The surprise is not that Winston beat Jacob Coker for the starting job. The surprise, rather, will be that Winston is not perfect.
(Insert gasp here.)
He’s going to wow you with his athletic ability. He’s going to dazzle you with his feet. If he hasn’t already, he’s going to win you over with a gregarious personality that lights up the locker room. His laughter is contagious, he’s a natural, charismatic leader and, oh, by the way, he can throw a 90 mph fastball. For months, fans have fawned over #famousjameis, and the media has piled it on with the preseason hype. He has already won the people’s choice award, and he hasn’t even taken a snap yet.
Repeat: He hasn’t taken a snap yet.
Winston is a redshirt freshman. Let him be one this fall.
It’s easy to forget, considering he is so physically gifted, is blessed with a 6-foot-4, 227-pound frame, can run the 40-yard dash in less than 4.6 seconds, and is intelligent and instinctive.
“He doesn’t act or think like a freshman,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Sometimes that’s a good thing every now and then.”
It would be a good thing for the Noles if Winston could keep it up for 14 weeks, but at some point, he’s going to act -- or rather play -- his age. Even Fisher will concede there is going to be a learning curve for Winston, who will start his career in a nationally televised opener at Pittsburgh on Labor Day.
“There’s definitely a learning curve, no doubt,” Fisher said. “How much? You never know totally until you’re ready to play.”
How will Winston throw under pressure? How will he handle a road trip to Death Valley that will have such critical implications for the league race? Equally important is how Fisher will continue to develop Winston while acting as the team’s playcaller and CEO. How much will the Noles miss James Coley? There are intangibles and experiences Winston will learn and grow from this season that will make him even better, but odds are he’s going to have to learn from a few mistakes, too. With all that’s been said and written about Winston this preseason, though, you’d think he’s literally perfect. Florida State is fortunate enough to have so much returning talent and experience surrounding Winston this fall -- including up front -- that his teammates will no doubt help take some of the pressure off him, especially early in the season.
Here’s how good Winston is right now: Winston was good enough to beat out Coker, a quarterback Fisher says should be drafted in the top three rounds. Yeah, he’s that good. They’re both the real deal, and this quarterback competition had more meat to it than some have given it credit for. There is no denying Winston is a truly elite athlete who is a cut above the rest. And yet he still works to be better.
“Every day I walk by, if I’m going up and down the hallway, he’s sitting there watching film,” Fisher said.
As he should be. After all, he’s still a rookie.
Don’t be shocked if he actually plays like one on occasion.