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Out of the Woods? Star USC WR may be nearing spring return

Robert Woods AP

With a handful of spring practices already in the books, Robert Woods has yet to see any meaningful prep time as the USC wide receiver continues to recover from an offseason medical procedure.

Once the Trojans return from a practice hiatus, however, that could change.

According to FOXSportsWest.com, head coach Lane Kiffin is hopeful Woods can return when the Trojans resume the spring sessions March 20.  The school is currently on spring break and, in a departure from his first two years, Kiffin did not schedule any practices during that time.

While not mentioning Woods specifically, Kiffin said the break could allow several players to return in the next week or so.

“It’s a good thing that we’re going on break so we can get some guys healthy,” Kiffin said.

“We really believe in this format of putting this [hiatus] after some practices so that they do get a break and that you get some guys back. [It's] very beneficial. There [are] a number of guys that are not out for all of the spring that should come back.”

Woods was bothered by an ankle issue for all of the 2011 season and underwent arthroscopic surgery in mid-December to repair the damage.  Despite being hampered by the injury — which occurred during a “basketball incident” last spring — Woods set a single-season school record with 111 receptions, a total that was also fifth in the country.  His 15 receiving touchdowns were fifth as well.

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Former TCE DE Fields plans on FBS return before NFL

Devonte Fields, Wes Lunt

If you think Devonte Fields is going to play football this fall at a junior college and get set to enter the NFL Draft in 2015, that may not quite be the plan. The former TCU defensive star is currently playing his college football at Trinity Valley Community College but his plan appears to be going through the recruiting process with the intent of playing at least one more season at the FBS level before taking a chance at the NFL Draft.

“Everything he has said to me and everything his family has said to me is the plan is for him to get his (Associate’s Degree) and to play Division I again,” Trinity Valley CC head coach Brad Smiley said to The Dallas Morning News this week. “He is excited about going through that process and playing Division I again. He has not said anything about coming out to play in the NFL.”Brad Smiley said to said to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram this week. “He is excited about going through that process and playing Division I again. He has not said anything about coming out to play in the NFL. He is excited about going through that process and playing Division I again. He has not said anything about coming out to play in the NFL.”

Fields was forced to relocate to the junior college level this fall after a promising career at TCU spiraled out of control. The former defensive freshman of the year in the Big 12 was involved in an incident reportedly involving pointing a gun and making a threat to an ex-girlfriend. That led to an investigation over the summer and TCU removed Fields from the football program. Fields later surrendered after a warrant for his arrest had been issued and it looked as though Fields would drop down to the FCS to play at Stephen F. Austin. TCU blocked the transfer and then officially separated from any association with Fields.

As noted by The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Fields currently has 17 tackles, 1.5 sacks and one tackle for a loss through the first three games of the season. This comes with double team coverage routinely as Fields is a superstar on the junior college playing field.

“Everybody he sees knows who he is,” Smiley said. “He is their Super Bowl.”

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The long countdown to Michigan-Texas is officially on

91st Rose Bowl Game: Texas Longhorns v Michigan Wolverines

Get ready to make your plans well in advance, Michigan and Texas fans. The Wolverines and Longhorns have made official a home-and-home series that had been in the works.

As confirmed today, Michigan will host Texas in Michigan Stadium on August 31, 2024. Texas will host the Wolverines three years later on September 4, 2027. Plan accordingly.

“A match-up of this magnitude doesn’t come along all that often, and when it does it’s special for both programs and the great fans that support each institution,” said Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said in a released statement about the series. “This also is a special series for all fans of college football, and I anticipate great games just like the first contest played between the two programs.”

These two legendary programs may be playing through some hard times right now, but in 10 years Michigan and Texas could be a huge match-up, as it should. Unless the two collide in a postseason game in the next 10 years, the series will mark just the second and third times Michigan and Texas have met on the playing field. The only other meeting in the series history took place in the 2005 Rose Bowl, with Texas taking a 38-37 victory.

Who knows what the college football postseason will look like a decade and 13 years from now, but under the current format for the College Football Playoff it would seem Michigan and Texas are making an effort to increase the attractiveness of the non-conference schedule. Texas is already playing a nine-game conference schedule and by then Michigan will be fully engrained in a nine-game Big Ten schedule. As it is currently set-up, Michigan will play either Texas or Oklahoma annually between 2024 and 2027 with a home-and-home series with the Sooners sandwiched between the Texas games. Texas will be coming off a home-and-home with Michigan’s rival, Ohio State, as the Longhorns head into the series with the Wolverines. Texas and Ohio State have a home-and-home series set for 2022 and 2023.

As of now, Texas has no non-conference games scheduled for 2025 or 2026. Perhaps another Big Ten school could fill that void. If so, how about Nebraska? It would be nice, but unlikely. Nebraska is already locked into a home-and-home those seasons with Tennessee. Wisconsin? Penn State? Both are available if Texas is interested.

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Jameis Winston suspension may cost 2013 winner a shot at history

Jameis Winston

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is looking to make some college football history this season. Not only is he looking to lead Florida State to back-to-back national championships, but he is also the latest player to have a chance to win the Heisman Trophy in back-to-back seasons. That accomplishment has only been done once, and in light of Wednesday’s news about serving a suspension for the first half of this weekend’s game against Clemson, it looks like legendary Ohio State running back Archie Griffin will remain sitting at a table for one in New York City.

Winston may still be the best player in college football, but the Heisman Trust Mission Statement is held in high regard by some of the voters. Winston’s actions off the field carry more weight for some voters than others, but his recent outburst of vulgarity on campus may be enough for some voters to wipe Winston off their ballots starting today. Perhaps some voters were waiting for a reason to eliminate him from the conversation. That remains to be seen.

Winston was already fighting history enough as it is for a defending Heisman Trophy winner. With just one repeat Heisman winner in the history of college football’s highest individual honor, the odds may have been stacked against Winston from the start. A handful of other worthy contenders have also emerged in the early going of the season, like Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Georgia running back Todd GurleyAlabama wide receiver Amari Cooper and Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall. And do not forget about Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill.

Winston winning a second straight Heisman Trophy may not be impossible, but the road to travel just became filled with additional potholes and was covered in ice. If Winston continues to win and make incredible plays, as he did in the opener against Oklahoma State, and other candidates take a hit or two along the way (two losses did in Mariota last season, for example), then Winston will remain in the hunt as a leading contender. Until then, at least Winston will be able to vote for himself.

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Jameis Winston’s suspension won’t cost Florida State a win vs. Clemson

Jameis Winston, Josh Furman

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has been suspended for the first half of this weekend’s contest with Clemson. For the Seminoles to suspend their starting quarterback for the entire first half of a key division game against a top 25 team should send a message to Winston and anyone else watching that the bar is supposedly being set high for Florida State’s student-athletes. So, is one half enough of a message?

Considering the circumstances revolving around the reasoning for this suspension, it would seem appropriate enough. Winston was not in violation of any laws and he did not harm anybody in the process from the information reported at this point. He did, however, not act accordingly as a student-athlete, represent the football program or university in an expected manner and that is reason enough to issue some sort of punishment. Missing the first half of a game should be enough to deliver that message to any player on the football roster, even he just so happens to be one of the best

Critics are running wild suggesting Winston needs to grow up (and yes, he does), so hopefully this is the final straw for Winston and the off-field shenanigans. The time to know what is right and what is wrong or inappropriate in a public setting is now for Winston.

As for the game, Winston’s absence for one half should have an impact. Will it be enough for Clemson to take advantage and steal a win while they can? It is not as though Florida State is shallow on talent around the field. Redshirt sophomore Sean Maguire should be capable of handling things for one half even against Clemson, and it is not as though Jimbo Fisher will put Maguire in any position he feels uncomfortable with if it means risking the game. Florida State has too much to play for to put Maguire in a situation to blow it for one half before Winston takes the field at the start of the third quarter. It is not so much a suggestion Fisher will avoid trying anything pivotal with Maguire under center, but knowing Winston will be available in the second half means the urgency to force something with the back-up quarterback should never pop up even if things look bad.

Florida State can more than weather a storm for one half of football, even against Clemson. Now Winston just needs to show he can avoid creating a storm in the future.

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UPDATED: Florida State suspends Winston for first half vs. Clemson

Jimbo Fisher Jameis Winston

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston may be disciplined by Florida State for his behavior reported Tuesday, although the extent of any punishment to the reigning Heisman Trophy winner is unknown. Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher said during the weekly conference call the school was considering some sort of punishment for Winston.

“It was not a good decision,” Fisher said, per USA Today. “You can’t make certain statements that are derogatory or inflammatory to any person, race or gender. You have to understand that.”

On Tuesday it was reported Winston had jumped on a table on campus and shouted out a sexually-explicit phrase in what by all accounts to date suggest was nothing more than a joke. Winston’s outburst mimicked an Internet meme and was not directed at any particular individual, but it was just the latest reason to roll your eyes at the actions of Winston over the past year. Fisher probably did just that upon learning about this specific incident.

“You have to be very intelligent about what you say, (because) it matters,” Fisher said.

Florida State takes on Clemson this weekend in a key ACC Atlantic Division match-up.

UPDATE: Winston has been suspended for the first half of this weekend’s game against Clemson.

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Alabama’s Amari Cooper in the spotlight this weekend vs. Gators

Amari Cooper, Quentin Hayes

The last time a wide receiver won the Heisman Trophy was 1991, with Michigan’s Desmond Howard striking his Heisman pose (inaccurately, mind you) three years before the TV series “Friends” hit the airwaves. Yeah, it was a long time ago. The Heisman Trophy may still be a quarterback’s to lose but Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper is starting to receive some consideration as a candidate.

Cooper is third in the nation in receiving yards through the first three weeks of the season with 454 yards and he leads the nation with 11.0 receptions per game. The Florida recruit in the Class of 2012 will get a chance to show the Florida Gators what they missed out on. According to the offer sheet for Cooper reported by Rivals.com, the Gators did not extend an offer to the in-state four-star recruit. That is a shame, because if there is one thing the Gators could use it is a game-changing receiver. This weekend Florida heads to Alabama for a crossover SEC match-up, and Cooper should be ready to make a statement.

Is Cooper the best wide receiver in the country? He may be. What he does in one of this weekend’s spotlight games will tell us whether or not he will continue to be a player worth considering for the Heisman Trophy. Here is a look at a few of the spotlight games around college football this weekend.

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Rutgers QB Nova now all-time leader in 5 interception games

Gary Nova, Anthony Zettel

Rutgers gave Penn State a good fight on Saturday night in its first Big Ten conference game. If not for a five-interception night from quarterback Gary Nova, Rutgers may very well have been celebrating its first Big Ten conference victory as well, instead of looking to rebound from a 13-10 loss to the Nittany Lions. Nova’s awful stat line Saturday night put him in a league of his own, sort of.

Nova was intercepted five times in a game for the second time in his career. Since 2000, according to the play index on College Football Reference, six different quarterbacks have been intercepted five times in a single game. Nova is the only player appearing on the list twice.

Nova was intercepted six times by Kent State in a 2012 loss. That is tied for the most single-game interceptions since 2000 with Travis Wilson of Utah. Wilson was picked off six times by UCLA in a 44-22 loss last October. The other quarterbacks to throw five interceptions in a game since 2000 are Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty (2013, vs. Tennessee), SMU’s Garrett Gilbert (2012, vs TCU), Houston’s David Piland (2012, vs. UCLA) and Mississippi’s Zack Stoudt (2011, vs. Vanderbilt). (EDIT: As reminded on Twitter, Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin was intercepted five times in a bowl game against Florida. Because that game was not vacated by the NCAA, that should count as well.)

Nova’s five interceptions is misleading though. The fifth interception came in the final minute of the game with Rutgers in desperation mode. Two other interceptions may fairly be accredited to the shortcomings of Nova’s intended targets failing to bring in a pass. Nova will receive the bulk of the blame, a responsibility that comes with the territory of being a starting quarterback. There is no indication head coach Kyle Flood is ready to make a change under center though.

Helmet sticker to Reddit for the find.

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Swinney still says Clemson would split 10 games with FSU in 2013

Dabo Swinney

Last year’s biggest game in the ACC turned out to be more of a dud than anyone would have sensibly predicted. Clemson was trounced at home by the eventual ACC and BCS champions from Florida State and it was never a contest despite the Tigers fielding one of their best teams in years. The Seminoles silenced a crowd going for a stadium noise record with a 51-14 beating that may as well have been 61-14 or 71-14. Every team is bound to have a bad game at some point, and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney believes if his Tigers from 2013 had another crack at Florida State then they would have been much more competitive.

In fact, Swinney went so far as to say Clemson would win five out of 10 games against Florida State if the 2013 teams were to play so many games. He made that statement shortly after Clemson was steamrolled at home, but Swinney has not backed down from the statement.

“Lord have mercy, I caught enough grief on that,” Swinney said this week, according to The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina. “I gave an answer that I really truly believed about that team, last year’s team. I still believe that. It was absolutely nothing negative.”

“I really thought we had a heck of a football team, a really good team,” Swinney added. “We finished 7th in the country. That’s the reality. There ain’t a lot of difference between 1 and 15, to be honest with you. It’s a play here or there.”

Clemson rebounded from that loss to Florida State to go 10-2, with the only other loss coming in the final weekend of the regular season to in-state rival South Carolina. The Tigers accepted an invitation to play in the Orange Bowl as Florida State played for the BCS Championship. Clemson defeated Big Ten runner-up Ohio State, 40-35 to end the season on a high note.

Clemson travels to Florida State this weekend for a primetime match-up against the top-ranked Seminoles.

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Can you kick a football? Fresno State wants you!

Garrett Swanson

Fresno State has a need to improve on special teams, and fast. The Bulldogs will be holding an open try-out for all full-time students with previous kicking experience later this week. Just three weeks into the season, it is that desperate of a situation for the defending Mountain West Conference champions.

Earlier this month Fresno State lost kicker Colin McGuire, who left the team to deal with personal issues according to head coach Tim DeRuyter. That left DeRuyter to have to rely on freshman walk-on Kody Kroening for place-kicking duties. Punter Garrett Swanson continued with his responsibilities on special teams. Kroening has successfully connected on all five of his PAT attempts and one of two field goal attempts.

Kroening and Swanson are the only two kickers on the roster, which puts Fresno State in even more of a bind in the event either should happen to go down. Kroening can handle the punting duties if needed, but having Swanson take over place-kicking duties may not be the most ideal situation considering the circumstances for Fresno State.

Fresno State is one of three schools yet to record a touchback on a kickoff (SMU and Wisconsin are the others).

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Pac-12 releases 2015 football schedule

USC v Stanford

The Pac-12 will open the 2015 college football season with a pair of noteworthy games on Pac-12 soil. Utah will host Michigan and Arizona will play host to UTSA on Thursday, September 3, 2015. The rest of the Pac-12 schedule, including a nine-game conference schedule and a championship game in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, was unveiled Tuesday night.

As confirmed by the Pac-12, one-third of the conference’s schedule will be played against other Power 5 conferences, including five against their Rose Bowl partners from the Big Ten. As usual, the Pac-12 will reserve the final two weeks of the season for traditional rivalry games between conference members. One exception to the schedule will be a regular season finale between Arizona State and California (instead of Stanford-Cal and Arizona State-Arizona). This was done in order to protect contracts between Stanford and USC with Notre Dame.

As expected, the Pac-12 also has confirmed every game played by a Pac-12 school will appear on TV as a result of broadcast deals with ESPN, ABC, FOX and FOX Sports 1. Pac-12 Network will pick up any additional games not carried by any of the other networks. Broadcast schedules will be determined next year.

The date for the Pac-12 Championship Game will be either Friday, December 4, 2015 or the following day, December 5, 2015. The Pac-12 played its championship game on a Friday the first two years (2011 and 2012), but moved to Saturday night in 2013. This year’s championship game will move back to Friday night (December 5) for a more exclusive time slot that weekend.

Some of the more notable games on the Pac-12 schedule are:

Sep. 3 (Thursday) Utah vs. Michigan

Sep. 5 Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (Houston, Texas)

Sep. 5 Washington @ Boise State

Sep. 12 Oregon @ Michigan State

Sep. 12 Oregon State @ Michigan

Sep. 12 Washington State @ Rutgers

Sep. 19 USC vs. Stanford

Sep. 19 UCLA vs. BYU

Sep. 19 California @ Texas

Sep. 26 Arizona State vs. USC

Oct. 8 (Thursday) USC vs. Washington

Oct. 15 (Thursday) Stanford vs. UCLA

Oct. 17 USC @ Notre Dame

Oct. 29 (Thursday) Arizona State vs. Oregon

Nov. 14 Stanford vs. Oregon

Nov. 21 Oregon vs. USC

Nov. 27 (Friday) Oregon vs. Oregon State

Nov. 27 (Friday) Washington vs. Washington State

Nov. 28 USC vs. UCLA

Nov. 28 Stanford vs. Notre Dame

Dec 4 or Dec. 5 Pac-12 Championship Game (Levi’s Stadium)

You can see the full release about the Pac-12 schedule here.

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Baylor’s Shawn Oakman living on the outside edge

Sam B. Richardson, Shawn Oakman

If every player in college football is allowed a second chance, then Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman is making the most of his. Oakman has become one of the nation’s top defensive ends. Motivation from his unfortunate end to his time at Penn State have served Oakman well as he continues to be a key contributor to Baylor’s defensive efforts.

Oakman was dismissed from Penn State in the spring of 2012 following an arrest over harassment and retail theft. Because Oakman was dismissed by the university months before the NCAA slammed Penn State with sanctions (which of course have been trimmed), Oakman was not eligible to play right away in the fall of 2012 once arriving at Baylor. Oakman did not qualify under the NCAA’s free transfer opportunity for current Penn State players at the time sanctions were levied.

The wait was worth it for Oakman and Baylor. In his first season with the Bears Oakman earned all-Big 12 honors. This season Oakman is considered an All-American candidate and appears on multiple watch lists. Through three games, Oakman has totaled three sacks and four tackles for a loss.

Oakman has many of the skills NFL scouts will pay attention to for a defensive end. He can be quick off the snap and is difficult to contain on the outside edge. This is why Josh Norris of Rotoworld believes Oakman is the best defensive end in the country coming off the edge.

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Golden Gopher QB grounded with turf toe

Mitch Leidner, David Cobb

The availability of Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner is in doubt for Saturday’s game against San Jose State. The Gophers quarterback is dealing with turf toe right now, and head coach Jerry Kill has no intention to use him until he is said to be at full speed.

“I would never play anybody that was 82.9,” Kill said Tuesday, per the Associated Press. “I’m not going to risk a kid or a quarterback or anything like that.”

Kill added he will only allow Leidner to see the field if the doctors say he is ready to go.

“They’ve got to be cleared by the trainer,” Kill said. “I always tell the trainer, ‘Can he play full speed?’ Because this is a full-speed game.”

Kill may not be ready to say Leidner will be back on the field on Saturday, but Leidner’s back-up seems more confident about it. Chris Streveler, who has replaced Leidner in each of the past two games, says if there is any chance Leidner will be available to play, he will play.

“I know if Mitch can play, he’s going to play,” Streveler said.

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Taylor Kelly out for Arizona State vs. UCLA

Arizona State v Colorado

It is now official. As previously feared, Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly will not play next week as the Sun Devils take on UCLA in a key Pac-12 South battle. A foot injury suffered in Arizona State’s road victory at Colorado is to blame.

It is unknown at this time how long Kelly will be out of action for Arizona State, but for at least one game it will be senior quarterback Mike Bercovici leading the offense. Arizona State head coach Todd Graham will go with that plan for now and evaluate the quarterback situation following next week’s game. Graham was optimistic following the game against Colorado.

The loss of Kelly is significant given his time as starter for the Sun Devils and his place in the record book at the school. But Graham has a system in place and hopes Bercovici should be capable of moving the football against UCLA. Having a bye week this week to help Bercovici get up to speed with the responsibility that comes with being the team’s starter should help. There should be plenty of talent surrounding the senior quarterback to ease the tension in practices this week and next, as well as the game.

The result of Arizona State and UCLA could be huge in the Pac-12 race, although USC looks to be a strong contender as well. Arizona State and USC are already tied for the Pac-12 South lead early in the season and UCLA is playing its first Pac-12 game when it travels to Arizona State next Thursday.

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Straw poll shows Oregon’s Mariota still leading Heisman contender

South Dakota v Oregon

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota remains the top player in college football according to a select panel of Heisman voters. According to the latest straw poll conducted by HeismanPundit.com, if the Heisman Trophy was to be awarded today, it would go to Oregon’s Mariota.

The Heisman Pundit straw poll is updated every Tuesday. Through four weeks of the straw poll, Mariota has been on top three out of the four weeks and has now been voted on top of the poll two straight weeks. Mariota’s big performance a couple of weeks ago resulted in the Pac-12 favorites coming from behind to pull away from defending Big Ten champion Michigan State. Mariota has completed 70 percent of his passes and has thrown eight touchdowns without an interception early on in the 2014 season. Only Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill has thrown more touchdowns without an interception (11 touchdowns).

You can check out the full straw poll via HeismanPundit.com.

Mariota is also the betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, according to Bovada.

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Jameis Winston’s latest eye-rolling incident

Oklahoma State v Florida State

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston once again is under a hot lamp. No, he isn’t being accused of any sexual assault, stealing soda in ketchup cups, or stealing crab legs, but any time Winston does something out of the ordinary it is going to be worth discussing. He is, after all, college football’s best player and the reigning Heisman Trophy. He is not a typical college student, so let’s forget about that argument right off the bat.

Winston was witnessed on campus jumping on a table and shouting out an explicit phrase alluding to a sexual act. The phrase stems from an Internet meme, which some people must find humor in on some level. There was no harm done in any of this, nor does it sound as though there was any ill-intent in the random act of spontaneity on campus. It was just Winston looking to have a laugh all accounts. Given Winston’s history, this should be something that Winston should have thought about to himself and say “You know what, maybe this is in poor taste.” But hey, he’s just a college kid, right?

Whether you want to believe it or not, Winston is the face of Florida State football right now, and thus the face of the university for the time being. Even if this was just a joke to Winston, his friends and those around him, it does not come off with a positive glow for he or the university. There is no reason to discipline Winston for this latest story, nor should there be, but as word of this spreads around the Internet (via Deadspin and SB Nation, for example), this will be at least one small distraction from what should be a big week for Florida State. The Seminoles are hosting Clemson Saturday in a key ACC Atlantic Division battle. By the end of the week the game itself will be the story. This single isolated incident will merely be a side story without many legs to crawl on for very long.

The point regarding Winston is simply this; the actions of Winston will be highly scrutinized because of his stature in our sports culture. In light of recent stories regarding top football players getting into trouble, Winston’s shouting on top of a table is a relative non-issue. However, Winston’s past actions have been criticized to a fair degree time and time again. This will too. Because of the big shoes Winston wears representing Florida State, and college football as a Heisman Trophy winner, there will be times when Winston needs to create a filter and think about how his actions will be portrayed and received. Winston knows he needs to hold himself to a higher degree of morality. He has stated this himself.

Winston is still young, but he is certainly more than old enough to be able to make these decisions now.

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