Keep an eye on these stars in 2014


Jameis Winston turned 20 on Monday, and he celebrated by becoming just the third quarterback in college football history to lead an undefeated team, win the Heisman Trophy and claim a national title in the same season.

The rest of us can celebrate the fact Winston will be back at Florida State for at least one more year. He's the second consecutive redshirt freshman quarterback to win the Heisman, and like Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Winston will return to the college game after winning the award. If his second season is anything like Manziel's, the sport is in for a treat.

Unlike college basketball, which typically says goodbye to its best players after just one year, college football gets to enjoy its stars for a little longer. Winston certainly achieved stardom in 2013: He completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 4,057 yards with 40 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.

"Florida State is the national champion again, and I guarantee you we're bringing that swag back," Winston said. "You'd better believe it."

Winston tops the players to watch list for 2014, but narrowing the group was no easy task, especially with several NFL draft decisions yet to be announced. Assumptions had to be made about players like Manziel, Auburn's Tre Mason, Clemson's Vic Beasley and Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey. The list slants toward offense and the quarterback position, in part because most standout defenders from 2013 are gone.

Along with Winston here are 10 other stars to keep an eye on when the season kicks off (2014 eligibility in parentheses):

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson (redshirt junior): Remember him? Golson quarterbacked the Irish to the national title game in 2012, and then sat out all of 2013 after being suspended for academic issues. He was later readmitted by the school and spent the fall working with quarterbacks coach George Whitfield and added weight to his frame. Although Notre Dame's defense triggered the title run, Golson's improvement down the stretch -- he eclipsed 200 pass yards in his final five regular-season games -- played a role, too. If Notre Dame regains a better version of Golson, it could navigate a brutal schedule that includes Stanford, Florida State, Arizona State and USC.

Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon (redshirt junior): That Gordon would be on a list like this seemed laughable in late September, when he led the FBS in rushing with 624 yards and seven touchdowns through the first four games. Gordon looked like a surefire early draft entry through the first half of the season, but his production slowed a bit during Big Ten play as teammate James White emerged. The redshirt sophomore still rushed for 1,609 yards and averaged a whopping 7.8 yards per carry. He surprised some by announcing he would return for 2014, where he should be Wisconsin's featured back and a definite Heisman contender.

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