Unless you are a huge fan of Florida State baseball or the 2009 Rutgers football team, you probably have no idea who Jameis Winston or Tom Savage are. On Monday night, Sept. 2, both players will have the opportunity to introduce themselves to the college football universe in a nationally-televised showcase. The game between Florida State and Pitt will serve as the Panthers’ very first as newly-minted members of the ACC.
It will also serve as the first for Winston, ever. The redshirt freshman spent the spring and summer starring in the Seminoles’ baseball outfield. Come Monday night, however the 6-foot-4, 227-pounder will be expected to star for a different Noles squad on a different playing field. Can he replace the numbers of four-year starter and Buffalo Bills first-round draft pick E.J. Manuel?
The game will not be the first for Savage, but it will be his first in more than 1,000 days, as well as his first for Pitt. The 6-foot-5, 230-pund Savage was named a Freshman All-American after leading Rutgers to a 9-4 record. He passed for 2,211 yards while tossing 14 touchdowns against seven picks. An injury forced him out, unfortunately, and he later decided to transfer to Arizona. Rich Rodriguez was then hired to coach, however, and Savage, a pocket passer, was not going to fit into his system. Before playing a snap, he transferred yet again, landing in coach Paul Chryst’s lap at Pitt, where he steps into the shoes of the graduated Tino Sunseri
Chryst knows what to do with transfer quarterbacks. As the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, Chryst worked with Russell Wilson during the signal-caller’s lone year in Madison. Needless to say, the results were fairly positive.
Will Chryst and Savage enjoy the same success right off the bat, however? After boasting one of the top defensive units in the nation in 2012, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher lost his D-coordinator, Mark Stoops, to the head coaching gig at Kentucky. He also lost all-world defensive end Bjoern Werner and cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
Replacing them has not been easy, but former Alabama defensive backs coach Jeremy Priutt is a great hire to replace Stoops and should – should – keep the Noles defense humming.
Both of these teams have lost big-name players at several positions (Pitt will be starting true freshman Tyler Boyd at one of the two receiver spots), but both should be running on pure adrenaline on Monday night. The Panthers share Heinz Field with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Monday nighter will be the only college game played and it will be in front of a sold-out, rowdy crowd.
After all, Pitt will be trying to make an early impression in its brand new conference after earning a bowl game berth in its final year in the Big East. Conversely, the defending Orange Bowl champions are looking to give a still-rebuilding program an extremely rude welcome to its new league.
Which new quarterback will lead the way? We have no idea, but perhaps you do.
The time to talk, for tailgate planning and all the like is nearly finished. Finally, after a long offseason, it’s just about time to play some football.
It’s time to settle it.