TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Coaches rave about the poise of Jameis Winston, Florida State’s sensational redshirt quarterback.
What surprisingly often gets overlooked are the polished fundamentals the 19-year-old exhibits.
“He takes pride in those things because he understands … you’ve got to get the ball to people and be consistent, so you have to have great fundamentals,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “What helps him is, as he continues to have knowledge of our offense and grows, it allows that footwork and those fundamentals to come even quicker, which makes him more consistent.”
Winston is on pace to set a school record with his accuracy.
His 71.3 completion percentage is seventh-best in FBS and that’s a product of a smooth delivery that starts at the base of his feet and ends with the follow-through. Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward holds the single-season school record with a 69.5 percentage in 1993.
Winston said he has a long way to go, particularly when it comes to dropping back in the pocket and his overall pocket presence. He’s confident that will come with time and with “coach Fisher yelling at me some more.”
The QB completed 22 of 34 passes for 444 yards against Clemson last weekend but it appeared his mechanics broke down on just five of those misses. His yards passing against the Tigers were the most by a Seminole QB since Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke threw for 521 in 2000.
Winston’s delivery is what made possible for him to accurately hit 6-foot-5 Kevin Benjamin with a 22-yard, back-shoulder touchdown pass against Clemson.
Winston also accurately throws on the run by routinely squaring his shoulders and hips instead of throwing off-balance. That was the case on a 13-yard, third-down conversion against the Tigers, when Winston stepped up in the pocket, scrambled left and connected with Rashard Greene. His footwork base has also repeatedly had Winston in position to get the ball to receivers on screens and short outs so they can catch the ball without breaking stride.
“Hand placement, foot placement, hip placement, eye placement, shoulder placement,” Fisher said. “He works on all those fundamentals every week. We put in a lot of work.
“He’s done a really nice job with his hands … where his hands are held on the release point to be more consistent. But he can adjust his hands, which all the great ones can. He’s working his feet a lot … but he’s working his hips and getting more in line with his throws and being more aware of those things and not relying on his arm as much.”
Mark Stoops was irritated at times with Winston last year. The Kentucky coach was the Florida State defensive coordinator while Winston led the scout team in practice. Stoops expected Winston to be successful, just not so quickly.
“He just had that uncanny ability to drop the ball in on you all over the place. It was so aggravating,” Stoops said. “Just making plays and dropping the ball in there in some tough spots. He just had the ability to make plays.”
Winston manages to get himself in good throwing position more often than not.
He squares himself on the move and doesn’t throw across his body. Winston widens his base when unable to step into a throw to prevent throwing off his back foot. He’s strong with the ball in the pocket as defenders slap at his arms. Gil Brandt, NFL Media senior analyst, said Winston has the advantage of working with Fisher, who developed Christian Ponder, EJ Manuel and JaMarcus Russell into first-round NFL selections, tight ends Tim Brewster and quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders.
“He doesn’t have to over-accentuate throwing the ball,” said Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who mentored Peyton and Eli Manning. “What I mean by that is his body is pretty quiet, allows him to be really be accurate. Looks to me, like for as young as he is, he’s very accurate.”
Dabo Swinney found out the hard way. Fifty-one points was the most points Clemson has ever allowed at home.
N.C. State (3-3, 0-3) plays at Florida State on Saturday.
“Oh, he’s as good as anybody we’ve seen, that’s for sure,” Swinney said. “I mean, he’s very deserving to be one of the Heisman guys. Heck, and he may win it.
“But the thing that I’m most impressed with him is he just doesn’t make any mistakes, and he doesn’t flinch. He’s a very, very mature, poised guy personally. And then you throw in his great skill as a football player, just incredibly impressive.”