Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, who each promised to do the full workout at this year's NFL scouting combine, kept their word Saturday as both quarterbacks went through the paces at Lucas Oil Stadium.
In what will be a constant exercise in comparison shopping until the NFL draft April 30, the best quarterback prospects in this year's class proved they were well prepared for the big stage.
Throwing in the orchestrated drills of the combine to an unfamiliar group of wide receivers, with all dealing with the adrenaline of the moment, often can be a difficult thing for all involved.
But both Winston and Mariota each showed an easy throwing motion and deep-ball accuracy, and competed well in the drills.
Winston's work was given particular attention since concerns arose over some weakness in his throwing shoulder during the extensive medical exam players receive at the combine. In addition to the usual assessment by every team's medical staff that all players at the combine receive, Winston was also sent for an MRI on his shoulder.
Some scouts wondered Friday night whether Winston would still throw, given a player who had his throwing shoulder examined as extensively as he did would likely experience some soreness. But the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner threw as scheduled.
Winston said Friday that he was not concerned about the attention being paid to his shoulder.
"I had an MRI, just like everyone else," the former Florida State star said. "I've been playing football for, since I was 4 years old, and my shoulder has been fine."
Of the top quarterback prospects, only Colorado State's Garrett Grayson
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has undergone specific testing to determine why he is showing weakness in his throwing shoulder that was discovered during the NFL combine medical exams, according to team and league sources.
Sources said Winston underwent electromyography to study a weakness in his shoulder that often can be caused by a nerve problem and can be treated through therapy, if necessary.
No other specifics were provided by the sources. Winston spoke to the media Friday afternoon and said his shoulder is healthy and he plans to throw Saturday.
"I got the same shoulder I done had the last two years at Florida State," Winston said when asked whether he was experiencing any discomfort.
Winston's planned media session Thursday was postponed for medical testing at a nearby hospital, according to a source.
"I had an MRI [on Thursday], just like everyone else," Winston said. "I've been playing football for, since I was 4 years old, and my shoulder has been fine."
It is not unusual for players to have medical concerns re-examined with expansive testing at the combine. Winston not only has played quarterback at Florida State but also was a vital member of the Seminoles' baseball team, primarily as a relief pitcher, and that may have contributed to the extra attention to Winston's shoulder.
"I'm a quarterback, this is actually the first time I've ever just had an offseason just to work on being a quarterback, I've been playing baseball, I was a pitcher, that might be why the shoulder thing, but this is my first time having an offseason," Winston said. "And I love it."
DT Daylon Mack (Texas A&M): Last year it was DE Myles Garrett who made a splash for the Aggies, and Mack is expected to do the same in 2015. While Texas A&M returns some quality young defensive tackles, none has Mack's combination of explosive power and quickness plus the ability to be a disruptive force in the backfield.
S Derwin James (FSU):
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David Cutcliffe has turned around the culture of Blue Devil football, leading his team to three straight bowl games and winning multiple national coach of the year awards in 2013. His hardwood counterpart, of course, is arguably the greatest to ever walk the collegiate sidelines, Mike Krzyzewski.
The real debate comes after the top, as Fox has Louisville and Notre Dame at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. While the jury may still be out on Bobby Petrino's redemption tour after Year 1 back with the Cardinals, his success is likely enough to help lift the Cards to the No. 2 spot, considering Hall of Famer Rick Pitino is his counterpart. The Irish have a nice showing as well, as Brian Kelly is easily the school's best football coach since Lou Holtz and Mike Brey has turned the hoops squad into a consistent tournament team, after years of mediocrity before his arrival.
The legitimacy of the rest of the list is really in the eye of the beholder, especially given the cyclical nature of the ACC's football and men's basketball programs. I, for one, can easily see Virginia Tech moving up from No. 6 in the near future if Frank Beamer can turn things around on the gridiron. And Buzz Williams was definitely a home run hire this year for the hoops program.
I'd probably move No. 11 Clemson a few spots up, and No. 8 Syracuse and No. 10 Pitt could certainly see their profiles grow if their relatively new football coaches can make names for themselves to go with Jim Boeheim and Jamie Dixon.
I'd also put stock in 15th-place Wake Forest, which is in Year 1 of both the Dave Clawson and Danny Manning eras. The Demon Deacons have shown early signs in both regimes that they don't plan on going away quietly, regardless of their limitations.
Here are the rest of your Friday links:
- UNC will meet Georgia in the 2016 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.
- Congratulations to Duke's David Helton, Georgia Tech's Matt Connors, Louisville's Grant Donovan, Miami's Nantambu-Akil Fentress, and Syracuse's Cameron Lynch and Sam Rodgers on their ACC postgraduate scholarships.
- There's much more to Laken Tomlinson than football, Ben Swanson writes on DenverBroncos.com.
- FSU's Cam Erving shined in the bench press at the combine, Brendan Sonnone writes in the Orlando Sentinel.
- Duke Johnson compared himself to LeSean McCoy and said NFL teams shouldn't overlook him, Andrew Abramson writes in the Palm Beach Post.
The junior class at IMG Academy features a whopping eight prospects in the ESPN Junior 300, headlined by No. 2 Shavar Manuel and No. 3 and Florida State quarterback commit Malik Henry, along with No. 19 Saivion Smith and Florida State commit Isaac Nauta. Add in cornerback Khalil Ladler, outside linebacker Rahshaun Smith, No. 128 and Clemson wide receiver verbal Tavares Chase and Ohio State pledge Tyler Gerald and the quickly growing football program is officially among the nation's elite.
On Monday, RecruitingNation spent a few hours on campus to get the latest.
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2. As DraftWorld descends on Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine, there's something that Florida State all-everything wide receiver Rashad Greene said at the Rose Bowl that has stuck with me. "I'm not the biggest guy (6-0, 175), but at the end of the day, size is not what matters," Greene said. "... Right now that seems like what the NFL is more interested in is the look part, having the big guys. You know, I feel like they have their reasons. The NFL is definitely a red zone game, and you need big bodies like that. But I have my strong points that can be very dangerous."
3. The schools that begin spring practice in February have different reasons for doing so. Several start early, take two or three weeks off, and finish with two weeks in April. At Stanford, it has to do with the quarter system. At USC, it's to provide rest to a roster depleted by NCAA scholarship reductions. Curtis Johnson, the head coach at Tulane, provided a couple of more reasons as the Green Wave began practice Wednesday: the earlier the start, the more time for players to focus on end-of-the-semester academics. It also leaves more time for the injured to heal and the healthy to get stronger.
BRADENTON, Fla. -- IMG Academy will undoubtedly have one of the most talented football teams in the country in 2015, including defensive end Shavar Manuel. The nation's No. 2-ranked prospect in the 2016 ESPN Junior 300 has more than 40 scholarship offers to date, including the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Miami (Fla.).
On Monday, the 6-foot-4, 275-pound former Tampa Blake High star provided RecruitingNation with the latest on his recruitment.
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Perhaps it is in the ACC.
Four league teams have opted to open spring football practice this month, more than any other Power 5 conference. That number is double what it was a year ago, when Duke and Boston College opted to start in February.
Miami and Syracuse decided to join them this year. The Hurricanes opened Tuesday while Syracuse made the most dramatic change, moving its first spring practice up three weeks. The Orange open Sunday thanks in large part to their newly completed indoor facility.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe shifted to an early February spring practice start date last year, hoping to capitalize on momentum from its bowl performance. It worked out so well for his team that he has no plans to go back.
Boston College starts Feb. 25 with one practice, then resumes in March after spring break, the same schedule coach Steve Addazio used last year. Addazio wanted to practice a few more days in February this year, but could not alter the schedule after he had to make several coaching hires this month.
Still, the one-day February practice is beneficial because it builds in more time spent working on the team.
“The reason I love it is because I want to have as much time post-spring until the start of the season so if you get an injury, you can get a guy back,” Addazio said. “My whole thing is I want to get spring ball in, I want to see where our team is and really figure out what we’re all about.”
Then there are the recruiting considerations, also a big factor in the earlier start dates.
“Our biggest recruiting time is then,” Addazio said. “We get our recruits to come through during practice, and I love it, they get here and we spend a lot of time with them, that’s where we build our bonds. That’s the early bite that we get, and that’s critical to our recruiting. The earlier our spring practice is, the faster we get a bite into our players.”
Earlier spring practices also allow teams to figure out what positions they need to target on the recruiting trail earlier.
“In years past, we were trying to evaluate our spring practice and our depth chart and recruit at the same time,” Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said. “Now, we’re going to be able to say, ‘Let’s take the first week after spring ball, reevaluate everything we did during the spring, what was good, what wasn’t as good as we needed it to be and then close that chapter and jump full steam ahead into the recruiting process,’ which will help us be a little bit more on targets with who we need to go after. That is another area that’s going to be helpful in our process.”
More teams might follow suit in the near future. Second-year Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson also moved spring practice up three weeks to March 3 now that he is firmly in place with the Demon Deacons and not scrambling around in the first few months of the job.
Clawson said he would consider moving practice into late February next year once the new indoor practice facility is completed.
“When we had our spring game last year the third week in April, our coaches weren’t on the road until early May, and so other coaches in our division who had earlier spring football were out recruiting two weeks before we were, and in a day and age in which kids are committing earlier and earlier and changing their mind later and later, it was a recruiting disadvantage for us to not get out,” Clawson said. “We’d be out evaluating a kid and another school had been there twice before we even saw him.”
For staffs without much coaching turnover, the advantages are there. Makes spring football take on a slightly different meaning.
Spring start dates across the ACC
Duke, Miami already started
Feb. 22: Syracuse
Feb. 25: Boston College
March 1: North Carolina, NC State
March 2: Clemson
March 3: Wake Forest
March 15: Pittsburgh
March 17: Virginia
March 23: Georgia Tech
March 24: Virginia Tech, Louisville
TBA: Florida State
As proof, schools have taken to social media to show us exactly what their players are up to.
Clemson posted a video on its Instagram account showing a 5:30 a.m. workout.
At North Carolina, Blue Dawn is back -- the catchy phrase given to early conditioning workouts under Larry Fedora.
Wake Forest and Syracuse had their players up before dark, too. Syracuse even tagged its tweets #6AM.
Meanwhile, Pitt offensive line coach John Peterson reminded everybody via Twitter that players were set to begin their mat drills early Wednesday morning.
Of course, a few teams already have opened spring practice. Miami became the latest Tuesday. Though the practice was closed, quarterback Brad Kaaya told The Miami Herald in an interview last week that his main goal is to make sure he is leading a united team. There are now signs in the Miami locker room that read, "Cliques Kill."
Though nobody inside Miami has gone into much detail about team chemistry last season, dealing with a fractured locker room may help explain some of the issues the Hurricanes encountered toward the end of the season. It is not too difficult to read between the lines in the Kaaya comments to understand the team was splintered. This quote says it all: “You can’t have guys being outliers and kind of keeping to themselves or saying things under their breath. ... I feel like at times last year it was an offense and defense playing against our opponent, as opposed to the Miami Hurricanes playing against them."
Miami, it seems, has more than X's and O's to figure out.
Elsewhere across the ACC:
- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney talks about the way the Tigers have heavily recruited into Georgia and North Carolina.
- Former Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd writes a thoughtful column on why he has no regrets about the decisions he has made.
- Anthony Boone did a very fun Reddit AMA.
- SI.com re-ranks the 2012 signing classes. Florida State ends up No. 1.
- The combine provides former Louisville receiver DeVante Parker an opportunity to show he is completely healthy.
- Meanwhile, ESPN's Todd McShay says former Miami running back Duke Johnson and Louisville defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin have plenty riding on their medical testing at the combine.
- Former Miami tight end Clive Walford says he wants to run under a 4.7 40-yard dash at the combine.
- The Post-Standard presents five things to watch when Syracuse opens practice.
- Virginia announced its "All in For Excellence" fundraising initiative to help cover cost of attendance, which the school estimates adds an extra $1.33 million to the budget.
- Nothin' like a little winter smack talk.
But there are some programs that will have a bit of intrigue at the quarterback spot this spring. Here is a quick spring reset at where the signal-callers stand at each ACC school.
- Michael Brewer, Virginia Tech
- Jacoby Brissett, NC State
- Brad Kaaya, Miami
- Greyson Lambert, Virginia
- Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech
- Marquise Williams, North Carolina
- Deshaun Watson, Clemson
The returning starters*
At Syracuse, Hunt is coming off a broken leg and will face competition from AJ Long and Austin Wilson. Long and Wilson both played last season after Hunt went out, giving the coaching staff much more to work with this spring.
At Wake Forest, coach Dave Clawson said Wolford will get the first-team reps but his quarterback will have to win the starting job again after the Deacs signed two highly touted prep quarterbacks -- Kendall Hinton and Kyle Kearns.
At Pitt, Voytik will have to learn a new system and face new competition from Tennessee transfer Nathan Peterman. While Voytik is expected to keep his starting job, there are no guarantees here, either.
The new starter
- Thomas Sirk, Duke
The open competitions
Florida State: Sean Maguire, J.J. Cosentino. One of the most anticipated competitions in the entire country will take place in Tallahassee, where Jimbo Fisher must replace Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. Maguire served as the backup last season, but that does not necessarily make him the favorite to win the job. Cosentino came in last year as an ESPN 300 prospect and redshirted. Fisher said true freshmen De'Andre Johnson and Deondre Francois -- both ESPN 300 players -- will also get a shot. Johnson is already in for spring.
Louisville: Reggie Bonnafon, Tyler Ferguson, Kyle Bolin. With Will Gardner out for spring and no timetable set for his return after another major knee injury, the Cardinals are expected to have a heated open competition in the spring between Bonnafon, Ferguson and Bolin. Bonnafon played as a true freshman last season and showed some promise before getting injured late in the year. Bolin was then forced to play with Bonnafon and Gardner out. Though he led a comeback win over Kentucky, he was not nearly as effective in the bowl game against Georgia. Ferguson transferred from Penn State and sat out last season, and could end up being the wild card in the group.
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As has been the case in recent years, more prospects are invited than will get drafted, but everybody has a shot at either helping -- or potentially hurting -- themselves. This year, the ACC has 57 players represented -- including 12 from Florida State and 11 from Louisville. Those numbers do not come as much of a surprise.
This one does: Duke, which has had four players drafted since 2000, has four players at the combine -- Anthony Boone, Jamison Crowder, Laken Tomlinson and Takoby Cofield. Crowder turned heads at the Senior Bowl, and he discussed his NFL potential in an insightful diary entry he wrote for USA Today.
Meanwhile, Mike Huguenin of NFL.com lists DeVante Parker and Phillip Dorsett as receivers to watch during the combine. Dorsett, who has the potential to clock the fastest 40 time at the combine, has risen up draft boards along with teammates Denzel Perryman and Ereck Flowers. In all, eight Miami players will be at the combine -- proof the talent is still there in Coral Gables.
One more player to watch is Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson, rated the No. 2 cornerback available by ESPN's Kevin Weidl, ahead of P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby. Weidl says Johnson, "has the most natural man coverage skills in this year's class."
But of course, the biggest story headed into Indianapolis is Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who has become the popular name atop mock drafts across various publications. Mike Mayock of NFL Network says he expects Winston to go first overall to Tampa Bay despite off-the-field concerns. Of course, we are only at the beginning of the draft process, and small things end up getting blown out of proportion. Winston will be scrutinized until draft day and beyond.
As if anybody needed proof, check what happened this past weekend. Winston became the subject of Twitter speculation when a photo of him was posted that made him look overweight. Turns out that the photo was a month old and showed Winston with a black band tied tightly across his waist. No matter what he looks like, his quarterback coach, George Whitfield, said Winston has not yet decided whether to throw at the combine.
Elsewhere across the ACC:
- The Clemson spring game is set for April 11.
- Miami moved up the start of spring practice to Tuesday morning.
- North Carolina has hired Nebraska's Charlton Warren as its secondary coach per multiple reports.
- Athlon Sports lists impact junior college transfers for 2015.
- The Orlando Sentinel summarizes the league's spring storylines.
Jameis Winston's Accuser Speaks Out
TBD South Carolina North Carolina TBD Duke Tulane TBD Alcorn State Georgia Tech TBD Elon Wake Forest
TBD Maine Boston College TBD Wofford Clemson TBD Texas State Florida State TBD Bethune-Cookman Miami (FL) TBD Troy North Carolina State TBD Youngstown State Pittsburgh TBD Rhode Island Syracuse TBD Virginia UCLA TBD Louisville Auburn