This article originally appeared on The Daily Nole on June 2, 2016
Florida State freshman quarterbacks Deondre Francois and Malik Henry both made strong cases for being the Seminoles’ No. 1 guy during the spring.
If given the chance, Francois hopes to follow in the footsteps of Jameis Winston and lead FSU to a national championship as a redshirt freshman. Henry is hoping to become the first true freshman to start for the Seminoles under center in more than three decades.
While starting freshmen at quarterback is a relatively new thing for FSU, there are have been some successful ones throughout the program’s (mostly recent) history. Here’s a look at the five best freshman seasons from Florida State quarterbacks:
5. E.J. Manuel (2009)
Stats: 69-for-106 passing, 65% completions, 817 yards passing, 2 touchdown passes, 6 interceptions, 196 yards rushing, 2 rushing touchdowns
When E.J. Manuel took over the starting job for the injured Christian Ponder in 2009, the season looked doomed for Florida State. The Seminoles were just 4-5 and in danger of missing out on a bowl for the first time since 1981. FSU was also on the verge of its first losing season in 33 years. Manuel performed admirably in his first start at Wake Forest before overcoming three interceptions a week later to engineer a late comeback over Maryland and get the Seminoles to bowl eligibility. In the Gator Bowl against No. 17 West Virginia, Manuel accounted for 258 total yards and a rushing touchdown to keep FSU’s streak of 33 straight winning seasons alive and send legendary head coach Bobby Bowden out a 33-21 winner.
4. Chip Ferguson (1985)
Stats: 70-for-130 passing, 54% completions, 990 yards passing, 11 touchdown passes, 8 interceptions, 2 rushing touchdowns
The last true freshman to start under center for Florida State, Chip Ferguson appeared in nine games in 1985 and did enough to be named a second-team Freshman All-American by the Sporting News. Ferguson’s best performance that year came in the Gator Bowl against Oklahoma State as he passed for 338 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 34-23 FSU victory. Bowl statistics back then were not official. Ferguson accounted for four total touchdowns in a victory over South Carolina earlier that season.
3. Drew Weatherford (2005)
Stats: 276-for-469 passing, 59% completions, 3,208 yards passing, 18 touchdown passes, 18 interceptions, 3 rushing touchdowns
As a redshirt freshman in 2005, Drew Weatherford quarterbacked Florida State to its 12th ACC title in 14 years and its first win over Miami in six years. Weatherford beat out fellow redshirt freshman Xavier Lee for the job after Wyatt Sexton left the program in the offseason. It was an up-and-down campaign for Weatherford, but the Land O’Lakes product engineered fourth quarter comebacks in wins over Boston College and Maryland. As a 2-touchdown underdog in the inaugural ACC Championship, Weatherford passed for 225 yards and a touchdown in a 27-22 upset of No. 5 Virginia Tech. Weatherford was a 3-year starter for the Seminoles, but the team finished just 7-6 over the next two seasons.
2. Chris Rix (2001)
Stats: 165-for-286 passing, 58% completions, 2,734 yards passing, 24 touchdown passes, 13 interceptions, 389 yards rushing, 3 rushing touchdowns
After a preseason injury to Anquan Boldin, redshirt freshman Chris Rix was tabbed with the unenviable task of replacing Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke. During the 2001 season, Rix set career-highs for yards per attempt, completion percentage and passing touchdowns while leading FSU to an 8-4 finish, capped with a Gator Bowl win over Virginia Tech. Rix’s finest performance of the season came against No. 10 Maryland as the Seminoles overcame an early 14-0 deficit en route to a 52-31 FSU victory. Rix passed for 350 yards and a career-high five touchdowns as Florida State handed eventual ACC champion Maryland its only loss of the regular season.
1. Jameis Winston (2013)
Stats: 257-for-384 passing, 67% completions, 4,057 yards passing, 40 touchdown passes, 10 interceptions, 4 rushing touchdowns
As a redshirt freshman in 2013, Jameis Winston rewrote the Florida State record books en route to becoming the youngest player ever to win the Heisman Trophy. Winston accounted for 44 touchdowns while leading the Seminoles to a perfect 14-0 record and their first national championship in 14 years. During the season, Winston passed for more than 300 yards seven times, including a career-high 444 in a 51-14 road rout of No. 3 Clemson. Winston began his FSU career by completing 25 of his 27 pass attempts for 356 yards and five total touchdowns in a Labor Day win at Pittsburgh. Winston closed his freshman campaign by engineering the biggest comeback in BCS National Championship history as he helped rally the Seminoles from a 21-3 deficit in a 34-31 victory over Auburn. Winston cemented the title with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds remaining.