Florida State's quarterback battle is over - and it's Jameis Winston's show.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher announced Winston would be the starter Friday after practice after waiting through an entire spring and fall camp with a spirited competition between Winston and sophomore Jacob Coker.
"It's one of the toughest decisions I've had to go through," Fisher said. "We truly have two very good quarterbacks and I feel comfortable with both in the game.
But Jameis will be the starter and we're very comfortable with that."
Winston was the presumed starter by most outside observers since his debut in the 2013 spring game. The redshirt freshman tossed a touchdown on his first passing attempt and finished 12-15 passing with 205 yards and two touchdowns. Fisher refused to name even a leader throughout fall camp, maintaining it was a close battle. He reiterated that again Friday.
"We ranked it and talked about it as a staff, and it's different things," Fisher said. "Both of them started getting command of the things as the camp went on but I thought Jameis did a little better job at the beginning. But you're splitting hairs when you get down to it."
Fisher said the deciding factor in his decision was Winston's slight edge in consistency throughout camp. He met with both players individually yesterday to tell them of his decision. Fisher said Coker took the news well, and players echoed that sentiment. Senior defensive back Lamarcus Joyner said he frequently went home during camp wondering who the starting quarterback would be.
"I was excited that it had to go down to that point anyways," Joyner said. "Jacob had his best offseason camp since he's been here. It was tough for us as a team, let alone for coach Fisher."
FSU players finally found out the news before Friday's practice.
"It was kind of awkward hearing it, but at the same time it was both of the guys worked hard," redshirt junior offensive lineman Cam Erving said. "You can't have any hard feelings. Jake's a great guy, great competitor."
Joyner said that Winston's leadership stood out to him even as a defensive player.
"A lot of guys have an appointed time to be a leader, he almost has that natural ability to do that," Joyner said. "And that's pretty rare for a young guy."
Erving said he felt a decision was imminent, but still wasn't sure how things would shake out.
"Coach Fisher made the decision for a reason," Erving said. "You can't delay the inevitable. But it's getting down to that 10-day-countdown now. It's obvious that we have to get the guy in there when it's going to be a game."
Winston's hype has been building to that first game since he arrived on campus in 2012 as a five-star recruit and the No. 1 quarterback in his class. The hype surrounding him only increased once he took the baseball field in the spring as an outfielder and relief pitcher and showcased his arm with several highlight-reel throws.
Winston is the second quarterback in recent memory to start for Florida State as a redshirt freshman. The quarterback Winston follows, E.J. Manuel, also started a few games as a redshirt freshman, but only to replace Christian Ponder, and not to open the season.
But even with Winston's youth and relative inexperience, and the short window leading up to the season opener, Erving said there isn't a huge need to get Winston settled with the first team.
"It's not having to settle Jameis in," Erving said. "I just feel like it's just something new. It's a new chapter in Florida State history."
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