CLEMSON – Jameis Winston has yet to play football with 80,000 people screaming in unison against him. But the Florida State quarterback, known for his poise and confidence through just five games of his college career, brushes off the idea he’ll be drowned by Death Valley.
“All the noise stuff, the way we communicate on the field, I really don’t think that’s going to be a big factor,” Winston said Wednesday. “From a momentum standpoint, the crowd gets into it, their players start getting amped up and stuff, then it’ll probably be a big factor. But noise has nothing to do with our offense.”
Winston is the nation’s second-most efficient passer in the country, clutching his spot on Heisman Trophy short lists with his accuracy (73.2 completion percentage, with 17 touchdowns against two interceptions) and leadership of Florida State’s march back into the top five in the rankings.
A native of Hueytown, Ala., Winston hopes to draw on his high school experience to simulate what he’ll face in the fifth-ranked Seminoles’ trip to Memorial Stadium against No. 3 Clemson Saturday night.
“Me being from the Birmingham area, most all our games had 8,000, 10,000 people,” Winston said. “People from different areas aren’t used to that, but in Alabama, football is all we have. So our games are packed … playing in an environments like that, of course it’s high school, of course you’re talking about 80,000 people, but when you’re out there playing football and you’re in your zone and you’re doing things right, all that crowd noise is really nonexistent to our team. Especially when you’ve got the chemistry that you have.
“We’re not trying to be focused on crowd noise, really. There’s bigger things to worry about than a crowd.”
The Seminoles have lost their past five games at Clemson, dating back to November 2001, when Winston was 7 years old.
“Of course we don’t think about that because that’s not our team that hasn’t won there. This is a new team,” Winston said. “I didn’t even know that statistic about not winning the last five (in Clemson).”
Winston redshirted 2012 when E.J. Manuel was the starter, but traveled with the team to get acquainted with road environments.
“Like N.C. State last year was really loud, the fans were all on top of us, and I got to witness that. I saw how our team reacted,” Winston said. “Even when we were down against Boston College (Sept. 28), those fans were on top of us. I know it’s not going to be like Clemson, but their fans were confident, they thought they had the game won in the early stages.
“How our team reacted is, we’re not playing against the crowd, we’re playing against the Clemson Tigers. I don’t think we’re going to let a crowd defeat us.”
Winston was asked specifically about Clemson’s pass rush, which leads the nation in third-down defense, tackles for loss and sacks. Again, a shrug and confident response.
“When they talk about defensive linemen, the linemen that I have, that doesn’t really faze me,” Winston said. “They have great players over there, but I’m so confident in my line, it’s probably just me being a young quarterback and those guys carrying me the whole season — I don’t think they’re going to choose one game to just let me down.
“Those guys have been working their tail off the whole year. I would take my line against any defensive line.”
Winston was lauded by Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and numerous Tigers for his presence on the field. He’s already comfortable speaking as a team leader at the midway point of his redshirt freshman season; in contrast, Texas A&M did not make Johnny Manziel available to reporters until late in his 2012 redshirt freshman season, in which he won the Heisman.
“I don’t think anything makes me nervous on the field. Besides, when, uh … no, I don’t think anything makes me nervous on the field,” Winston said. “Because when you’re a quarterback, being in that huddle and communicating with the guys on the field, they can’t see nerves in you. Nervous is not even in my vocabulary when I’m on the field.
“If you’re not confident in yourself, who else is going to believe in you?”