TALLAHASSEE -- Headed into Florida State’s annual Garnet and Gold spring game, the Seminoles were holding a four-man competition to replace quarterback EJ Manuel.
Clint Trickett, Jameis Winston, Jacob Coker and Sean Maguire all entered the spring looking to take the reins of the Seminole offense, and to this point, coach Jimbo Fisher had insisted that the QB race was wide open.
On Saturday afternoon as the Gold team beat Garnet 40-24, Winston did his best to close it.
“Jameis looked real good out there,” junior receiver Rashad Greene said. “For a young guy, he showed leadership. Some of the things he was doing in the huddle for us, it showed a lot about him.”
After waiting his turn behind Trickett, Winston entered the game at the start of the second quarter and wasted no time throwing a 70-yard touchdown pass on his first play.
The throw beat Lamarcus Joyner — one of the team’s most consistent defensive backs — and fired up the 27,500 fans in attendance.
“We had four verticals on and he read the inside vertical and went to his No. 2 outside read and had a little seam and dropped it over in a nice spot,” Fisher said. “Those are hard to do sometimes when you come in off the bench like that but he had the knack. He was on fire.”
Winston came to FSU amid considerable hype. One of ESPN’s Elite 11 Quarterbacks for 2012, he is a standout on the football field and baseball diamond, where he has a mid-90s fastball and hits in the middle of the Seminole lineup as the designated hitter.
Coming into spring, Trickett had the advantage as the only quarterback on the roster who had taken competitive snaps. The junior also had the best grasp of Fisher’s complicated offensive system.
But Winston closed the gap quickly and had more or less turned a four-man competition into a two-man race by kickoff Saturday.
By the time the final gun sounded on the game, Winston may have staked his claim to the job.
“Standing behind the huddle you can tell who’s got poise,” Fisher said. “Who’s got presence, who’s got some things and just how they handle the huddle, how they talk and how they interact.”
Winston demonstrated that poise, finishing 12 of 15 for 205 yards and a couple of touchdowns (his second score was a 20-yard back-shoulder throw to Greene).
Then he showered, walked 200 yards to Dick Howser Stadium and suited up to play in the second game of a doubleheader against Duke.
“That’s tough now,” joked senior linebacker Christian Jones. “That’s him. If he can do it, he can do it.”
With the Seminoles top three backs out and their defense depleted by injuries, the onus fell on the quarterbacks and receivers to keep fans entertained. Senior Kenny Shaw lead the team with 12 receptions for 205 yards and a score. Redshirt sophomore Kelvin Benjamin added eight catches for 141 yards and a touchdown, and Greene had 11 for 120 and the TD from Winston.
“Overall in spring we were good,” Fisher said. “We may have gotten banged and bruised, but I don’t think there’s anybody we’re going to lose and not have back in the fall.”