The first weekend of the college football season came to a close Monday night with one of the most impressive performances over the past few days.
Jameis Winston, Florida State's redshirt freshman quarterback, diced up Pitt's defense in his first career start by going 25-of-27 for 356 yards and racking up five total touchdowns (four passing, one rushing).
He had help. Winston's offensive line gave him a mostly clean pocket throughout the night and receivers were generally wide open. A ground game that averaged almost five yards per carry made play-action much more effective.
Still, Winston demonstrated superb athletic ability and made some nice throws. To say it was a solid debut would be underselling it. While it's just one game, it looks like Winston is primed for a must-see TV career with the Seminoles.
So it's only natural Winston's connection to Texas head coach Mack Brown—or lack thereof—was brought up Monday night.
Jameis Winston, Jan. 2011: "If I'd gotten the offer from Texas, I'd be going to Texas right now." http://t.co/JZr5saz4b7— Max Olson (@max_olson) September 3, 2013
And, in fact, Winston did admit in an article from al.com last year that he had prior interest in the Longhorns. But he says he never received a scholarship offer (Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247Sports.com do not show Texas as one of Winston's college choices, let alone an offer).
"The school I'd be committed to now over everyone else never offered," Winston said. "I loved Texas. I grew up watching Vince Young.
Texas even has a great baseball program. The first tape I asked our coaches to send out was to Texas. The only school I called was Texas."
For what it's worth, a source at UT told Bruce Feldman of CBSSports on Tuesday morning that they did reach out to Winston's high school coach, but they didn't think Winston was seriously interested.
Feldman followed up on that tweet with a story that says Winston called Texas "four or five" times but didn't hear back. From Geoff Ketchum at Orangebloods.com to Travis Haney of ESPN.com, just about everyone seems to have a different version of what happened.
Almost every story has three sides: one side, the other side and the truth.
What is known is that Winston ultimately chose between Alabama and Florida State coming out of high school. Would an offer from Texas at any point in time have changed that? Maybe, maybe not. Here's what Winston said in the same al.com interview:
"It's about relationships," he said. "I dreamed about Texas, but if they came with an offer now I couldn't consider it. I don't know those coaches and the time between now and signing day is not enough time to get to know them."
The Longhorns signed one quarterback in the 2012 class: Connor Brewer from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. Brewer, a four-star prospect according to Rivals.com, only lasted one year in Austin. Brewer tweeted over the summer that he was transferring to Arizona.
It was another swing and a miss in the grand narrative about Mack Brown recruiting Joe Quarterback to play defensive back for the Longhorns...if he recruited him at all. And it was only made worse when the news about Winston's one-time interest in Texas was dredged up again Monday night.
There is some validity to the joke, though. And sometimes it writes itself. This is what Brown had to say about FCS teams during Monday's Big 12 coaches teleconference:
Mack talking about QBs at the FCS level: "Maybe they were recruited as a wide receiver or something at another school" I JUST I CAN'T— Ben Kercheval (@BenKercheval) September 2, 2013
The most popular stories in the narrative involve Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, both Heisman winners who were reportedly viewed as athletes in the eyes of Texas.
"I don't remember what the conversations (about Griffin) were,” Brown said via a 2011 piece from the San Antonio Express-News. “Which is bad.”
The list could go on, but really, this has become a question of where the criticism of Brown's (in)ability to sign top quarterbacks is specifically merited, and where it isn't.
Recruiting, at its core, is a game of roulette. Sometimes you nail it, oftentimes you don't. Before Texas' current quarterback quandary, Brown had two remarkable players come through Austin back-to-back in Vince Young and Colt McCoy. As far as quarterback play is concerned, Texas swung from one end of the spectrum to another in a matter of a year.
As Bomani Jones of ESPN points out, not recruiting Manziel or RGIII isn't the worst thing Brown's ever done. There are a lot of recruits in the state of Texas. Not everyone's going to grab the attention of the folks in Austin.
but i won’t knock mack too hard for not offering a guy who first committed to houston and another who wasn’t offered by his current coach.— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) September 3, 2013
Were they still oversights? Sure, but you know what they say about hindsight. It's not like Manziel was heavily recruited by all the Big 12 schools out of high school anyway. Aggies beat writer Brent Zwerneman even notes on Manziel's Heisman website that Manziel didn't initially catch the eye of Texas A&M's staff. And Kevin Sumlin? The coach who receives a lot of credit (along with Kliff Kingsbury) for Manziel's instant success? That wasn't his player when he came to College Station in 2012.
As for RGIII, he was closely tied to playing quarterback for Art Briles when Briles was at Houston and followed him to Waco when he took the Baylor job in 2008. Even if Texas had made a run at him, it would appear the current starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins had his heart set on playing for Briles.
Where Brown deserves criticism—and he certainly gets it—is putting all his football-shaped eggs in the Garrett Gilbert basket while letting a prospect like Luck completely go by unnoticed. During that period, one backup, Connor Wood, transferred to Colorado. Wood didn't see any playing time with the 'Horns, but he racked up 400 yards passing and three touchdowns for the Buffaloes in Sunday's win over Colorado State.
Clearly he has some ability, but Wood was buried in the depth chart at UT behind David Ash and Case McCoy.
Ash is a junior now and there's a growing amount of pressure for him to have a breakout year. Ash ranked 14th last year in the nation in total QBR, per ESPN.com stats, but consistency is an area in which he does need to improve.
In any case, Ash isn't typically regarded as the game-changer like Colt McCoy and Young were. Not yet anyway.
Could Winston have been that game-changer for the Longhorns? The belief that UT apparently didn't even try with one of the most highly regarded high school players in the country who was, in his own words, interested, is troubling. On the other hand, maybe Winston wasn't as interested as he says he was.
We'll probably never know for sure.
Of course, this narrative could all go away if Tyrone Swoopes, the highly regarded freshman, steps up to have a monster career. He showed flashes during UT's spring game, but he doesn't figure to see a lot of playing time this year, if any.
Whether Swoopes pans out remains to be seen, however. For now, there were likely several Texas (and Alabama) fans watching Florida State on Monday night and wondering what could have been.
And they have every right to wonder.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.