Florida State Seminoles redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston is turning heads around the country with his dynamic play, both through the air and on his feet en route to 19 touchdowns and 1,536 yards of total offense through six games. Winston has posted these numbers against sub-par defenses — the best of which being the North Carolina State Wolfpack (28th nationally in points against) — and hasn’t seen anything close to the caliber he’ll face on Saturday against the formidable Clemson Tigers.
Clemson is ranked 10th in points against, giving up only 16.2 points per contest and a total of 347.9 yards of total offense per contest. Dabo Swinney’s team has the 18th ranked passing defense nationally and is led by junior safety Robert Smith and junior cornerback Bashaud Breeland who between them have accounted for 55 tackles and five broken up passes so far this season. While Smith and Breeland are the leaders of the defensive backs, sophomore safety Travis Blanks and senior corner Darius Robinson have also played at an very high level.
In short, the Clemson secondary is like nothing Jameis Winston has seen, and is arguably his true introduction to big-time college football.
In Week 8.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is certain to throw a variety of looks at Winston out of the Tigers’ base 4-3 defensive set, plenty of which will be sight unseen you can figure. This rivalry game has grown to one of newly epic proportions over the course of the past few seasons given the rise to prominence of both programs, and Venables surely has kept a few looks in his back pocket for Saturday’s contest.
The biggest question to be answered is whether Winston can throw with the same accuracy and confidence against the Clemson defense as he has against much lesser secondaries in weeks prior. Winston’s 17 touchdown passes have looked easy as cake. His arm motion, mechanics and vision belie his age and suggest an extremely bright future for a guy that could quickly become one of the top future NFL prospects among his peers in college football.
In reality, Winston’s success could be hinged just as easily on the success of the Seminoles’ running back trio of junior Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder to be productive as a whole and keep the Clemson defense at least semi-honest. Out of a 4-3 it’s highly unlikely the Tigers would stack the box at any point to take away the run with the caliber of the Florida State passing offense, but if Clemson can at least grind some yardage on the ground things could look entirely different for Winston in the pocket.
It’s rather simple really.
Is Jameis Winston ready to pick apart a defense of Clemson’s caliber?
Numbers suggest so, but numbers can lie when the spotlights are their brightest.
Kris Hughes is a Senior Writer and Business Analyst for Rant Sports.