When the Florida State Seminoles secured prized quarterback recruit Jameis Winston as part of the class of 2012, fans branded him as the future of the program. It appears as though the future is now in Tallahassee, however, which is the best thing for Florida State currently and moving forward.
According to Layne Herdt of Seminoles.com, Florida State head football coach Jimbo Fisher named Winston his starting quarterback for the season opener against Pittsburgh on Sept. 2.
Winston, a redshirt freshman, was locked in a tight battle with sophomore Jacob Coker for the starting job throughout the spring and summer, but due in large part to the enticing skill set that he brings to the table, Fisher ultimately decided to go with the high-upside Winston.
Coker may have been the safer pick as he was given a bit of in-game experience last season, and he is a prototypical pocket passer, but the Noles probably weren't going to go anywhere with him at the helm. Winston, on the other hand, has Heisman Trophy ability. It would be unfair to expect him to reach that level right away, but the talent is clearly there.
Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel proved last season that young quarterbacks can thrive in major college football. Manziel was in the same position last year as Winston is this year, and he answered the bell in a major way.
Manziel racked up over 5,000 yards, scored 47 touchdowns and led the Aggies to an upset win over the eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide en route to becoming the first freshman to win the coveted Heisman Trophy.
It's unlikely that Fisher is expecting similar results from Winston this season, but there is no reason why he can't help the Seminoles be one of the nation's top teams.
Winston is a dual-threat quarterback like Manziel, and he'll actually be playing in the much easier ACC. Manziel had his Heisman season against some of college football's best defenses in the SEC, so Winston is in an advantageous position.
Florida State is entering a transitional period, as it lost 11 key players to the NFL draft during the offseason. Chief among them was quarterback EJ Manuel, who the Buffalo Bills selected No. 16 overall. Winston has big shoes to fill from both an on-field and a character perspective, but his body and physical tools are very similar to what Manuel brought to the table.
Despite the fact that Florida State is likely to go through some growing pains this season, it still has an excellent opportunity to reign supreme in the ACC. Aside from No. 8 Clemson, Florida State is the only ACC team ranked in the AP Top 25 at No. 11. That means the conference is there for the taking as the Seminoles play Clemson on Oct. 19.
Winston simply adds a different dynamic to Florida State's offense, much like Tajh Boyd does for Clemson. Boyd is among the top contenders to win the Heisman Trophy this year, and Fisher is undoubtedly hoping for him to develop into a Boyd-esque player. The Seminoles will have an opportunity to see how far along Winston is in his progress when he goes head-to-head with Boyd and the Tigers as well.
Essentially every top team in the nation was lined up to sign Winston when he was deciding on a college, so it isn't as if the Seminoles are going with someone who is ill-equipped for the job. Fisher recruited Winston with the intention of Winston leading Florida State to a national title. That type of talk may be premature, but an ACC title this year would be a huge step in that direction.
Florida State will have to get past a strong Clemson team in order to do it, but winning the ACC is now a realistic expectation with Winston calling the signals on offense.
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