Jameis Winston has no ill feelings toward the media or even toward football fans — he knows he’s provided more than enough material to make himself a target.
But he said the past year has provided a learning experience about how scrutinized he is off the field and how he needs to repair that image to be a better leader on it.
“I've got to hold myself to a certain standard that the media may view me in, that the regular people may view me in, but I know I can do that because I've learned the true definition of being a leader and being a leader on and off the field,” Winston said during ACC media day on Sunday.
While Winston drew praise for leading Florida State to an undefeated record, a national championship and Heisman Trophy, he was also involved in multiple off-field incidents, including an alleged sexual assault and the shoplifting of crab legs from a local grocery store.
Winston’s off-field issues have dominated the headlines in the past year and he knows it’s distracted from the positive things he’s doing on the field. He also knows his teammates have had to deal with the unwanted publicity of his off-field behavior. He’s hoping to do away with that and turn the focus to football this coming season.
“As a leader for the Florida State Seminoles, I not only have to respect the name on the back of my jersey, but I have a great university that is looking for me to be a great student athlete, and more importantly I have teammates that are counting on me,” Winston said. “Accountability is something that's very important to me, and so, yes, I have learned, and I've learned that leadership is more important playing the quarterback position than anything else.”
Virginia Tech receivers looking for more consistency in 2014
Virginia Tech’s offensive woes were well-documented last season, especially in the passing game.
The receiving corps managed 236.2 yards per game, but there were a lot of drops, a lot of miscues and that yardage still ranked No. 9 in a pass-heavy ACC.
But things could change this season if Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer brings his aptitude in a passing offenses to Blacksburg and perhaps, for the first time in Virginia Tech’s illustrious history, the Hokies could be looking at a 1,000-yard receiver.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Brewer hasn’t won the starting job; he hasn’t even competed for it. Sophomore Brenden Motley and fifth-year senior Mark Leal competed for the starting role in the spring and neither came out ahead, leaving the door open for Brewer in fall camp.
Whoever becomes the starting quarterback will have a stable of receivers that should be better this season. Included in that group are three players — Joshua Stanford, Demitri Knowles and Willie Byrn — who all caught for more than 600 yards last season.
Byrn said it will be important for the receivers to play well to get the new quarterback acclimated.
“Last year, I made some good plays, but I want to make every single play, all the really tough catches,” Byrn said. “I can't think of them as like, ‘Oh, man, I really wish I made that. That would have been a really nice catch.’ It's got to be I have to make that really nice catch, because whoever the quarterback is, it turns out to be, it's going to be their first year starting at Virginia Tech, so they're going to have some hiccups like everyone does their first year, and we have to — I have to bail them out of some mistakes that they make, and the same with the offensive line and the running backs and everything like that.”
Duke Johnson wants younger players to be ready
Miami running back Duke Johnson said he’s 100 percent after suffering a season-ending ankle injury in November, which caused him to miss spring football.
He said the injury gave him a new perspective on how to approach the game.
“I believe you should go full out regardless if you got hurt or not,” Johnson said. “Every game you should go out because you never know when that play might come where you can't play anymore.”
Johnson said the injury also gave him a greater affinity for younger players who might need to step in when a starter goes down. When he was injured against Florida State, the running game suffered. It went from averaging 214.7 yards per game to just 96.83 yards per game, including a paltry 14 rushing yards in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
“One of my main things that I'm focusing on is making sure the young guys are caught up, making sure they're focused and they're ready because at any given time someone could go down and the next guy in has to take over,” Johnson said. “We don't need to miss a beat with the next guy in.”
DeVante Parker ready for a new league, offense
Louisville star receiver DeVante Parker had a chance to leave school early for the NFL, but decided to stay and experience a new offense and a new league.
The Cardinals will open their first season as a member of the ACC with new coach Bobby Petrino, who Parker said is a lot different than former coach Charlie Strong.
“The biggest difference in Coach Petrino, he's more a vertical type of coach, and he's offense based,” Parker said. “Coach Strong is more defense based. That's the difference between them two.”
Parker said while he’s looking forward to playing in his third league in the past three seasons — the Cardinals were in the Big East then the AAC and now the ACC — he said he's most looking forward to his first trip to one of college football’s most iconic stadiums.
“I'm looking forward to going to Death Valley because I heard that's a pretty tough environment," he said. "I just would like the chance to go there and play and see how it feels."
Cole Stoudt ready for his chance
Cole Stoudt started the spring in a three-man race to replace star quarterback Tajh Boyd, but when it was all over, Stoudt was the clear choice to lead Clemson forward.
Stoudt, a senior, said he never thought about transferring despite waiting three seasons behind Boyd. Instead, he made the most of his opportunities and completed 79.7 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and no interceptions last season.
He told media Sunday that he prepared every game like he would eventually get his chance and now that he is getting his turn to start, he plans to make the most of it.
"I’m very comfortable with the situation I'm in,” Stoudt said. “I've always been a relaxed kind of guy that goes out there and operates the system and plays the best I possibly can. The past couple years, every time I went in, I always maximized my opportunities. Last year I think I did that the best. I set a couple records for accuracy and passing efficiency, and I'm very proud of that, but I also have to continue to keep getting better, myself better and the team.”
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