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39 posts from April 2013

April 26, 2013

Watson, Carradine Among Seminoles Hoping to Be Taken Tonight

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Last night as the first round of the 2013 NFL draft kicked off three Seminoles heard their names called and realized their NFL dreams. EJ Manuel went first to the Buffalo Bills at 16. Just a short while later Bjoern Werner and Xavier Rhodes went back to back when they were picked 24th and 25th by the Colts and Vikings, respectively.

But as the first round wound to a close, a couple of Seminoles that were hoping to be day one selections were left waiting another night to finally be drafted.

Both Menelik Watson and Tank Carradine had an outside shot to climb up into the back of the first round heading into the start of Thursday night. Early on it seemed more than likely that Watson wouldn't have to wait long.

A run on tackles- including three in the first four picks of the first round- had many believing that Watson would easily find a home by the end of the night. The Manchester-born offensive tackle is still somewhat raw, having only played a season of JuCo ball and one year at Florida State. But his athleticism, size, work ethic and intelligence have many teams extremely interested in him as a project player. 

After attending Marist on a basketball scholarship, Watson made the switch to football where he had a mercurial rise as both a juco prospect and then a pro prospect. What really separates Watson is his punch off the snap. As a former boxer, he is absolutely vicious and oftentimes can knock the wind out of an end or a linebacker before they can even get the jump on him.

Tank Carradine- who faced Watson in practice on a daily basis last season at FSU- characterized Watson's playing style as brutal and said he physically manhandles you if can't avoid his punch.

Carradine is the other Nole left waiting to be selected after Thursday night. Had the 6-5 270-pound end not blown out his knee against UF last November he would have likely been one of the first defensive linemen taken this year. 

Instead he's still waiting.

Carradine is a coach's dream. He went the junior college route too, something he credits with helping him calm down and focus on what was important to him- football. So he arrived at Florida State and over the next two seasons was as opportunistic as anyone, using every snap he could get to harrass quarterbacks and ballcarriers in the backfield. He racked up 16.5 sacks in two seasons, but never started a game until early in his senior year. 

As a senior Carradine was every bit as talented as Bjoern Werner, matching him sack-for-sack while leading Florida State in tackles until his injury. Seminole teammates credit Werner for being a technician, Carradine on the other hand was simply known as a beast. He is strong (tossing up 32 reps on the bench at his pro day) and he plays with rage. A lot of it.

Carradine's pass rushing repertoire will need development, he could benefit to add a move or two and become more well-rounded as a true pass-rusher. But the strength and brutality he plays with should help him early on as he develops that skill set. Carradine is very strong against the run and he is an above-average pass rusher with the potential to grow in that capacity.

He is also one of the hungriest guys in this draft.

He was hungry before the season when he was fighting to prove FSU had more talent on the D-Line than just Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner. And if the success of being named All-ACC first team at the end of the season allowed any complaceny to creep in, it was stamped out when he was injured and saw his stock plummet.

Carradine has had to climb up NFL draft boards twice. Once during the season and once after his injury. On Friday night the whole process should finally come to an end for him as he is picked early in round two.

There are several other Seminoles hoping to get that phone call and hear their names announced tonight as well, but guys like Lonnie Pryor, Vince Williams and Everett Dawkins are more likely to end up going in rounds 4-7 on Saturday afternoon than in rounds two or three today.

Saturday should be a very busy day for the Seminoles with potentially as many as ten players hoping to gets picked on the final day of the draft.

I'll have more updates throughout the day and on into the evening. Keep checking back.

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

First Round Recap: Three Seminoles Go in Round One

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As the NFL draft is wont to do, the first quarterback to hear his name called on Thursday night surprised people. Dropped more than a few jaws.

As EJ Manuel- and not Geno Smith or Matt Barkley- walked across the stage at Radio City Music Halland grabbed a Buffalo Bills jersey as the first QB picked in the 2013 NFL draft, everyone was a bit shocked.

Well, almost everyone.

“It wasn’t a very big surprise [to me],” said Manuel moments later. “I knew there was an opportunity for me to go early in the draft, I knew teams that needed a quarterback were very interested, it was just a matter of what happened that day.”

A lot of things happened.

After a run on offensive linemen, Buffalo was able to trade down with St. Louis- who came up to select WR Tavon Austin in front of the Jets at 8.

The move sent Buffalo back to 16th, where they felt comfortable selecting the 6-5 237-pound QB given what else was available and the team's needs.

Manuel was the first Seminole taken in the first round since 2011, The last ‘Nole to earn that distinction was the man Manuel replaced at FSU, QB Christian Ponder who went 12th overall to Minnesota that year.

As the Seminoles’ starter, Manuel finished his career with a 25-6 mark including a 2-0 record against the University of Miami. He is the most accurate passer in Florida State history, second all-time in the ACC. He threw for 7,736 yards, 47 touchdowns and 28 interceptions in his time at FSU.

A little less than an hour later the second Seminole taken in the first round was defensive end Bjoern Werner who went 24th to Indianapolis. The 6-4 255-pound DE became the highest drafted German player in NFL history when he heard his name called.

The junior notched 23.5 sacks in three years at FSU including an ACC leading 13 in 2012. The Colts will look to him to replace Dwight Freeney- who was let go this past offseason.

Xavier Rhodes was selected by the Vikings with the very next pick, 25th overall. Rhodes drew comparisons to Dwayne Bowe as a receiver coming out of Miami Norland but was moved to corner shortly after arriving in Tallahassee and quickly grew into one of the top defensive backs in the country.

In three seasons at FSU Rhodes had 8 interceptions and 140 tackles. He was first team All-ACC in 2012.

The three Seminoles taken on Thursday night marked the first time since 2006 that FSU had multiple first round picks. They had four that year. That was also the last time Florida State won the ACC prior to their 2012 campaign.

This was just the fifth time in Florida State history that three or more Seminoles were selected in the first round of the draft.

FSU could have as many as five or six players taken Friday during rounds two and three. I'll be back in the morning with a preview of day two as well as more coverage of the draft throughout the course of the evening. Keep checking back.

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

Miami Norland Alum Xavier Rhodes Goes 25th to the Minnesota Vikings

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After waiting through half the first round for the first Florida State Seminole to be taken in the 2013 NFL Draft, two went back to back as the draft rolled into its final hour on Thursday night.

Just minutes after Bjoern Werner was selected by the Colts- in the process becoming the highest drafted German player in NFL history- Xavier Rhodes went to the Vikings with the 25th pick.

Rhodes- the third and final Seminole taken on Thursday- is a 6-2 220-pound corner out of Miami Norland who the Vikings hope will shore up their secondary in the pass-happy NFC North. Originally a wide receiver, Rhodes drew comparisons to Dwayne Bowe when he was recruited to Florida State and arrived on campus with the belief he would be lining up on offense.

That wasn't the plan though and Rhodes was forced to switch sides and sit for a season to learn. Over the course of his next three years he developed a reputation as a very physical corner that many ACC quarterbacks didn't want to throw against. He tallied 140 tackles, picked off 8 passes and was considered one of the top corners in the country headed into the draft.

The Vikings clearly agreed.

“I’m extremely happy for Xavier,” FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He made the sacrifice of switching from receiver to corner and will go on to have a tremendous career in the NFL. He was a staple on our defense, really anchoring down that boundary corner spot for such a long time which was a key position for us. He too is another great young man and great representative for Florida State.”

Rhodes benefited from the success of big-bodied corners like Richard Sherman this past season and could potentially grow into a very good corner at the next level. But they key phrase in that sentence is "potentially grow." For such an alpha corner it was troubling that even when Florida State booted Greg Reid at the start of 2012, Rhodes never managed to lock down the field corner job.

Given his size and athleticism, the fact a true freshman and a 5-9 sophomore platooned at the field-corner for most of the Seminoles 2012 campaign is a bit of a question mark. 

But Rhodes also provides plenty of extremely attractive intangibles and played through a number of injuries at Florida State that were not always publicly disclosed but often left you wondering how close to full-strength he was actually at. His toughness will serve him well in the NFL.

At 25, Rhodes is excellent value for a Vikings team that already has Harrison Smith and Chris Cook, but needed to find a replacement for Antoine Smith who signed with Seattle during the offseason.

Rhodes joins Christian Ponder in Minnesota. The two also played together in college.

In fact, Florida State fans without an NFL affiliation now have two interesting candidates in Minnesota and Buffalo. The Vikings have Ponder, Rhodes and Letroy Guion, while Buffalo now has EJ Manuel, Shawn Powell, Nigel Bradham and Zebrie Sanders.

I'll have a Day Two draft preview tomorrow morning as well as coverage for you throughout the day.

Keep checking back.

 

For all the latest Florida State news and update follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

Bjoern Werner Aims to Replace Dwight Freeney in Indianapolis

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Dwight Freeney has a shadow that will loom large in Indianapolis. In 11 seasons as an Indianapolis Colt, the Syracuse alum racked up 107.5 sacks and was oftentimes the lone star on defenses that were habitually outshined by Peyton Manning's offense.

Last year Freeney found a new role as the senior statesman- alongside Reggie Wayne- when Manning left for Denver and Andrew Luck arrived.

But as is the case with most NFL teams, age and atrophying ability creeped up and after tallying just 5 sacks in 2012 (the second lowest total in his career) Freeney was not resigned in Indianapolis this past offseason.

On Thursday night with the 24th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft the Indianapolis Colts tabbed Freeney's replacement, Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner. 

Werner, a 6-4 255-pound junior, became the highest draft German in NFL history when he heard his name called at Radio City Music Hall. He walked across the stage, put his arms around the Commissioner (in a much more genteel fashion than he typically does with quarterbacks) and made history in his native Germany and his hometown of Berlin.

Werner is an anomaly, a European-bred football wunderkind. After finding a passion for the game during a childhood that often saw him attending NFL Europe games, he started playing flag football in Germany before heading to a prep school in Connecticut to pursue a college scholarship. After a head-turning senior season the offers started rolling in from across the country and Werner and his new wife chose to become Seminoles because of the school's location- Florida.

Three years and 23.5 sacks later Werner was back in the northeast on Thursday night, but this time in New York hoisting a Colts jersey on stage next to Roger Goodell.

In Werner the Colts hope they have found their next great pass-rusher.

And despite seeing his draft stock take a hit in the months following his 13-sack junior season, Werner hasn't given the Colts much reason to doubt that he will be.

“Bjoern is one of the great players in Florida State history and one of the most instinctive players that’s ever been around,” FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He’s going to be a great professional player. He’s another great ambassador for this university. He stands for all the right things, and I couldn’t be happier for him and his family.”

Despite still not having extensive experience as a football player (Werner has essentially only ever played five years of competitive football), he has a very high football IQ. Coupled with an intense work ethic, Werner has grown on the field every year he's played. At Florida State he got playing time as a key reserve as a true freshman, got on to the field full time as a sophomore. As a junior he lead the ACC in sacks.

A lot of times, as you get further and further away from actually seeing the players competing live, teams get distracted by the miutia of the draft and tend to overrate a lot of little things that might not have a huge bearing on how a player will actually perform in the NFL.

One needs only pop in the tape of Werner against Florida- a top-notch SEC opponent- to see what kind of player he is against NFL quality competition. He's smart. He's a self-motivated guy who was willing to leave his family and country to pursue an NFL career. He has a good NFL mind and is a high-character individual.

I was frankly surprised to see Werner slip as far as he did. But if his collegiate performance and intangibles are any indication, Indy should like what how he fills Dwight Freeney's shoes. 

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

April 25, 2013

EJ Manuel is the First QB Taken in the 2013 NFL Draft

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The NFL Draft plays out in funny ways sometimes.

Headed into the 2012 season Matt Barkley and Landry Jones seemed the odds-on favorites to be the first quarterbacks drafted.

Then when the season started and West Virginia’s offense steamrolled through the early months it was Geno Smith that pulled ahead.

And as the draft cycle wound on from January through early April it seemed as though Barkley and Smith had settled in as the top quarterbacks from the 2013 class. Other QB's would occasionally flit through, catch the interest of scouts and pundits and then fall back down draft boards just as quickly.

By the time mid-April rolled around it was all but assumed Geno Smith would be the first one to hear his name called at Radio City Music Hall in New York come April 25th.

Then on Thursday night a funny thing happened.

As EJ Manuel- and not Geno Smith- walked across the stage at Radio City Music Hall, gave a bearhug to the commissioner and grabbed a Buffalo Bills jersey as the first QB picked in the 2013 NFL draft, everyone was a bit shocked.

Well, almost everyone.

“It wasn’t a very big surprise,” said Manuel moments later. “I knew there was an opportunity for me to go early in the draft, I knew teams that needed a quarterback were very interested, it was just a matter of what happened that day.”

A lot happened.

After a run on offensive linemen, Buffalo was able to capitalize on the Jets’ stated interest in West Virginia WR Tavon Austin and trade down with St. Louis- who came up to select Austin 8th.

The move sent Buffalo back to 16th, where they felt comfortable selecting the 6-5 237-pound QB given what else was available.

Manuel was the first quarterback selected and also the first player taken from Florida State. The last Seminole selected in the first round of the NFL draft was the man Manuel replaced at FSU, QB Christian Ponder who went 12th overall to Minnesota in 2011.

Now Manuel will try to lead the offense up in Buffalo and hopefully- at least for Manuel- be a thorn in the side of Miami sports fans for a few more years.

As the Seminoles’ starter Manuel finished his career with a 25-6 mark including a 2-0 record against the University of Miami. He is the most accurate passer in Florida State history, second all-time in the ACC. He threw for 7,736 yards, 47 touchdowns and 28 interceptions in his time at FSU.

On Thursday night though, Manuel was just living in the moment.

"I’m just thinking about my mom, what she’s battled through and what she’s gone through,” Manuel said.

As EJ was playing through his senior season, his mother Jackie was undergoing chemotherapy for stage one breast cancer. EJ- despite the emotional toll- never once discussed it, and never let it affect him while leading FSU to a conference title and an Orange Bowl win.

“I’m extremely happy for EJ,” FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He’s a tremendous young man who has been a great representative of Florida State University. He’s worked extremely hard to get to this goal. He’s one of the main reasons that this program has been able to get back to national prominence because of the sacrifices he’s made through his career as well as his development as a player. I’m extremely happy for him and his family. This couldn’t have happen to a better group of people.”

On Thursday night, with his mother in remission, holding a Buffalo Bills jersey with the number one on it- indicative not just of his first round selection, but also of being the first QB taken- Manuel couldn't help but get a little emotional.

“I know I’m not the only guy who’s parents have battled through something like that, made it through something like that, but I’m just so proud, I’m just thankful, it’s just a dream come true,” said Manuel. “She’s back there smiling and everyone’s crying and all that stuff.

“I’m just so proud to be a Buffalo Bill, I can wait to get started. Get working.”

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

Five Seminoles Vying for First Round

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The NFL draft kicks off in a little over an hour and Florida State figures to factor heavily into the round one festivities. As many as five Seminoles could hear their names called tonight, the most first rounders FSU has ever had in a given year was four (1997, 2006). If all five are taken in the first 32 picks the 2013 Florida State draft class would become the most prolific in terms of NFL first round talent in school history.

Quite a distinction when you consider- as Jimbo Fisher recently put it- "[FSU has] as much tradition in the last 25 years in college football as anybody."

Tonight Bjoern Werner, Xavier Rhodes, EJ Manuel, Menelik Watson and Tank Carradine all have a shot to be taken in the first round. If ever there was a perfect example of the way that nearly four full months of draft over-scrutinization can affect a player's stock, the 2013 Seminoles draft class is it.

At the end of 2012 Bjoern Werner was a consensus top-5 pick. Tonight some draft pundits have him falling out of the back of the first round. Meanwhile Tank Carradine- who blew out his ACL in FSU's regular season finale against Florida and then seemed destined to lose millions- could potentially sneak ahead of Werner and go in the mid-to-late first.

That's more a testament to Carradine than a mark against Werner. Despite injuring himself just five months ago, Carradine has been a workout warrior and will likely be full-go at the start of NFL training camp. He has a high motor, he's extremely hungry and he matched Werner sack-for-sack at FSU while also leading the team in tackles before his injury.

If he goes tonight, it will be one of the most impressive recoveries I have ever seen.

EJ Manuel has watched his draft stock quietly sneak up as the draft has approached. Teams haven't watched a live snap in months and have begun to fall in love with measurables and workout figures. That helps Manuel immensely. The 6-5 230-pound dual-threat (when he wants to be) QB is an NFL prototype who is coming along right as the QB position could potentially be seeing a paradigm shift. 

But it is interesting that the further away from watching live football and the deeper into the draft cycle that teams get, they also seem to be getting caught more and more in the minutia that surrounds the players as well.

Bjoern Werner produced on the field for three years. He got better each year. Against arguably FSU's best opponent in 2012 (Florida) he turned in a 3-sack performance. Everything on the tape shows a player that's productive on the field. But as Werner has been picked apart more and more, his stock has dropped. 

It's almost as if you start with too many positives on a player, the tendency is to look for- and over anaylyze- every negative you can find. 

With Manuel on the other hand, you can pop the tape in and see plenty of good things, but also inconsistencies and holes in his game that would not lend themselves to being considered a first round prospect. But as time has gone on, other players have been picked apart and teams start to overthink, a lot of the positives that have emerged from Manuel's interviews and workouts may be getting weighted more heavily.

Some mock drafts have Manuel going as high as four- to Philadelphia. While that's unlikely, it's definitely within the realm of possibility he goes in round one. 

Werner likely will too, though not as high as he would have gone if that draft was held January 15th and they only had college film to go by.

The other two Seminoles vying to be selected tonight are Menelik Watson and Xavier Rhodes. Both of whom have taken a spin on the draft's wheel of fortune in the past few months themselves.

Watson went from off the radar when he started the season at Florida State as a JuCo with almost no competitive football experience to potential late first round pick. He combines impressive athleticism with an unrelenting work ethic. While he's still very raw in terms of football experience, he's got a blue-collar mentality that NFL offensive line coaches should love and he has a very high ceiling.

Some NFL team could very well see fit to take a shot on him later tonight.

Xavier Rhodes has the size and athleticism that is a hot commodity after big-bodied corners like Richard Sherman have started having success in the NFL. Of all the Florida State players hoping to hear their names called tonight, Rhodes is probably the safest bet. He could even end up back in his hometown of Miami playing for the Dolphins if they go that direction at 12. 

It could just be a couple players, or it could be a record five, but Florida State figures to be well represented on night one of the NFL draft.

Keep checking back here all night for updates and analysis of how Florida State fares in this weekend's draft.

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

April 17, 2013

Trickett Done at FSU, Winston Likely 2013 Starter

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Breaking news out of Florida State as the Seminoles and Jimbo Fisher have released Clint Trickett from his scholarship and the junior will explore other options next year.

“After a long meeting with Clint, he expressed he’d like to explore another playing opportunity," said Jimbo Fisher. "I’ve signed off on his wish. Clint has not only been a great player for our program, but a great young man and ambassador for Florida State who will graduate in a few weeks. He’s been a part of this program for a long time and we wish nothing but the best for him in his future endeavors.”

That leaves Jameis Winston the de facto winner of the QB competition. Winston managed to create some distance between himself and Jacob Coker and Sean Maguire during Spring practice. But a 12/15 205 yard, 2 TD spring performance against the FSU first team was likely enough to send Trickett packing.

All things equal, Winston had a much higher ceiling and even if Trickett could have held Winston off for one year, he never would have beat him next Spring. I would bet Trickett looks somewhere like USF for a transfer.

He will graduate in May, enter a grad program and avoid having to sit out a year.

As for Winston, he look as if he will be the guy come next September. That's what Seminoles fans wanted. That looks like what they'll get.

 

For the lastest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

(Photo courtesy of Ryan Syrkus)

April 16, 2013

Peter Miller Pitches FSU to 2-0 Win over South Alabama

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Coming off a three-game sweep of Duke over the weekend and heading into a three game set against top 5 Virginia this upcoming weekend, it would have been easy for no. 6 Florida State (31-6, 13-5 ACC) to overlook South Alabama (27-11).

But with an RPI of 16 and a scrappy lineup filled with tough outs, the Jaguars were not a team to be taken lightly.

"I really don't think that Florida State baseball can use that- ever- as an excuse because everytime we play a game, if we're playing each other, they're going to be scrapping to win," said FSU head coach Mike Martin. "This one was one of those that I was very proud of the way we approached it."

Florida State was able to find just enough offense to go along with a stellar outing from starter Peter Miller and beat South Alabama 2-0 on Tuesday night at Dick Howser Stadium in a very quick game that lasted exactly two hours.

"That was one of the quickest games on record," joked Martin. "Two hours on the button, we could have put 1:59 to make it look better."

When a reporter joked that the game would have been even faster if South Alabama's final hitters hadn't fouled so many balls off in the ninth inning, Martin just flashed his trademark grin and chuckled.

"Ain't that the truth? That's just the type of club they are. They'll battle you and battle you, it was a good win and I told the guys that."

Peter Miller (4-1) was excellent for the Seminoles on Tuesday night, pitching 6.2 innings while holding the Jaguars scoreless. The South Alabama hitters could not solve the junior RHP as he scattered a couple of hits and a walk across his start while striking out four.

"I've had some rough outings the past few weeks," said Miller after the game. "But the ball kind of bounced my way this time. I still feel like I had good stuff just like all the other outings but it went my way this time, that's just baseball."

"If he's had a better outing I don't know who it was against," added Martin. "Great outing, great outing for him."

Opposite Miller, South Alabama starter Payton Gardner (0-1) was also superb in keeping the Seminole bats in check. He gave up just five hits and two runs over six innings while striking out seven. 

"We were dominated by that guy," said Martin. "He struck out seven but I think we'll all agree it felt like 14."

The Seminoles broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth when they were able to parlay three singles into the only two runs of the ballgame.

1B John Nogowski started things off with a one-out single and advanced to second after Nick Zaharion fumbled with it in left. 2B John Sansone went the opposite way and dropped a ball in front of the right fielder to score Nogowski in the very next at-bat. After Sansone stole second, SS Giovanny Alfonzo singled to put men on the corners for Seth Miller who brought Sansone in on a fielder's choice.

That would be all the offense the Seminoles needed. Miller handed the ball to the bullpen with two down in the 7th and Billy Strode came on to get the final Jaguar out of the inning. He returned to retire two more in the 8th before Gage Smith came in and required just two pitches to record the third out.

In the 9th Florida State turned it over to Robby Coles who closed out the game for his 8th save of the year.

FSU heads on the road next for three games with Virginia over the weekend.

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

(Photo courtesy of Ryan Syrkus)

April 13, 2013

Jameis Winston Wins over Fans in FSU Spring Game

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There are plenty of storylines to consider from Saturday's Garnet and Gold game. Jacobbi McDaniel played well for the first time since breaking his ankle agaisnt Duke in 2011. PJ Williams stood out on the first team. The receivers all looked impressive.

But nobody dropped as many jaws on Saturday as Jameis Winston.

The 6-4 218-pound QB couldn't have made much more of an impression on the Florida State fanbase than he did when he entered the game and immediately threw a 58-yard touchdown pass on his first play from scrimmage. 

Florida State called a play with four vertical passing routes, Winston went with his second read and dropped a beautiful ball over the shoulder of David Tyrell for 58 yards and a touchdown. It was an electric moment that brought everyone in the stands to their feet.

Jimbo Fisher mentioned the degree of difficulty that throw takes for someone coming off the bench, but the more impressive compliment that was paid to Winston was in regards to his second touchdown pass- a back-shoulder throw to Rashad Greene from 20 yards out.

“If you watch the NFL, if you ever watch the real deals, those guys you’ve got to beat them deep and beat them back, you’ve got to throw them open," said Fisher. "And that’s open. When you play big time people, against good people, that’s going to be open. I mean you’re going to have a couple inches here and there and you’re going to have to put the ball on the right shoulder. That’s why arm strength and accuracy are so important when you’re going to high levels of ball.

“I mean to the average person that doesn’t look open but in real football that is open.”

When you talk to players about how the Spring has gone and you ask them about Winston, they all say the same thing. He's got "it." It's more than just athleticism or accuracy or intelligence, Winston is a playmaker. That's just something that comes naturally to some guys and if you ask the people close to this program, they'll tell you Jameis was born with some to spare.

"He’s athletic so every time he drops back to pass he’s a threat to run. He’s just a playmaker," said LB Christian Jones. "He’s a shifty guy, he can move so when you come down to the backfield you’ve got to be ready to get on him because he’ll get out of there.”

Winston's skillset is extremely similar to EJ Manuel's. He's a big, strong, athletic passer with good intelligence and accuracy. Manuel even took Winston under his wing when Jameis first stepped on campus. 

But there's a couple of major differences between Winston and his predecessor.

“EJ had the same ability as Winston has but EJ he prided himself more on being just a true quarterback in the pocket," said Jones. "Winston, he’s more of a [playmaker], he’s going to run it a little bit more. EJ had the same qualities that Winston had, they just play different.”

Manuel never wanted to be known as a dual-threat quarterback. Winston- who is a dual-sport athlete- could care less how people perceive him. 

And that fits into the second difference between Manuel and Winston. Both were excellent at blocking out other people's impressions of them, but Winston is wired differently than Manuel.

A lot differently.

“He’s a guy who the harder you press him, the better he plays," said Fisher. "He wants it, he’ll walk by and ask me, 'what? You can’t get on me enough?' He loves to be challenged.”

Manuel was a tough kid, but he wasn't the kind of guy who invited Fisher's harshest criticisms and thrived on being ridden by him.

Winston seems to. And that may make all the difference in terms of his development under Fisher's tutelage. The reason for that may be that Winston is his own sharpest critic. Case in point, after finishing the Garnet and Gold game 12/15 for 205 yards and the only two touchdowns thrown against the first-team defense, Winston wasn't happy.

"I got to get better," he said after the game. "I still have to get better on my reads and play recognition, it's just so many different things and different aspects of my game that I have to improve on. I don't really have a comfort zone with my performance right now."

Then he hurried across the parking lot to Dick Howser stadium to join the baseball team as they took on Duke in a doubleheader.

Part of the reason Winston has been able to take Florida State by storm is he's a very mature young man. He's still in his freshman year, next season he will be classified as a redshirt freshman, but he's already years ahead.

“He’s further along than any redshirt freshman [I've seen]," said WR Rashad Greene. "And that’s good for a guy like Jameis, he’s got a lot of humor about him, always excited, get you going. And that’s what you need out of a quarterback, someone who can get you excited.”

“For younger guys you really don’t see that much," added Jones. "It usually takes them awhile to catch on a bit, especially at the QB spot you’ve got to be able to be confident, to take control of the offense so he’s done a great job of doing that this Spring.”

Winston may have done a good enough job this Spring to win himself the job as the starting QB. Seminoles fans would love to see that, but Jimbo Fisher has a quick word of caution before anyone runs out and gets a Jameis Winston tattoo.

"Let’s let the guy play," said Fisher. "What I fear about all that stuff is it’s great to write but you build a guy up to be so great he can’t live up to it and then all you do is build disappointment for the guy. It’s unfair to the player, but just be careful and let him play.”

Fisher is trying to protect Winston from reading his own press clippings or buying into his own hype. But sometimes that's easier said than done in the digital age of social media.

“You just keep him realistic and tell him what’s real and what’s not real," said Fisher. "Let everyone else be legends and hype."

Fisher is more interested in a hunting dog than a show dog. That's something he repeated over and over last year. 

So far Winston looks like he can hunt.

 

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(Photo courtesy of Ryan Syrkus)

Gameday: Garnet and Gold Game

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The Garnet and Gold game is just a couple hours away. 

I just got set up in the press box and I'll have updates for you on the Seminoles' Spring finale all day on the Miami Herald FSU blog. 

A few items, first of all you'll notice the new circular-cut pattern on the field emanating from the Seminole logo on the 50. It's a nice touch. I'm not sure if it will still be the look come Fall, but it works given the shape of the logo.

Aesthetics aside, today's Spring game will feature the first team offense and second team defense on one squad and the second team offense and first team defense on the other. That way the first team goes against the first team and the twos face off against the twos. 

Clint Trickett and Jameis Winston are the quarterbacks working with the first team, Jacob Coker and Sean Maguire will work with the twos.

Without Devonta Freemand and James Wilder, this is going to be an extremely pass-heavy afternoon. That's fine with Jimbo Fisher though. With four quarterbacks currently competing for the starting job, the more Fisher and his coaching staff can see from each the more they'll have to go on when they make their decisions.

But don't get too far ahead of yourself thinking anyone could still win this job. If the Spring has been any indication, Trickett is still up at the top and even with splitting time between two sports, Jameis Winston has put some distance between himself and the other QB's. 

At this point it could be either of them. But I wouldn't wager on a decision being announced until closer to Labor Day.

On the other side of the ball expect a fairly vanilla day from the defense. Jeremy Pruitt and the new coaches have installed most of the new wrinkles, but given the nature of today's exhibition and the fact Florida State is trying to see players, not what schemes work, don't expect many exotic looks or packages today from the FSU defensive unit.

On the first team, Jacobbi McDaniel will be getting snaps for the first time in nearly two seasons. Him and Nile Lawrence-Stample are the two starting DT's right now with Tim Jernigan nursing a bum ankle and underclassmen Eddie Goldman and Justin Shanks still developing.

Goldman could blossom this season if he can learn to become more consistent- something he has been working on this Spring- but for now it seems as if Jacobbi McDaniel may have a shot to make an impact in 2013 after all.

Jernigan said a few days ago he felt McDaniel would contribute a lot this season, he'll get his first shot this afternoon.

Three Players to Watch:

CB PJ Williams- Williams has been having a breakout Spring. He's a big-bodied corner who came to FSU thinking he would be a safety but moved to CB when the Seminoles booted Greg Reid last summer. Williams reminds his teammates of Xavier Rhodes, but perhaps with a better nose for the ball. He has the mindset of a playmaker and considering the Seminoles' lack of turnovers on defense last year, some big plays would be a welcome addition to the secondary.

QB Jameis Winston- Clint Trickett is the safe choice at QB, but Winston is the sexy name that fans are interested in. With a rare combination of speed, size and arm-strength, Winston has demonstrated an "it" factor at several points this Spring. With a higher ceiling than Trickett, if Winston can get close enough before the season starts he may be able to win the job based on potential alone.

RT Bobby Hart- Hart came to FSU as a 16 year-old out of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. He started games as a true freshman, got the attention of the fanbase and then rode the pine as a sophomore when maturity issues and Menelik Watson conspired to keep him off the field. This year coaches and teammates alike have noticed a more workmanlike attitude from the junior tackle. If he can win the job at right tackle the Seminole offensive line will be better for it.

 

TV: ESPN 3

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...


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