns at a lower rate, interceptions at a higher rate, and overall graded out as a low-ceiling prospect.  He strikes me as a serviceable backup, game-manager type, but others seem to think he’s top 50 material.  Like Ryan Tannehill, he seems to be a hot candidate for 3rd best QB contention, which could send him shooting up draft boards.  I’ll be watching him close this week to see if he ‘flashes’.

#4 Tyler Wilson  (SOUTH)

Wilson is REALLY hard to get a read on.  His performance–and the team– went from outstanding with Bobby Petrino in 2011 to an utter debacle in 2012 under John L Smith.  While his attempts/gm and completion percentage held relatively steady, he threw touchdowns 20% less often and interceptions 300% more often.  Unlike Nassib, Manuel, Jones, and Glennon, Tyler Wilson didn’t play in a bowl game.  With 7 weeks to prep for this game, he needs to impress or risk getting lost in the fray.

#5 Mike Glennon  (NORTH)

Glennon is a curious case.  He threw the ball 18 more times per game in 2012 than in 2011, completing fewer passes but completing them further down field.  This would indicate to me that he was playing catch-up a lot.  To further this theory, his interception rate was the highest of any Senior Bowl quarterback.  As an overall product, he seems to have slightly regressed from his 2011 form; not the direction you want to be heading in when the competition is only going to get tougher.

#6 Zac Dysert  (NORTH)

Dysert is my lowest graded QB in this game.  Despite entering 2012 as a buzzy mid-major prospect, Dysert failed to back up his 2011 performance.  Despite his pass attempts and pass-distance remaining steady, he completed 7 percent fewer passes.  His TD% held steady but his interception% spiked.  Given the disastrous state of the Miami University football program, it will be interesting to see how he fairs in this game.  With an improved supporting cast, will his talent shine through?  Or will the increased level of competition, compared to the MAC, cause him to struggle?

Storylines of 2012

It’s been 234 days since the Alabama Crimson Tide smothered LSU in the National Championship game.  234 days of wondering, debating, and hope that THIS year will be the year and here we sit on day 1 of the 2012 season.  Before things kick off tonight, it’s time to look at the story lines that will define the season.

The new conference alignments

Changing conferences isn’t easy.  In 2004, three teams made the move from the Big East to the ACC:  Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech.  After going 11-2 in 2003, highlighted by an Orange Bowl victory, Miami had high expectations of playing Alpha Dog in the ACC.  Eight seasons in the history books and Miami has never won an ACC title.  Heck, they haven’t even played in an ACC Championship game.  Boston College has been a middle-of-the-pack program.  Meanwhile, Virginia Tech has acclimated beautifully, winning four ACC crowns in eight seasons.

Last year saw Nebraska move from the Big 12 North to the B1G 10.  In 2010, the Huskers won their division and seemed poise to become a B1G Ten bully.  However, year 1 of their new conference saw them finish with the fifth best record in conference play.

Similarly, the Utah Utes were coming of three straight 10+ win seasons in the Mountain West before last season’s move to the Pac-12.  They too were slow to acclimate, finishing in sixth place in the conference.

So, what does it all mean?  As the SEC welcomes Missouri and Texas A&M, I don’t think anyone has high expectations for either of those programs.  For Missouri, a team that is accustomed to win 8+ games every year, I’m interested to see if they can even be bowl eligible this year.  For a team that went 1-5 against Texas and Oklahoma over the past five seasons, what are they going to do when EVERY WEEK it feels like Texas or Oklahoma on the other side?  For Texas A&M, who I think is one of the mentally weakest programs in college football, how are they going to respond in year one with a new coach, new system, new conference, and a VERY real possibility of opening the season 2-5?

Of greater interest to me is the remade Big 12.  As I wrote about yesterday, the Big 12 Conference looks to be on the rise.

Based on my 2011 passer grades, Geno Smith (WVU) and Casey Pachall (TCU) are the two best returning quarterbacks in America (more to come on those grades).  For two programs unaccustomed to facing Big 12 offensive firepower every week, these defenses should be in trouble.  That’s good news for us, though, as Geno and Casey will be pushed every week to put points on the board.  This conference will be fun fun fun, but not as much fun as….

The Pac 12 is going to get REALLY fun this year.

Everyone knows about Oregon and USC.

For a generation intrigued by shiny objects, devoid of an attention span, and with an affinity for ‘swag,’  the Oregon Ducks have consistently put a product on the field that caters to all three needs.

Shiny objects? The Ducks have a multi-colored field, uniforms from outer-space, and playmakers named LaMichael, Jeremiah, or DeAnthony.

Short attention span?  Don’t worry, their high powered, point-a-minute offense snaps the ball every 18 seconds.  You don’t even have time to check the guide button without missing a play.

2009 game at Autzen Stadium, home of the Ducks.

In short, the Oregon Ducks are the kings of college football cool.

Oh yea, and this USC program has some things going for it.  Star quarterback? Check.  Controversial coach?  Check.  2nd biggest media market?  Check.  Ed Orgeron?  Check.  Tranfer star running back?  Check.  You’re smart people.  You’ve seen the buzz.  Now, let’s talk about the fun.

Remove:  Paul Wulff.  Insert:  Mike Leach.  (Washington St)

You’re probably wondering who Paul Wulff even is.  It’s okay.  He went 9-40 in four seasons as Wazzu’s head coach.  You may know the name Mike Leach.  He’s the former Texas Tech head coach, offensive mastermind, lover of pirates, bestselling author, shamer of Adam James by locking him in a closet, purveyor of Michael Crabtree’s fame, and all-around champion of life.  He takes his quirkiness to Pullman, WA. where things should get very interesting with stud WR Marquess Wilson. (By the way, remember when those guys with the Washington State Cougars flags were at EVERY episode of College Gameday for multiple seasons?)

Remove:  Mike Stoops.  Insert:  Rich Rodriguez.  (University of Arizona)

The Mike Stoops thing was okay for a while.  The program was consistently in the middle of the Pac-12 and pulled the occasional upset. But they were never anything special.  (Obligatory Nick-Foles-is-awesome comment)  In steps Rich Rodriguez, the man who ran Michigan’s program into the ground, but did an incredible job at West Virginia.  I honestly think the stage was too big for him at Michigan with too much scrutiny for the system he wanted to implement and the amount of screaming he did at his players.  But, at Arizona he gets back to an offense-happy league.  He’s out of the spotlight.  He inherits a lot of useful pieces.  Most importantly, he brings BCS upside to Tuscon and will certainly keep things interesting.

Besides these two big additions, they add Todd Graham, who had had great success at Rice and  Tulsa, before making a one year pit stop at Pitt.  His teams have always put points on the board.  They also get Jim More Jr. who was the former Falcons head coach before accepting the UCLA job this past offseason.  Overall, you should expect a lot of points, a lot of personality, and a lot of fun out of the Pac 12 over the next few years.

The emerging coaches

They say it takes two or three seasons to really turn a program around.  For the following coaches, there are question marks that need to be answered:

Brian Kelly, year 3, Notre Dame:  At CMU you won 10 games in year 3.  At Cincinnati you won 12 games in year 3.  Show me that you can win double digits in year 3 at Notre Dame and that you have cleansed that program of its Charlie Weis-era softness.

Will Muschamp, year 2, Florida:  Show me why people thought so highly as to make you coach in waiting at Texas.  Show me that you can take that LOADED cupboard that Urban Meyer left for you and do something great with it.

Brady Hoke, year 2, Michigan:  You were the perfect hire;  Michigan roots and a strong coaching record, but enough of a question mark to have a chip on your shoulder.  Show me that Michigan really is back and that your team can hang with the Alabamas of the world.  Show me that you’re going to have the staying power and that the Hoke-Meyer era is going to be my generation’s Bo-Woody rivalry.

Dana Holgorsen, year 2, West Virginia:  Show me how great a coach you are and how great Geno Smith can be.  I’ve already proclaimed Geno to be THE signature player of the 2012 season.  Prove me right.

Derek Dooley, year 3, Tennessee:  Prove to me that you’re going to have staying power and success at Tennessee.  Show me where I can buy some of those awesome orange pants.

Jimbo Fisher, year 3, Florida State:  Show me that you can contend for a national championship with a full, healthy season from EJ Manuel.  Show me that the top of the ACC really can produce a National Champion for the first time since 2001.  Prove to me that I was just a year early with my prediction of your return to dominance.

Lane Kiffin, year 3, USC:  Show me that you can be a great front runner like Pete Carroll.  Show me that this team is as good as everyone says it is.

Skip Holtz, year 3, South Florida:  Show me that South Florida can be mentally and physically tough and that the programs history of mental softness is behind it after last year’s 1-6 finish to the regular season.

David Shaw, year 2, Stanford:  Prove it to me that you are more than just a rider of Luck’s (and Harbaugh’s) coattails.  Prove to me that the offensive  scheme can work without Luck under center.

Don Treadwell, year 2, Miami University:  Show me how good Zac Dysert can be.  Show me that my alma mater can be an annual contender.

Al Golden, year 2, The U:  Moreso than swagger, prove to me that The U still has some game.  Your program has been 0-8 on ACC titles since the conference jump.  Show me something, man!

Tommy Tuberville, year 3, Texas Tech:  Show me that Texas Tech can stay relevant without the offensive gimmicks.  Show me that, with your team returning in tact, that you can be a contender in the Big 12.

Live from Lubbock, Texas!

Stay tuned for my ‘2012 Bandwagons’ article!