Almost four years have passed since Jameis Winston became Florida State’s third Heisman Trophy winner. Since then, no Seminole has even been invited to New York as a finalist. Dalvin Cook shredded the Seminole record books during his time in Tallahassee. However, he never finished better than seventh place in Heisman voting.
The 2017 Seminoles’ roster is loaded with playmakers, but are which ones are dynamic enough to bring home college football’s highest honor?
Florida State Heisman Favorites
Cam Akers, Freshman, RB
Why He’ll Win: Akers entered the program as Florida State’s highest running back commit since the aforementioned Cook. Akers was nearly unstoppable last year as a senior in high school. He rushed for over 2000 yards and 34 touchdowns. He also added 31 more touchdowns through the air, leading his team to a state championship as a quarterback.
Akers’s spring game performance this year only added to the hype he has received. He compiled 87 yards on 10 carries and displayed the burst and ball carrier vision that Seminoles’ fans had been hearing about since Akers enrolled in January. Akers benefits from being able to showcase his talent early against Alabama on opening weekend in Atlanta. With all eyes on that game, Akers has the opportunity to make a major statement in his first game like Winston did against Pittsburgh. He could then use that momentum to carry him through the rest of the season and on to New York.
Why He Won’t: Akers, as talented as he may be, is only a true freshman. No player has ever won the Heisman in his first year on campus. Akers would have to put up some unreal numbers to break through that ceiling.
Akers also has yet to win the starting running back job. Right now, he is battling Jacquez Patrick for that role. Even if Akers emerges victorious, he still will split several carries with Patrick, who is the Seminoles’ leading returning rusher.
Derwin James, Redshirt Sophomore, Safety
Why He’ll Win: Derwin James is a flat out game changer. He possess elite coverage skills, can rush the passer with speed and power, and can deliver bone-jarring hits. James can line up at any position on defense and make an impact. He is all over the field playing at 100 mph. He is one of the best players in college football and if he can find a way to create turnovers that result in defensive touchdowns, then he should be able to gain enough votes to win the hardware.
Why He Won’t: The Heisman trophy typically only won by players on the offensive side of the ball. There are few defensive players that ever come close to winning it. Last year, Jabrill Peppers was able to make it to New York as a defender and Charles Woodson was able to bring home the hardware in 1997. However, Woodson and Peppers both played on every side of the ball possible. As versatile as James is, Jimbo Fisher is not going to risk putting James and his recent surgically repaired meniscus on offense or special teams.
Deondre Francois, Redshirt Sophomore, QB
Why He’ll Win: Deondre Francois is the most likely of the bunch to win the award for Florida State. He plays the right position, quarterback. Francois already has a year’s worth of experience under his belt and his freshman campaign was very productive. He threw for over 3300 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also added five scores on the ground last year. Francois continued to showcase poise under pressure as he only threw seven interceptions in a season where he was constantly on his back. Francois has two statement game opportunities where he can cement his name onto Heisman ballots.
The first of these games is against Alabama. If he can carve up the Tide’s secondary as Deshaun Watson did in the National Championship Game last year, Francois will start to gain attention early. The second statement game for Francois comes against Louisville and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson in October. Jackson basically won the trophy last year in the Cardinals 63-20 rout of the Seminoles. This years’ matchup could very well end up in a shootout and if Francois has the better day, he could be the Seminoles fourth Heisman winner come December.
Why He Won’t: Francois’s biggest struggle is his accuracy. He often missed open receivers last year because of his sporadic arm. In Jimbo Fisher’s pro-style offense, Francois’s stats will never look as inflated as others, so if Francois can’t make the most of the opportunities he’s given, his yardage and touchdown numbers will look even more unimpressive.
Francois also has to deal with an offensive line that simply could not protect him last year and losing tackle Roderick Johnson early to the draft did not help. Alabama, Louisville, Clemson and Florida all have pass rushers whose eyes can’t help but to light up watching film from Florida State’s pass protection last year. If Francois is on his back as often as he was in 2016, not only will his Heisman dreams tank, but the Seminoles will be in serious trouble when it comes to earning a College Football Playoff berth or even winning the ACC.