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Bucs give rave reviews to Winston's pro day performance

Unofficially, Jameis Winston completed 91 of 102 attempts with five drops, and exhaustive workout choreographed by his private quarterback coach, George Whitfield. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Unofficially, Jameis Winston completed 91 of 102 attempts with five drops, and exhaustive workout choreographed by his private quarterback coach, George Whitfield. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Apr. 1, 2015

TALLAHASSEE — Jameis Winston made 102 pass attempts at Florida State's pro day Tuesday, about twice the amount of throws by some quarterback prospects.

"He threw a full nine innings," Bucs general manager Jason Licht said. When it was over, Winston made one more pitch:

Why should he be the No. 1 overall pick of the Bucs?

"Because I'm the best player in this draft," Winston said.

Judging from the Bucs' boffo reviews of Winston's performance, that is truer today than it was before five NFL head coaches, representatives from nearly every team, more than 80 reporters, the NFL Network, ESPN and his family gathered at the Seminoles' indoor practice facility to watch Jameis become more famous.

Bucs coach Lovie Smith was there. So was general manager Jason Licht, quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian, director of player personnel Jon Robinson, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier — everyone but Captain Fear.

"I could've had a staff meeting here today," Smith said. "We had quite a few guys here … he didn't disappoint."

Honestly, pro day workouts are not a very reliable indicator of success for quarterbacks in the NFL. For starters, players are in shorts, not wearing helmets and competing against air with their own receivers. Every pass is scripted and rehearsed to make you look like Peyton Manning. Tim Couch and JaMarcus Russell blew away scouts, too. Sam Bradford completed 49-of-50 passes at his pro day. Geno Smith went 60-of-64 at West Virginia's scouting spectacular two years ago and some say he couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat.

Unofficially, Winston completed 91 of 102 attempts with five drops during an exhaustive workout choreographed by his private quarterback coach, George Whitfield. You might remember Whitfield ran the show last year for Johnny Manziel, who insisted on wearing shoulder pads and a helmet while blaring songs by Drake through the speakers as former President George H.W. Bush looked on at Texas A&M's pro day.

Winston wanted to lower the noise but increase the volume of throws Tuesday, in part to showcase the 11 receivers, tight ends and running backs working with him.

"This is what Jameis wanted to do," Whitfield said. "Blue collar, no music, high volume. He said, 'I want stress.' I don't know how many times we changed his direction out of the pocket.

"You pick a fight with a bear, now he eventually got the bear on the ground and killed it, but you pick that type of fight, it's tough. I didn't know he went (102). You lose count after 15. You're just kind of clicking."

It was almost overkill. Winston didn't participate in any other drills, so he had to wait four hours before taking the stage. He wasn't always on target, especially when Whitfield put him on the move. He looked gassed at the halfway point but fought through it.

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The Bucs think Winston quieted concerns about his conditioning.

"I think that maybe puts a little water on that," Licht said. "Puts that fire out.

"We see a great competitor. We see a guy with a strong arm, very accurate, raises the level play in those around him. We saw lot."

But then, the NFL will always be more concerned with less-quantifiable aspects of Winston's game, specifically his maturity. The Bucs will hold private workouts for Winston at FSU next week and for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota in Eugene.

"I think there's something about in person, seeing him between throws, before the workout," Smith said. "It's a little different stage. He's never been on this stage. Family, all the coaches watching him and everybody expecting him to perform certain way."

Winston said he had a tough time sleeping Monday night.

"Last night, I did my game ritual," he said. "I ended up going to sleep about 1 o'clock, just staying up, so anxious. Can't sleep at all. I'm like, 'it's game day tomorrow.' I kept looking at my phone just seeing what time it was. I felt like it was a game. This was a big stage."

What Winston did Tuesday was widen his lead over Mariota. He likened it to coming down the stretch of the Kentucky Derby, looking over his shoulder and trying to pull away from the field.

Any way you handicap this one, by the first weekend in May, don't be surprised if Winston goes wire-to-wire.