Things are rather quiet around the Hueytown (Ala.)
football camp these days, says Golden Gophers head coach Matt Scott. He says it is a surprising development he didn't really expect.
Recruiters, he said, have actually been leaving his star senior quarterback Jameis Winston
alone for a little while.
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound senior, rated the top combo quarterback prospect in the nation, has been able to fully concentrate on the 2011 season since making his public announcement earlier this summer of his intentions of signing with Florida State next February.
Scott doesn't really expect that trend to continue, however, as the recruiting season winds down closer to signing day.
"It has been nice being able to concentrate on our main goal of
winning a state championship," Winston said. "Still, I have enjoyed the
recruiting process. It has been fun. I miss (recruiting)."
Winston has completed almost 70 percent of his passes this season, has thrown for more than 850 yards and nine touchdowns in four straight blowout wins this season. The Gophers are currently ranked No. 2 in Alabama's Class 5A division at 4-0 as the season heads to its midseason point this week. Among the victories was last week's 48-14 rout of ninth-ranked and previously unbeaten McAdory High School in a game televised live across the nation via ESPNU.
Winston, ranked the No. 21 recruit in the nation by CBS Sports.com recruiting guru Tom Lemming
, was at his best as he dismantled a McAdory defense that had yielded only 25 points in its first three games and has traditionally been one of the best in the state each year for more than two decades. Winston was 13-for-17 passing for 208 yards and two touchdowns, rushed 22 times for 100 yards and two more scores and added a 26-yard touchdown reception on a trick play in the fourth quarter on the same field where the state's most storied football prospect in history, 1985 Heisman Trophy winner Vincent "Bo" Jackson, played as a high schooler.
"We ran him more than we wanted to," Scott said. "We didn't have to run him that much in our previous two games. He's willing to do whatever it takes for us to win though. He's big and strong. He's just a natural leader."
Winston, who selected coach Jimbo Fisher's Seminoles over LSU and hometown favorite Alabama, was also at his best three weeks earlier in a 39-12 win over Birmingham-Wenonah. He was 14-for-18 passing for 267 yards and five touchdowns.
The next week he avenged Hueytown's only regular-season loss of the 2010 season with a 59-6 triumph over Pleasant Grove. He played only a quarter but still passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another.
And in the season opener versus Class 6A Pelham, Winston passed for 238 yards and one touchdown. In the AHSAA's preseason al.com Champions Challenge Classic at Montgomery's Cramton Bowl in the stifling August 95-degree heat, he directed Hueytown to a 36-29 come-from-behind win over Class 4A state champion Thomasville, a team that came in with a 15-game winning streak and a defense noted for shutting down the best of offenses. Winston passed for 138 yards and one score, rushed for 150 yards and four scores – prompting onlookers to call him the "next Cam Newton."
Lemming was high on Winston from the films he had seen. Once he met the straight-A student who is also projected to be a first-round draft pick in next June's professional baseball draft, he was completely sold.
"Way back in November I watched film with both Winston and his coach, and came away with the impression that I was watching a high school version of Cam Newton," Lemming says in his description of Winston. "He dominates the high school scene with an average supporting cast. He shows super arm strength and outstanding running skills. He's also one of the top baseball players in the South."
A week before the Champions Challenge in Montgomery, Winston played in the All-America Baseball Classic all-star competition. Three weeks earlier, he earned MVP honors in the Alabama High School Athletic Association's North-South All-Star Baseball Classic at Montgomery's Riverwalk Stadium, home of the AA Southern League Montgomery Biscuits. Winston's performance included hitting for the cycle in the doubleheader – very difficult to do since each team batted 15 to 17 players in each game.
Among his hits was a line-drive double off the ankle of the first baseman. He used his blazing baserunning speed to take second before the ball could be retrieved behind first base. His next at bat produced a grand-slam home run over the right-field wall. The switch-hitting outfielder/pitcher also had a single, a bases-loaded walk and finished the night with a triple to right field that would have been a pop-up single for most players. He also pitched two scoreless innings.
His performance prompted die-hard Biscuits fans to compare Winston to the Southern League team's greatest player to date – current Tampa Bay Rays leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings.
Jennings, like Winston, is a product of the talent-laden Jefferson County school system that educates the students at almost a dozen suburban schools just outside the Birmingham city limits. Jennings was a quarterback/athlete at Hueytown rival Pinson Valley High School – graduating in 2005.
"I can understand that comparison," said Scott. "Both are great athletes, great competitors"
While some predict Winston could forgo football if he is a top-round baseball draft pick next summer, Scott said college football coaches have been smart to continue recruiting his prize quarterback.
"The summer before his junior year Jameis never missed any (football) workout because of baseball. This past summer he may have missed a day or two," Scott said. "He is such a natural athlete, a leader and a kid who works hard at both sports. Jameis is such a quick study on everything and so far advanced physically. He can recognize coverages and make reads faster than anyone I have ever been around.
"He was ready physically and mentally to quarterback at the college level the first day I met him (in 2008). He's only gotten better and better since then. I think he will be capable of playing baseball and football in college."
Winston completed 178 of 272 passes last season for 2,342 yards and 17 touchdowns while throwing just four interceptions while leading Hueytown to an 11-2 record. He also rushed for 870 yards on 128 carries for 11 rushing touchdowns. Among the wins was a playoff victory over 2009 defending Class 5A state champion Demopolis. Spanish Fort, which finished 15-0 and won the 5A state title in 2010, ousted the Gophers from the state playoffs in round three.
Winston slugged .370 for the strong Hueytown baseball team last spring. He had seven home runs, 11 doubles, two triples and 37 RBIs while collecting 44 hits in 119 official at bats. He was also 7-2 pitching with a 1.47 ERA in 56 innings. He struck out 72, an average of 9.13 per every seven innings. In one game he hit a home run from each side of the plate.
It is easy to see why Florida State was his top choice this summer. The Seminoles have a history of letting two-sport athletes ply their trade in Tallahassee. Winston said he plans to pursue baseball and football at the next
level. He knows it won't be easy.
Eventually, decisions may have to be
made. But until then, well, "My family and I will make decisions as they
come," he said. "I plan to approach each decision I will need to make
just one step at a time."
He said his teammates have been very
understanding as he went about juggling the football combines and
baseball evaluations during the summer. "They have really supported me
in all this," he said. "I can't tell you how great they have been."
Just how high he goes in the baseball draft will make his decision either easier or more difficult – depending on how one looks at the choices this special high school senior should have.
"I know one thing," Scott says. "Jameis Winston loves football too. In the end, it will take a whole lot of money to get him out of football. But that's something we can all figure out when the time comes."
Winston says his decision to pick FSU before the season was the right move.
"Well you know it's been tough, tough the whole time," Winston said publicly. "I feel confident in my decision. I want to be a Florida State Seminole. God has blessed me the whole way. I see myself there in the near future."
He knows his decision has not set well with Alabama fans. He says he is not concerned about pleasing college football fans right now.
"I want our team to have an undefeated season. I want to help lead our
team to a state championship," he said. "There will be plenty of time
for the other stuff. All my individual goals will take care of
themselves in time."Watch more videos of Hueytown football