To All Fields: Smith praises Winston!

by Gary Shelton on February 21, 2015 · 0 comments

in College Sports in Florida, Florida State University, general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays, University of Florida

Saturday, 6 a.m.

At the Combine..

The beauty contest judge likes the contender from Florida State.

That doesn't mean he's ready to give up the crown, though.

It was amazing this week when Bucs' coach Lovie Smith had a few nice things to say about FSU quarterback Jamies Winston. All over the Twitterverse, fans seemed to decide

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that a winner had been declared in the Winston-Marcus Mariota rivalry. A few compliments, and they were ready to call a victor.

As they say, however, not so fast.

Smith didn't say he had decided. He said that Winston would be okay. Not the same thing.

We are still early in the decision making contest, and and there is a lot of poking and prodding to be done. Let's face it: To the public, most coaches and general managers write sonnets to whatever prospect is being discussed. I'm surprised Lovie didn't talk about Jamies' dazzling smile.vShow me where there is a coach who doesn't like a kid.

Look, Smith may be sincere this time. He really may be satisfied that Winston has passed the initial scrutiny in his controversies. He may believe in Winston's shoulder, which supposedly has a “minor'' problem. He may be at a place where he can imagine Winston in a Tampa Bay uniform quite easily. On the other hand, maybe he was just being nice.

I still think that Smith and general manager Jason Licht will have some interesting discussions about Winston and Mariota between now and the draft and their various shoulders. I know that former Buc coach Tony Dungy loves Mariota, who played with his son. I know Smith and Dungy and friends and are bound to compare notes. I know Mariota is the safer pick.

And, there is this: What if neither quarterback can convince the Bucs he isn't the latest version of David Carr? What if trading down made more sense than anything? (I still say take the better quarterback, because who knows when you'll get another chance, but a trade has to be discussed, doesn't it?).

Maybe he was talking about Winston because that's the quarterback brought up by the questioner. Maybe he wants another team to think he thinks Winston when he really thinks Mariota. Who knows?

Hey, I'm on record. I like the ball Winston throws better than the ball Mariota throws. I think that, if you are indeed satisfied with Winston's maturity, he's the more NFL-ready quarterback. I think the Bucs will get there eventually. No, I don't think the shoulder is going to scare anyone away.

For now, Smith has only said that he's okay with Winston's off-the-field troubles. That isn't handing him the keys to the offense.

Not in February.

Fortunately, that isn't when the draft is.

***

In Port Charlotte...

Heard anything? From anyone? Anywhere?

If so, David DeJesus would like to know, if it's all the same to you.

DeJesus, the Ray who a lot of people don't expect to be a Ray very long, is in camp and working. He'd love to play on this team, if you wonder. But if the Rays decide that Steven Souza is ready for prime time, then DeJesus may be moving on. It isn't the optimum way to enter spring training, but DeJesus has kicked around long enough to know how things work.

So DeJesus was there Friday, still talking “we'' and “us'' when he discussed the Rays. He likes this team. He likes its energy. He thinks there are enough players here to make an indention in the standings.

But, uh, should he send out laundry or not?

“There is going to be constant movement, constant change,'' DeJesus said. “That's the way this game has been for decades. We have to move on and make our own identities.

“We have a starting five that is tops in the game. It's a new baseball season. Everyone is thinking the same thing... the World Series. That's an exciting thing.''

In the last year, the Rays have lost David Price, Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce. The world won't stop if DeJesus were to be bumped, too. But he's a good guy. Personally, I'd like to see him hang around if there is room.

***

On the ice...

Let's see. They don't want any part of the Bruins. We know that.

And they don't want any part of the Penguins.

And the Islanders are scary. And the Red Wings are talented. And while they've played Montreal well, the Canadiens did sweep them last year. And the Caps are tough. And the Rangers are very good.

So let's see. In the playoffs, the Lightning really want to play...well, no one, that's who.

Let's face it: The playoffs are a scary place, aren't they? Even for a team with as much firepower as the Lightning, even with solid goaltending, even with good coaching, there are teeth and potholes and scary turns.

On the other hand, that's the way this sport works. Anyone the Bolts draw looks as though they night be formidable. In these playoffs, there are jagged rocks.

On the other team, the success of a season is determined largely by how it does in the post-season. That will be true of this team, too.

As of today, the Lightning plays Detroit, which it leads 2-0 in the season series. But the Red Wings would be a challenge.

***

On the college gridiron...

Know how kids change their minds as quick as they can put on another cap? Know how assistant coaches leave at the last minute? Know how head coaches fudge the truth?

Ah, recruiting.

And how is it going to go next year?

Want to talk about silliness? A version of the 2016 college rankings is out already, in which might be absolutely silly if I had someone better to put in this space.

According to 247sports, the Miami Hurricanes are your early leaders in next year's college recruiting. FSU is third. The USF Bulls are 29th. And Florida is 35th, which means the Gators have a lot less ground to make up than they did in the last two weeks of this recruiting season.

In other news, there was this kid Jack who planted a beanstalk.

If you get any buzz at all from next year's recruiting, then you need more to do.

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