TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State's Jameis Winston has dissected defenses all season.
Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher believes his quarterback has been able to make it look easy because of his decision-making and accuracy.
Winston, a leading Heisman Trophy candidate, will try to shred Duke's defense Saturday when the top-ranked Seminoles take on the No. 20 Blue Devils in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe said, "We can't give up a bunch of big explosive plays and beat this football team."
But it's still unclear whether Winston will get the opportunity to challenge Duke's defense. State attorney Willie Meggs said Wednesday he has concluded his investigation of an alleged sexual assault case involving Winston and has scheduled a press conference on Thursday to announce the results.
Florida State policy dictates that a student-athlete is suspended from game action until the charge is resolved "absent extraordinary circumstances as determined by the administration." The team is schedule to fly to Charlotte on Thursday night.
Fisher said Winston works hard at his craft and expects him to perform well Saturday if his playing status doesn't change.
"He's studied and learned from his mistakes," the coach said. "And also advanced in his knowledge of what he's trying to do and how to get guys the ball and what (opponents) are trying to do to him. How they cover us. ... I think that's where he's really evolved. Take this away and he's able to go to this part of the game or this part of the game.
"He truly understands the 'whys' of the game. If you don't understand why you do something, you can never repeat it and be consistent with it. That's one of the things about him that excites me so much. That's why he's been so consistent, because he truly understands the 'whys' of the game."
Fisher isn't the only one who has taken notice.
Winston, a redshirt freshman, Wednesday took home two more ACC awards: player of the year and offensive player of the year. He was named offensive rookie of the year on Tuesday. Winston set conference freshman records with 3,490 yards passing and 35 touchdowns.
Despite the ongoing sexual assault investigation, on the field Winston and the Seminoles (12-0) have remained focused. The preparation phase has been a significant part of Winston's decision-making ability. Fisher runs intense offensive meetings soWinston is able to recognize a defense and know the weakness of the call.
"I literally had to start taking my ADD medicine so I can pay attention and get every single thing," Winston said with a laugh. "You've got to take notes in there all the time. You've got to be up to date, every single time or you're going to miss something."
Duke (10-2) hasn't overwhelmed its opponents defensively.
The Blue Devils are the No. 5 scoring defense (23 points per game) in the ACC and No. 9 in yards allowed per game (395.2). Winston has been adept at going through his progressions and taking the easy, short completion when the deep ball is taken away. Cutcliffe is still worried about the big plays from an offense that had nine players voted All-ACC.
"You have to defend and compete to where they have to work to earn yards, which is difficult to do," Cutcliffe said.
Duke's first-team all-conference cornerback Ross Cockrell is more concerned withWinston's accuracy. His 68.8 completion percentage ranks No. 7 in the FBS and gives receivers and backs the opportunity for yards after the catch.
"You can tell he's used to throwing, I guess from his baseball days," Cockrell said. "The most important thing about him is that he's accurate. He puts the ball on the money, so our coverage is going to have to be tight."
Winston is also 6-foot-4 with the mobility to allow him to extend plays and squeeze the ball in tight spaces when his receivers are closely defended. But Fisher believesWinston's physical attributes are a bonus.
"Decision-making goes back to processing information, intelligence," Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers played at a different level than everybody else thanks to processing and they know where they're getting the ball and how to get it there. (Winston) does a tremendous job of it.
"All the physical things and all the competitiveness and everything else, he studies and it works, but he can process what he learned and make decisions."