The hype started in spring and built up over the summer.
It grew in the preseason and reached a crescendo this past week.
Then Florida State and Pittsburgh kicked off on Monday night and Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston calmly walked out onto the field and lived up to the hype.
All of it.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound redshirt freshman completed 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns (with no interceptions) and added another 25 yards rushing (with a score) in FSU’s 41-13 win over the Panthers.
Winston made it look easy against the hapless Pitt defense, hitting open targets and setting the school single-game completion percentage record while running the Seminoles’ attack with the poise of a seasoned veteran. The excellence he displayed in his debut overwhelmed a good early showing by the Panther offense and spurred the Seminoles to their fourth-straight season-opening win. On this night, at least, the ‘Noles looked like a national title contender.
Before the hype gets too out of control, though, consider that Pitt is not really a good barometer for where FSU stands as a team. The Panthers just didn’t have the talent to contain the ‘Noles. But other teams coming up on the schedule will be more familiar with the tendencies of Jimbo Fisher’s offense and that is when Winston will truly be tested. Last year’s FSU team was loaded with talent, but it still found a way to lose to North Carolina State.
But forget about that for now. FSU fans have a valid reason to feel good after tonight. After all, they’ve got at least two full years to watch this elite talent lead their team. It should be a fun ride. The challenge for Fisher will be to manage the expectations and not put too much on his young freshman, especially when it comes to the playbook. The challenge for Winston is to stay resilient when the inevitable drop-off from tonight’s otherworldly production takes place.
Is Winston a legit Heisman candidate? I’d say that’s a bit premature. Yes, voters gave the Heisman to a freshman last season, but based on the perception of how that’s played out, they might think twice before doing it again.
Washington State coach Mike Leach is known across the country as one of college football’s most interesting characters, rambling on from time-to-time about everything from pirates to the history of Geronimo. The latest subject the quirky head coach has turned his sights on? The big ol’ SEC.
The Jackson Clarion-Ledger spoke to Leach recently as part of a profile on new Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo, and let’s just say the Air Raid guru of the Palouse didn’t hold back when discussing the state of offenses in the league widely considered to be the best in the sport.
“I’ve got bad news for all these levels people,” Leach said. “Your level isn’t special, your conference isn’t special. All this different level this, different level that. That’s crazy.
“This is a great time to be in the SEC, everybody’s got the same offense: run right, run left, play action. And they tease themselves and say we threw it four more times a game this year than we did last year.”
Leach, who coached in the league at Kentucky, also added some other, more colorful language to describe his impression of the SEC and the offenses teams run. While he did play at Auburn with the Cougars a few years ago, he clearly hasn’t kept up with the way things are trending down south as even pro-style stalwarts like Alabama and Arkansas are using more and more tempo and spread principles on a weekly basis.
Either way, let’s hope the Washington State athletic director is already making calls to schedule an SEC opponent in the coming years. If nothing else, any future appearance by Leach on the Paul Finebaum Show should be must-see entertainment.
It probably took a little longer than most to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, but Willie Taggart has completed his coaching staff at Oregon and the latest addition is a familiar face.
The school announced Thursday afternoon that Raymond Woodie would be taking over as the Ducks’ new special teams coordinator, having previously spent the past four seasons at USF with Taggart and three more before that together at Western Kentucky.
Woodie most recently served as the Bulls’ defensive coordinator this past season but has been a linebackers coach dating back to 2012. He is regarded by many to be a quality recruiter with good ties to the state of Florida in particular and has also coached the defensive line. While his title makes him responsible for the third phase of the game for Oregon, he figures to also help out new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt in some fashion as well.
The announcement is a bit of positive news for Taggart and the Ducks this week after a considerable bit of bad press for the program stemming from the revelation that multiple Oregon players wound up in the hospital following offseason workouts. New strength coach Irele Oderinde (who also came over from USF) was eventually suspended for one month without pay by the school as a result..
Gus Malzahn’s quest to find a new offensive coordinator has zigged and zagged in the past few days since the surprising departure of Rhett Lashlee to UConn. One place it will not be going however, is to a fellow SEC West school.
Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle reports that despite some interest in Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, the Aggies’ coach is staying put in College Station.
Mazzone arrived at A&M prior to this past season from UCLA and found early success with the Aggies and transfer quarterback Trevor Knight before a late slide in 2016. Travis Haney of 247Sports reported earlier Thursday that he could be considered the leader in the search to replace Lashlee, but it appears that will not be the case.
The longtime coaching veteran’s name being linked to Auburn isn’t too surprising considering he was the OC there from 1999-2001 but Mazzone’s hefty salary and likely high buyout figure provided some big obstacles if he wanted to reunite with the school.
Instead, it’s on to the next one for Malzahn and company.
National Signing Day is just around the corner and that means a flurry of in-home visits by coaches across the country trying to lock up the next class of impact players for their program.
We’ve seen plenty of unique attempts by coaches to impress prospects over the years as a result, from often used cookie cakes to sleepovers and limo rides. When it comes to this subject though, few have been as creative as Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh. This week, he certainly cemented that reputation.
According to the Detroit News, Harbaugh and several Wolverines coaches took an in-home visit with five-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon out of Leesburg, Georgia and went bowling with the recruit’s family before finally racing go-karts together.
And even better, there’s video via ESPN:
Solomon is also strongly considering Alabama and Georgia in addition to Michigan, but something says neither Nick Saban or Kirby Smart will be heading to the race track with the big defensive tackle on their visit. You have to love recruiting either way.