Who may be the next youngster to kiss the hardware?
Prior to the 2012 season, Johnny Manziel was so anonymous even in College Station that he was able to use a fake ID to sneak himself into bars underage. Now situated smack-dab at the center of the college football universe, the Texas A&M superstar and reigning Heisman Trophy winner can't sneak in anywhere in the country.
Of course, that is because of his mind-blowing play as he burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman last fall. Should he continue to extend plays for longer than 10 seconds with his elite scrambling ability, fans will be impressed, but no one will be surprised.
Isn't the surprise half the fun, though?
With the cat very much out of the bag on Manziel, we took a quick look around the country to see which young signal-callers might pull a Johnny Football and come out of nowhere to dominate SportsCenter highlight reels and potentially compete for a Heisman nod in 2013. We are not guaranteeing these power conference quarterbacks will star next year, or even that they will see the field. However, don't be surprised if you see their week-by-week performances at the top of the national statistical leaderboards.
Without further ado, who are a few young gunners who could break through in 2013?
Big 12: Bryce Petty, Baylor Bears
Bryce Petty's abilities as an elite pocket passer might be one of the worst-kept secrets in the nation. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Midlothian, Texas native has been groomed for his junior year ever since he stepped on the school's Waco campus.
Petty spent his freshman season sitting behind Heisman winner Robert Griffin III and then last year behind Nick Florence, who passed for 4,309 yards and rushed for another 568 as a senior (interestingly, Florence bypassed a chance at the NFL in favor of business school, if you ever need some trivia knowledge). The 2013 season is all his, however, and Bears fans are excited to see what he can do in the team's crazy-bright new gold helmets.
A few 50-plus point outings in the high-flying Big 12 may even be enough to move him into the Heisman conversation.
ACC: Jameis Winston, Florida State Seminoles
College baseball fans have already seen plenty of Jameis Winston, but after redshirting his first football season in Tallahassee, Seminoles fans are chomping at the bit to see what he can put together on the football field.
At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, the Hueytown, Alabama native was considered the best dual-threat passer in the nation coming out of high school two years ago. Following the transfer of Clint Trickett (who is headed to West Virginia), Winston stands next in line to star for a program that has seen its last two starters (Christian Ponder and EJ Manuel) selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
A huge year for this superstar-in-the-making/lover of cheeseballs will go a long ways towards making his own dreams of being a first-rounder a reality. It may also catapult him into the Heisman race as a redshirt freshman.
Big Ten: Christian Hackenberg, Penn State Nittany Lions
Unless you follow high school recruiting, you probably have no idea who Christian Hackenberg is. That's because the 6-foot-4, 212-pound Fort Union, Virginia native has never stepped foot on a college football field.
Following the graduation of Matt McGloin, however, Hackenberg may get the chance to do so as a true freshman at Penn State. McGloin was a former walk-on who first-year coach Bill O'Brien transformed into the top-rated passer in the Big Ten a year ago. The former New England Patriots assistant has worked with Tom Brady in the past and is seen as a bit of a quarterback guru.
He had to fend off the likes of Alabama and Florida for the services of young Hackenberg and now the No. 2-rated quarterback in the nation in the class of 2013 is in Happy Valley.
He is currently embroiled in a battle for the starting spot with JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson. However, if he gets the nod, he will have the opportunity to compete for a Big Ten title and some of the headlines currently enjoyed/despised by Johnny Manziel.
Pac-12: Anu Solomon, Arizona Wildcats
No experience? That may not be a problem for Anu Solomon.
Like Penn State's Hackenberg, Solomon stepped onto campus as one of the nation's elite quarterbacking recruits and, well, as a surprise arrival. O'Brien must carefully monitor the development of Hackenberg, and coach Rich Rodriguez is doing the same for Solomon in the desert.
That being said, Rodriguez is seeing a heck of a lot of development. That should not exactly be surprising. The 6-foot-1, 202-pound Solomon started all four years at Bishop High in Las Vegas, compiling an astounding 57-3 win-loss record and winning four state championships. He has been featured in showcase games against the best prep teams from Florida, California, Maryland and elsewhere. To put it matter-of-factly, the young man is used to big-time competition, and he has the confidence to keep the momentum going at the next level.
Also like Hackenberg, however, Solomon has to work his way past a few incumbents. B.J. Denker appeared in six games behind departing senior Matt Scott. He had the upper hand coming out of last season but all accounts point to the fact that Solomon has closed the gap thanks to his immense level of talent.
We're not saying he is going to blow up as a true freshman, but don't be surprised.
SEC: Whomever is starting at Auburn
This is showing quite a bit of faith in first year coach Gus Malzahn, but the man's track record speaks for itself. Of course, there's Cam Newton, but there's also Chris Todd. An average starter in the SEC, Malzahn, as Auburn's offensive coordinator, turned him into the conference's third-most efficient passer in 2009 with a rating of 145.73. As the head coach of Arkansas State last year, he watched Ryan Aplin cut his interception total down from 16 in 2011 to just four.
After Kiehl Frazier announced he will be switching to safety, the race is down to JUCO transfer Nick Marshall and true freshman Jeremy Johnson. Both possess elite ability, but almost as importantly, both will be surrounded with SEC-caliber talent and both should benefit from Malzahn's wide-open offensive system.
Not many folks outside of The Plains would recognize either Marshall or Johnson if they bumped right into them. The same was true of Manziel a year ago. Could one make the same jump to superstardom for War Eagle?