Friday, May 24, 2013
Under Pressure: QB Jameis Winston
By David M. Hale
Each season brings with it new expectations, and a handful of Seminoles will bear the brunt of the pressure to perform in 2013. We're counting down the top 10 FSU players being counted on the most to help the Seminoles live up to expectations.
2012 performance: Winston's first season in Tallahassee was all about building the hype. The prized recruit from the 2012 class redshirted, but he still managed to generate plenty of excitement. The video of him throwing a football over a fraternity house, the images of him enthusiastically celebrating touchdowns on the sideline during games, his impressive turn on the baseball field, the hype from analysts projecting him as a future No. 1 overall draft pick -- Winston had about as much buzz as a player can command while not actually playing.
Jameis Winston is already a campus star and he hasn't even taken a snap in a varsity game.
Pressure point: Recruiting stud with immense hype takes over a veteran offense on a contending team -- that's pretty much a perfect recipe for pressure in the college game. Of course, Winston hasn't seemed to mind much. He already managed to shine during the pressure-packed QB competition this spring while concurrently playing on the baseball team, but the spotlight will only get brighter as the season approaches. And for good measure, Winston's likely first start will come in a hostile road environment, on national TV, against ACC newcomer Pittsburgh.
If he succeeds: All the muted enthusiasm currently swirling around FSU becomes unabashed excitement, and the Seminoles would quickly vault back into the national title conversation. Clemson has been the early favorite in the ACC for good reason, but Florida State has every bit as much talent and experience on offense. The X-factor is at quarterback, where Clemson has a Heisman hopeful and FSU has the newcomer. But there are plenty of fans already pegging Winston as the next Johnny Manziel, and if he even comes close to the Texas A&M star's 2012 performance, Florida State could be in for a special season.
If he fails: It's hard to even define what failure would be for Winston, given the immense hype he's received already. If he turns in a typical season for a redshirt freshman -- an inconsistent learning experience -- many fans will view it as a massive disappointment. Even if he matches the statistics posted last year by fifth-year senior EJ Manuel, it might not be enough to satisfy the buzz. And that could be the biggest issue for Winston to overcome. With a veteran offense around him, he needs to be consistent, if unspectacular. If he worries about living up to the expectations and, in turn, makes too many poorly timed miscues, it could significantly damage his growth as a quarterback and FSU's hopes for an ACC title.
Projection: All that hype surrounding Winston is there for a reason. He's special. His talent is obvious, his football smarts were on display this spring and his personality -- fun, enthusiastic and immensely competitive -- perfectly arms him for the spotlight he's going to be playing under. Still, the bar Manziel set a year ago is an awfully high standard, and one made even tougher in Jimbo Fisher's more restrained system. Winston will find success in 2013, but even Manziel had his struggles in the early going. The highs for Winston this season could well eclipse Manuel's work a year ago, but there will be a few ugly moments, too. The key will be ensuring progress each week, with an eye toward the Oct. 19 date with Clemson to have him clicking on all cylinders.