Last year, Jameis Winston's stellar spring game set the stage for a Heisman Trophy and a national title. One year later many Florida State fans might be wondering if Winston's spring game struggles signal a sophomore slump.
Winston's final stat line in Saturday's Garnet & Gold game included 396 yards passing, two touchdowns and an interception while completing 27-of-56 passing attempts (48.2 percent). Winston's lowest completion percentage in a game last season was 52.6 percent in FSU's third game of the year against Bethune-Cookman, where Winston went just 10-of-19 in the 54-6 rout.
So the fact that Winston completed fewer than half of his passes on Saturday is somewhat alarming, especially considering he didn't do that once last year.
Winston particularly struggled in the first half, where he completed just 13-of-31 passes (41.9) percent and also threw that one interception. In that half, he routinely overthrew receivers and was inaccurate on simple screen passes.
According to Jared Shanker of ESPN, head coach Jimbo Fisher said after the game that receivers simply weren't getting open for Winston.
I thought Jameis started out slow early. We didn't have many guys open and that secondary was locking them down. We gradually got guys open and he made some throws.
The interception in the first half was Winston's worst decision he made all day. He threw into triple coverage deep down the field and was picked off by Jalen Ramsey after the ball was tipped.
Yes, it's easy to excuse mistakes considering this is the spring game. But Winston's a Heisman winner who's entering his third year in the program. He should know better by now than to throw deep into triple coverage.
Another thing to consider is that Winston was going up against the first-team defense for the Seminoles, which includes the secondary that led the nation last season with 26 interceptions.
It is actually a positive then, that Winston just went up against one of the best defenses in the country and he threw for nearly 400 yards.
How good are PJ Williams and Jalen Ramsey? Jameis Winston struggled against them. That's all.— ChopChat.com (@ChopChat_) April 12, 2014
Is Jameis Winston due for a sophomore slump?
A new corps of receivers also contributed to Winston's problems on Saturday. No longer does Winston have Kelvin Benjamin, Kenny Shaw or Nick O'Leary to throw to. The best returning receiver is Rashad Greene, and even he was relegated to a green "non-contact" jersey in the spring game, which limited what he could do.
In addition to Greene, Rashad Gholston, who caught a touchdown in the game, is a promising receiver that Winston is still developing an on-field relationship with.
Another likely explanation for Winston's struggles on Saturday could be as simple as fatigue.
The darling of Florida State has been running himself ragged this spring. This past week, he either practiced or played in a baseball game every day. He had to sign an NCAA waiver granting him exemption from his mandated day off just to play in the spring game.
Busy weekend for Jameis Winston. Baseball at Ga Tech tonight, back for FSU spring game tomorrow, back in ATL on Sunday.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) April 11, 2014
With so much on the young man's plate, including the new federal investigation that Florida State is being subjected to following its handling of the Winston sexual assault allegations, maybe he was due for an off day.
According to Shanker, Winston told the media after the game that, at times this spring, he's been exhausted.
Physically, some days I was drained. I'm a busy man. I got to study and I'm a regular college student. Football is not my job yet. I got to carry out my everyday life. I'm going to be tired sometimes and if Jimbo asks me, 'Jameis, are you tired?' I'm going to say, 'No, coach.' It's how college life is but I love it.
Saturday didn't go as exactly as planned for Winston. But fans shouldn't worry too much about their superstar, as he has a knack for coming up big when he has to. If you need proof of that, just go look at that last Florida State drive to seal the national championship.