Freshmen quarterbacks have shown they can play significant roles on national championship teams and there will be at least one under center — and maybe more — when the college football season kicks off this week.
Florida State’s Jameis Winston stepped into the spotlight in 2013. He became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy as he led the Seminoles to a 14-0 season and the school’s third title. The following year, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett went 11-1 as the starting quarterback before suffering a knee injury.
This year, the fourth-ranked Seminoles are turning the offense over to another freshman, Deondre Francoios.
Going into the first full week of action, here is a look at the freshman who will be under center and few others that might be for their schools’ openers:
— Deondre Francois, Florida State. Francois, who will start on Monday for the fourth-ranked Seminoles against No. 11 Mississippi, has continued to impress coaches and teammates with his athleticism and poise. He was the top dual threat prep quarterback in the nation when he was recruited in 2015 and showed why by throwing for two touchdowns in the spring game.
— J’Mar Smith, Louisiana Tech. Smith is getting the start for Saturday’s game at Arkansas after senior Ryan Higgins was suspended for driving while intoxicated last month. The redshirt freshmen began preseason camp at third string but moved up after displaying a strong arm and mobility in the pocket. This is the fourth straight season that Louisiana Tech has had a different starting quarterback for its opener.
— Chason Virgil, Fresno State. Virgil, who was redshirted last year after a shoulder injury limited him to three games, has maintained a firm grip on the starting spot throughout preseason practices. Virgil was 31 of 56 for 298 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions last season. Saturday’s game at Nebraska will be his second collegiate start.
— Blake Barnett, Alabama. In portions of practice open to the media this week Barnett and Cooper Bateman have both taken snaps with the first team as the defending national champions prepare for Saturday’s game against No. 20 Southern Cal. Coach Nick Saban has gone with the most experienced candidate — the previous year’s backup — the past two seasons. Bateman is the only player on Alabama’s roster who has thrown a pass.
— Shane Buechele, Texas. Coach Charlie Strong has said that he will not reveal the starter until right before kickoff on Sunday against No. 10 Notre Dame. Buechele was an early enrollee and threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns during the spring game. He also made the Big 12 commissioner’s honor roll for the spring semester.
— Aaron Winchester, Georgia State. Winchester was redshirted last year but showed he was ready to compete for the starting spot by throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for another in the spring game. Utah transfer Conner Manning, a junior, still might get the nod for Friday’s game against Ball State, but coach Trent Miles has declined to name a starter until right before kickoff.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.