A new era is set to begin at Florida State.
FSU quarterback Jameis Winston will start his first game Monday night when the Seminoles face Pittsburgh at Heinz Field in a primetime, nationally televised game.
It's as if Winston's debut was scripted by a Hollywood screen writer.
Charming and full of confidence while gifted with an elite arm and swift legs, Winston has all the qualities of a leading man ready to take his place among some of the best to ever play at Florida State.
"When I look at film and see him throw the football or see him run, I see the most talented person at the quarterback position that has ever come through that program," said Danny Kanell, the former Florida State quarterback who is now a college football analyst for ESPN. "And that includes two Heisman Trophy winners and two first-round draft picks."
It's a bold statement, especially coming from someone who trained alongside FSU star Charlie Ward, but Kanell is quick to point out, "The reason I said 'person' is because that doesn't necessarily make him the best quarterback to come through there."
While Kannell suggests Winston has the most natural talent and athletic ability, he still has to deliver on game day.
"I need to see Winston develop and become a student of the game and to become a manager of the game and to become a playmaker to the game," Kannell said of Winston. "From all the indications, it seems like he's going to be able to accomplish all of those, but I still want to reserve something until I see what he does when the brightest lights come on."
While Winston prepares to make his debut, Kanell remembers his first start at Florida State.
"It was 1993 and we were making the national title run and Charlie [Ward] got hurt and [former FSU offensive coordinator] Mark Richt and coach [Bobby] Bowden didn't announce who was starting all week," Kanell said. "Charlie was sitting out practice. I was taking all the snaps, but I didn't know I was going to be the starter until about three hours before the game started and Mark Richt pulled me aside and said, 'Hey, it's your time.'" I was like alright, I guess it's my time. Let's go."
Kanell said he thinks the coaches knew he would start, but they didn't want him to get nervous about the opportunity. He also thinks current FSU coach Jimbo Fisher has tried to do the same thing with Winston.
"I think he was trying to alleviate so much of these expectations that everyone, including myself, have put on Jameis Winston," Kanell said.
So what advice would Kanell give Winston before he faces Pitt?
"Specifically, when it's 8 o'clock on Monday night and you're getting ready to take the field against Pitt, I would just say go through your reads, go through your progressions, do your job," Kanell said. "Don't try to do too much and even though everyone wants him to be something so special and so out of the ordinary, just do your job and the rest will take care of itself."
Inauspicious return for Johnny Football
Johnny Manziel sat out the first half of the Aggies game against Rice Saturday while serving a suspension by the NCAA and Texas A&M for an "inadvertent" rule violation he committed while signing thousands of autographs. He entered the game after halftime and went 6-of-8 passing for 96 yards and three touchdowns. He also spent much of the half jawing with Rice players and was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for pointing at the scoreboard after a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Players feel pain of targeting rule
The NCAA rolled out new roles designed to protect players from major head injuries. Any defensive player who targeted an offensive player with a hit above the shoulders was subject to automatic ejection and suspension for the first half of the following game. Many wondered how long it would take for a player to face the tough sanctions. The answer was not long. Two players were ejected from Thursday night games followed by two more Saturday. The offenders Saturday were Texas A&M DB Deshazor Everett and Oregon DB Terrance Mitchell.
ESPN adds Big 12/SEC challenge
The Florida men's basketball team host Kansas on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. as part of ESPN's Big 12/SEC Challenge. The game will be broadcast on ESPN and it's one of 10 games featured on the network's various channels. This is the first time both leagues will meet on the hardwood during ESPN's conference matchups. Arkansas, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee will not play in the challenge this season. The series tips off with Texas Tech at Alabama on Nov. 14 at 9 p.m. on ESPN and ends on Dec. 21 with Oklahoma taking on Texas A&M in Houston at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.
Speaking of the Gators, ESPN has selected the Florida-Kentucky game at Rupp Arena on Feb. 15 as one of the sites to broadcast College GameDay live during upcoming basketball season. It will be the second straight year the show will visit Kentucky. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. Feb. 15
On the Web
For more college news, head over to our blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/collegegridiron or you can like us at Facebook.com/collegegridiron 365. You can add me on Google + under Matt Murschel or follow me on Twitter at @osmattmurschel.