No. 1 Florida State, Winston look to improve
Winston bullied his way to a Heisman trophy by putting up numbers never seen from a freshman at the FBS level. Things seemed to come easy as Florida State set records for points, yards and the quarterback became the youngest player ever awarded the Heisman statue.
Winston will have to play better for the Seminoles to win another title, but the quarterback will need more help from the skill positions than he got against the Cowboys. .
The Seminoles led the nation in third down conversions in 2013, but were just 4-for-14 against Oklahoma State. Winston led the nation in quarterback efficiency (184.8) in 2013, but threw more interceptions (two) than touchdowns (one) for just the second time during his career. The FSU offense had three receivers with nearly 1,000 yards in 2013, but Rashad Greene was the primary target with 203 of Winston's 370 passing yards.
The 20-year-old quarterback said he knows where what went wrong.
''Just me trying to do too much,'' Winston said. ''Trying to redeem myself or have a game like I had last year instead of just going out there and playing.''
That was easier to do last year with the all the talent Winston had around him.
But Carolina Panthers first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw are both gone. Benjamin provided a unique 6-foot-5, 240-pound target and Shaw was adept at converting third downs.
Against Oklahoma State, Winston turned to Greene. He caught 11 balls, but Winston completed just 25 of 40 attempts.
While Greene may end his senior year as the most prolific receiver in FSU history, but there's little experience otherwise.
Senior Christian Green, who had 62 of his 73 yards on a single reception, is starting opposite Greene and knows the other receivers have to chip in more.
''We know we have to help out,'' Green said. ''Teams are going to start going ... toward (Greene), so we're going to have to do our thing. The other receivers (need) to come in and get open and make plays as well. So Jameis can feel comfortable with us and stuff like that.''
The Seminoles will return Jesus ''Bobo'' Wilson this week after a one-game suspension stemming from the theft of a motor scooter. Coach Jimbo Fisher, Winston and several players have raved about how much the 5-9, 177-pound speedster will add to the offense.
All-ACC tight end Nick O'Leary was expected to pick up some of the slack, but he had just three catches for 28 yards. Fisher said he was the No. 1 option on six plays.
Sophomore Kermit Whitfield, who may be the fastest player in the country, had three catches and is a threat in the slot, but Winston seemed to lock in on Greene in several instances against Oklahoma State.
That's something Bucky Brooks, NFL Media analyst and former scout for the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers, noticed last year.
''I'd like to see him learn how to work quickly through his progressions to get to his second and third read in the route,'' Brooks said. ''He struggled a bit last year in terms of people coming after him and really bringing pressure and he didn't necessarily react well to it. I'd like to see him play with more poise under those pressure situations and find a way to get to his hot secondary or third read.''
Winston knows it wasn't his best game and said he has to erase the turnovers, especially in the red zone. The encouraging part is the issues surfaced in the first game against a quality opponent and can be fixed.
Fisher expects Winston to settle down.
Winston ''made good reads for the most part ... didn't throw in the coverage,'' Fisher said. ''But at the same time, he can play better and I think ... he got just a little antsy in the pocket. But that's something as the year goes on and the seasons go, you get better and get a feel for things inside.
''I thought he had a solid performance but he knows he can still play better as far as not wanting big plays but just continuing to make smart plays. But I was still pleased with his progress.''
Winston said there's no reason for concern, Florida State doesn't have to win each game by 40 points to win another title.
''We're going to be playing some real football,'' Winston said. ''We're glad that we got tested early. We needed to see what we would do in that pressure situation.''