TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Quarterback Jameis Winston hasn’t made many mistakes in a Florida State uniform. When he does, the redshirt freshman knows why. That’s how the teenager with the shoulder-shrug smile earned the trust of coaches and teammates.
“There’s no age limit on knowledge,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “There’s no age limit on knowing what to do and being a good player.
“Each player, what he can absorb at that present time of his career, matters as to how much leeway you give him. And (Winston) gets more than most have.”
The 19-year-old Winston made a wrong read during the 54-6 win against Bethune-Cookman last week. He missed the hot receiver as the defense blitzed and was forced to spin out of the clutches of defensive end LeBrand Richardson. Winston simultaneously dipped from defensive end Erik Williams. The busted play ended with a falling down Winston throwing an 11-yard touchdown to Kelvin Benjamin.
Fisher’s quarterback tutorial hinges on one question: Why
Why did you make this decision? Why was this the outcome?
Winston tends to ace the `”why” test.
He’s completed 50 of 64 passes for 718 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception with a 210.49 passing efficiency that ranks No. 2 in FBS. Winston (6-foot-4, 228 pounds) also has two touchdowns rushing within the No. 5 scoring offense in FBS.
“You can’t rely on ability, as far as letting it bail you out all the time,” Fisher said. “If you don’t know why you made a mistake then that’s critical and we have to fix that.
“Some guys make plays and people assume they know why. … He understands that and puts a lot of time in it.”
The previous week Winston threw his lone interception on a forced, high pass against Nevada. He took responsibility and moved on.
“He keeps his same personality, which is really goofy and loose and just very competitive,” FSU safety Terrence Brooks said. “He’s just going out there being very comfortable in his own skin and just knowing his abilities. I feel like that right there is what’s going to take him very far in this game.”
That comfort has allowed him to deal with the “Famous Jameis” nickname, “J-Dub” T-shirts and another with Winston’s face on the body of Jesus and the words ,”The Chosen One.” Ego has not been a problem.
Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel was drawn to Winston’s playful demeanor last year despite being a senior NFL prospect. Indianapolis Colts linebacker Bjoern Werner was named 2012 ACC defensive player of the year and took notice, too.
“He’s comfortable in every situation they put him in, and that’s why he’s so successful now,” Werner said. “He’s just really open, he talks a lot and that’s what makes him so comfortable.”
Winston even exuded a level of calm as a freshman at Hueytown High School.
“A lot of that has to do with him having so much attention on him when he was a freshman,” said Andrew Bone, Rivals.com recruiting reporter. “A lot of these high-profile recruits coming out of high school, they don’t get the attention put on them until their junior, maybe their senior year.”
Winston and Fisher’s relationship isn’t always lovey-dovey. Fisher is known for his outbursts toward his quarterbacks. Winston was criticized in high school for berating teammates.
The common pursuit of perfection has enhanced the bond. The next test comes Saturday at Boston College.
“I’m a competitor till the day I die,” Winston said. “When he says I’m getting too aggressive, that means I’m making decisions off of emotions and not off of business. … That’s when mistakes start to happen.
“When coach Fisher tries to yell at me and intimidate me, he knows that I’m a look at him like, `Coach, I know you’re trying to get up under my skin.’ … But when I know he’s serious, I get a different type of attitude. I’ve got to lock in.”
Fisher doesn’t mind as long as there’s an answer to the question: “Why?”
“I’d rather say, `whoa’ than `giddy-up,'” Fisher said. “I like the aggression. I like the going at it.
“He did a great job of watching EJ. Of the preparation, the things EJ did, watching film, studying opponents, going and watching practice film. I think he did a very good job of that. That allowed him, because of the predecessor and his own demeanor, to know more than a lot of guys do at that stage.”