Jimbo Fisher said he expects a number of freshmen to contribute early this season - maybe as early as Monday's game against Pitt. More experienced teammates are trying to prepare the young guys for playing time, telling the them to calm down, don't get too hyped, don't worry about making big plays.
Recently named starting quarterback and redshirt freshman Jameis Winston doesn't get the same level of advice. His teammates don't see the need.
"It's like he's EJ (Manuel) all over again," running back James Wilder, Jr., said. "It's like I'm looking up to him like he's a senior."
That's the refrain from teammates and even Fisher leading up to Monday's game: Winston is ready. Even with his first collegiate snaps coming in a Monday-night season opener that's also an ACC game to boot, the Seminoles say they're confident in Winston.
"There's not much you can tell Jameis," left tackle Cameron Erving said. "Because he's just got that personality that 'I'm going to get it done by any means.'"
Winston's been building to this stage for more than a year since he arrived on Florida State's campus. Teammates say he was one of the most vocal players on the sidelines all through his redshirt year in 2012. Kenny Shaw said even during FSU's darkest moment in 2012, Winston remained animated.
"At the N.C. State game, the whole sideline was down," Shaw said, referencing FSU's 17-16 last-second loss in Raleigh last season. "He was yelling at everybody, and it's like 'Who is this guy? He's not even playing.' But that's just Jameis."
For comparison, Shaw remembers his first college game, saying he spent the first few plays praying nobody would throw the ball to him. Winston doesn't seem to have those types of jitters. When teammates try to remind him that he's a freshman in the huddle, he comes back with "EJ did it."
Winston throws in enough off-the-wall antics to somehow remain uber-competitive and lighthearted at the same time. Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin said he nicknamed Winston "Random" for his goofy stunts. Winston frequently breaks into song or dance during practice, and even remains light in the huddle after getting ripped by Fisher for a mistake.
Running back Devonta Freeman said he does text Winston frequently with message reminding him to stay calm, but Freeman admitted Winston's laid-back demeanor puts him at ease.
"He's still smiling with it," Freeman said. "It just gives us that confidence that he knows what he's doing and what he's getting in to."
Even Fisher has noticed Winston's ability to take coaching and to have a back-and-forth with Fisher despite his youth.
"There's an old saying: if the dog doesn't bite when he's a pup he won't bite when he's dog," Fisher said. "He bites. It doesn't bother him. He likes interaction. He likes to be challenged at times, but we haven't really had to do that."
Fisher added that he expects first-game jitters from everyone, not just Winston. But Fisher specializes in quarterbacks and has high standards for the position. So far, it appears Winston has met them.
Plus, Florida State has a solid history freshman quarterbacks having success. Winston is just the seventh freshman to start under center for Florida State and only the third to start the season opener. Freshmen quarterbacks are 5-1 in their first start at Florida State, and FSU feels confident Winston can add another win to that list.
After all, EJ did it.
...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now for a FREE Trial