When a Florida State quarterback impresses in his debut the way that Deondre Francois did on Monday night against Ole Miss in Orlando, comparisons to Jameis Winston are inevitable.
It may be unfair to compare Francois to a player that won his first 26 starts, became the youngest player to win the Heisman Trophy, led the Seminoles to a National Championship and created a body of work that resulted in him being the first overall pick in the NFL draft, but Francois’ performance actually compares favorably to Winston’s.
Winston started his freshman campaign — widely considered to be one the greatest freshman seasons ever by a college quarterback — by dissecting the Pittsburgh Panthers' defense on the road. In that game, Winston completed 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns, adding another 25 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
The same cannot be said for Francois, who struggled out of the gates, misfiring on several throws before connecting on his first passing touchdown late in the first half. In a way, his early shortcomings helped to make his night that much more impressive, having to help lead his team from 22 points down to an eventual 11-point win. Francois finished the game having completed 33 of 52 passes for 419 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 59 yards.
Outside of the obvious workload difference and statistical margins between Winston and Francois, it's only fair to point out that Francois also faced a tougher opponent in Ole Miss, a contender in the SEC.
Perhaps the biggest similarity between quarterbacks is the way in which they registered their first passing touchdowns. Both came on very similar routes from the pass-catchers, who lined up left, shoulder faked to the left and then cut right on a post route over the middle. In both cases, the quarterback was forced to hang in the pocket, face pressure and absorb a hit after releasing the ball.
Winston’s first touchdown pass:
Francois’ first touchdown pass:
It remains to be seen whether Francois will go on to have a career, let alone freshman year, as good as Winston's. But, at least for now, Florida State feels like they have a star in the making under center.