Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston are the two best quarterbacks in college football, according to most talent evaluators, and myself who consider the Oregon and Florida State signal-callers the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy in 2014 and be the first quarterback taken in the NFL draft, whenever they come out.
Mariota surprised many when he elected to return to the Ducks for his redshirt junior season rather than declare for the 2014 NFL Draft where he would have been the first quarterback taken and the potential top overall pick.
Winston was not eligible last season after guiding the Seminoles to the BCS National Championship and winning the Heisman, but he is the top player on Mel Kiper’s big board for 2015 NFL Draft prospects.
The two will be closely linked throughout the upcoming college football season, but will it be their last?
Winston’s father said his son would play two more seasons at Florida State earlier this offseason which was roundly dismissed, and while he did not fully address his father’s comments he did offer some hints that he could be around much longer than anticipated to complete his degree.
“It’s very important to me. I was always raised as a student first and an athlete second,” Winston tells NFL.com. “I think that’s the main purpose in college. Some athletes lose that perspective. It’s about being a student-athlete, and not just getting that easy money and going to the league. Even if kids leave early, I would want them to come back and get that degree.”
Perhaps Winston will pull a Mariotta and spurn the NFL and return for his redshirt junior season to complete his degree.
Mariota already spurned the NFL once, so could he possibly turn the league down again?
“We’ll see, I’m not too sure,” he said. “The opportunity to leave obviously is there, but at the same time, college is fun and I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet.”
College certainly is fun, it’s especially fun when you’re a stud quarterback for one of the best football programs in the nation and a beautiful campus like Oregon with a fan base that loves their football players.
If Mariota does indeed stay in school, it won’t be for the same reasons as Winston as Mariota will complete his requirements for his degree after the fall semester.