Florida State acquired a stunning 10 percent of Scout.com's five-star recruits across the entire country Wednesday on National Signing Day, five of the 50, and now that haul is up to 12 percent.
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Hueytown (AL) High School quarterback Jameis Winston, an outstanding dual-threat passer and the No. 2 prospect at the game's most important position, faxed his letter of intent Friday to the Seminoles. He is the sixth five-star recruit reeled in by coach Jimbo Fisher for the class of 2012, and although 19 total signees is a relatively small quantity compared to some other premier programs around the nation, the per-player quality en route to Tallahassee is off the charts.
At 6-4 and 190 pounds, Winston is everything Fisher looks for in a QB, possessing the kind of arm capable of making all the throws necessary at the next level both in and out of the pocket. This past season for the Golden Gophers, he completed 177 of 271 passes (65.3 percent) for 2,334 yards with 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions, and his decision-making ability -- a 4.05 grade point average might have something to do with that -- is considered quite advanced for a high schooler. He is also adept at making plays with his legs, adding 870 yards on 128 rushes (6.8 yards per carry) and another nine TDs in directing Hueytown to the 5-A state semifinals.
Winston augments a tremendous recruiting effort that already boasted five-star talents like defensive ends Chris Casher and Mario Edwards, cornerback Ronald Darby, defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and tailback Mario Pender.
"There are many more strengths that could be added to Winston's scouting report because he has a lot of tools you like in a quarterback," said Chad Simmons, a national recruiting analyst for Scout.com based in the Southeast. "Number one, he is a leader. The players listen to him, he leads them and he has a lot of poise. He also has good arm strength, nice pocket presence and he makes both quick and good decisions. His legs are a weapon as well. He can still improve his accuracy. He can be a streaky thrower."
Because FSU could very well have six signal callers on the roster this coming season, Winston will most likely redshirt as a freshman, learn from incumbent E.J. Manuel for a year and then possibly challenge for the starting job in 2013.
In 2011, Manuel completed 65.3 percent of his passes and assembled a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 18-to-8, but he suffered an injury to his left shoulder Sept. 17 against Oklahoma, missed the next game and a half and basically played hurt the rest of the schedule. Should be finally put it all together for the 'Noles, there are many that believe the 6-5, 240-pounder has Heisman Trophy-candidate skills and might develop into a first-round pick in next April's NFL Draft.
Behind Manuel, Winston will do battle with Clint Trickett, Jacob Coker, Will Secord and fellow 2012 signee Sean Maguire, who hails from West Orange (NJ) Seton Hall Preparatory. The slightly-built Trickett (6-2, 180 pounds) surprised a ton of Florida State fans with how well he played subbing here and there for Manuel, especially in an emergency start Sept. 24 at Clemson when he connected on 24 of 38 passes for 336 yards with three touchdowns and one interception -- the 35-30 loss to the Tigers certainly wasn't his fault. Coker was a big-time recruit himself at this time last year but played in a run-heavy high school offense, while the southpaw Secord is considered little more than a career reserve.
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One feather in Winston's cap is the fact that he and Manuel already have a great relationship, as the two of them spent a lot of time together at the Elite 11 camp this past summer in Malibu, California.
"Winston is just the cherry on top of what was an outstanding class for Florida State," said Scott Kennedy, the director of scouting for Scout.com. "As the sixth five-star guy in the class, the Seminoles are getting an impact player at virtually every position, especially along the D-line. But the importance of building talent and depth at QB cannot be understated. All the talent in the world can make for a mediocre team if the quarterback play is subpar. Winston brings a world of talent, unrefined talent perhaps, but it’s after signing day when coaches really earn their paychecks. Jimbo Fisher has a terrific track record of developing quarterbacks."
Even though his NLI is signed, sealed and delivered, the 'Noles still must hold their breath until June's Major League Baseball draft, as Winston is a two-sport prospect and could very well earn a seven-figure offer to ditch football altogether.
John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.