By: Alex Turko (@aturko_23)
Spring football concluded on Saturday with the annual Garnet and Gold game, as Jimbo Fisher and his new staff looked onto Bobby Bowden field searching for players that will contribute to his team come fall. Going into the game I was looking forward to seeing if the hype surrounding Jameis Winston was legit, and a chance to see this new defensive scheme first hand. Neither disappointed and in reviewing the game, I had a lot of my questions and concerns answered.
One of my biggest concerns coming into spring was if the Seminole defense could generate an elite pass rush after losing all four starters from the D-line, including two potential 1st round draft picks in Werner and Carradine.
It didn’t take long for my questions to be answered, as the defense sent in defenders like missiles, play after play, often reaching the quarterback or forcing the quarterback out of the pocket. This pressure led to multiple turnovers throughout the game, something Mark Stoops’ defense lacked last year. Even though the defensive ends put together a solid performance to generate a pass rush, no unit impressed me more than the defensive tackles. This might be the best defensive tackle rotation I’ve ever seen or heard of, as all of these guys are capable of getting an extensive amount of playing time anywhere else in the country. With the Noles top two returning D-tackles out for the spring game (Demonte McAllister and Timmy Jernigan), we got a chance to see the talent that lies in the reeds, waiting for their chance at stardom. Nile-Lawrence Stample led the way with 3.5 sacks (tag outs), and a constant motor that will not go unnoticed come fall. Former 5-star, Eddie Goldman, might not have the impressive stats that Stample did, but he did show off his quickness for a big man, as he was constantly in the backfield. Senior Jaccobi McDaniel was also effective showing that he has fully recovered from his leg injury that kept him off the field last season. Jacksonville native Derrick Mitchell also showed flashes of potential and Justin Shanks used his size well to eat up blockers all afternoon.
Another position that stood out to me was the receivers. This is an elite group of athletes that are all playing at a high level this spring, and could be the most talented receiving corps, top to bottom, in the country. This unit is led by Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw, who each had over 10 catches on Saturday. I was extremely impressed with Kelvin Benjamin, who seemed to run crisper routes, and was giving effort play in and play out. His effort was evident when he laid a crack back block to make room on the sideline for Kenny Shaw late in the 2nd quarter. No one has ever doubted Benjamin’s potential or ability, but his lack of effort in the past was obvious. If he can stay motivated throughout the season, the sky is the limit for him. Christian Green and Greg Dent may be the forgotten players of this unit to the fans, but they each had a very solid performance. Fisher has repeatedly praised Dent all spring, and has even deemed him as the unit’s best receiver at times. I expect big things from this group in particular.
Now the most glaring question we all had going into spring was regarding the quarterback situation. The mystery has been solved as Clint Trickett announced Wednesday that he will transfer. Before this news many people believed that Trickett may be the front runner to win this battle. It is now almost a guarantee that the young Alabaman, Jameis Winston, will be the Noles starter on the Labor Day game in Pittsburgh.
If the spring game was any indication of who the starter would be in the fall, I think Winston was going to win this job regardless of Trickett’s decision to transfer. Aside from Winston’s natural and obvious leadership skills, his play on Saturday was one of an all-star. Not only was he the only quarterback not to throw an interception, but he threw for two touchdowns against the starting defense, which should be one of the best in the country. Every ball he threw was on a rope, streaming down the field like a pitch flying from the mound to the catcher. It is no coincidence that Winston is a pitcher! Superbowl winning quarterback, Trent Dilfer, coached Winston at a camp as a high school senior. After the camp, Dilfer said that in the future this kid could be the first player taken in the NFL draft if he continues to progress. The arm strength and accuracy that he displayed during the game makes it easy to see what Dilfer was referring to with Winston’s potential.
The Garnet and Gold game should give Seminole fans a lot of hope leading into fall camp. We should expect some bumps in the road with a young quarterback that has no experience, but Winston is special and could end up shocking the nation just as another redshirt freshman quarterback, Johnny Manziel, did last year when he busted onto the scene and won a Heisman trophy. It should be another successful season in Tallahassee with a solid defense and an explosive leader under center who is surrounded by a plethora of athletes. I may be gullible, but I’m buying into the Winston hype.