For the first time in three years, Florida State embarks on a season without EJ Manuel listed as the starting quarterback. Earlier this week, Seminole head coach Jimbo Fisher named redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston as the week one starter after a heated spring and camp position battle with redshirt sophomore Jacob Coker.The quarterback competition to select the starting signal-caller proved to Fisher that he couldn’t make the wrong decision, so to speak, as both guys had proved their worth.
It was Winston’s dominant performance in the Florida State spring game that ultimately earned him the starting role. He went 12 for 15 for 205 yards and two touchdowns. The decision was one that has huge implications for the Seminoles’ future, as well. Fisher is fully aware that putting a freshman quarterback on the field to start the season has its pitfalls, but he also remembers Manuel put in the same situation when Christian Ponder went down with an injury four years ago.
The learning curve is what Fisher is most interested in checking out with his new starting quarterback. Several reports indicate that Winston’s maturity has developed rapidly, and he is prepared for the challenge of heading an ACC offense already. Fisher is eager to find out what his quarterback can do on Saturday as Florida State takes on Pittsburgh in the Panthers’ first ACC matchup as a member of the conference. With a conference matchup to begin Winston’s career, Fisher is looking for his signal-caller to rely more heavily on his older teammates to help guide the way, as nerves are to be expected.
“You have to depend on your veterans no doubt,” Fisher said on an ACC coaches’ teleconference on Wednesday. “When there’s opportunities for him to make plays, he’s got to be able to do it. He’s got to manage the game and take care of the ball. He’s got to do all those things. If he gets the opportunity, he has to take advantage of it. If not, he has to be smart with the football.”