Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston… (Stacy Revere, Getty Images )
COLLEGE PARK — As they prepare for No. 8 Florida State, Maryland's coaches have studied video of Jameis Winston completing 25 of his first 27 college passes and film of the Seminoles quarterback twice bolting away from pressure last week to complete a ridiculously athletic Hail Mary against Boston College.
What the coaches may not have seen are the redshirt freshman's other exploits — such as his moonshot throw over a fraternity house roof on a dare, or his impressively varied baseball skills — that have fans already likening him to Bo Jackson.
The 6-foot-4, 228-pound Winston knows all about Bo. The 19-year-old is unabashedly Bo-obsessed. When he's not studying video on opponents, he relishes watching footage of Jackson running over NFL linebackers or smashing home runs for the Kansas City Royals a quarter-century ago.
"Oh yeah, that's always been one of my dreams," Winston said Wednesday of the possibility of playing two sports as a professional, as Jackson did.
He is a pitcher and outfielder on Florida State's baseball team whose laser throws from the outfield have become YouTube hits. And, like Jackson, he hails from Alabama.
"I watch Bo's '30 for 30' [documentary] all the time — that's my favorite one," Winston said in his pronounced southern accent. "I really want to be like that."
No Seminoles quarterback has started a career quite like Winston, whose 12 touchdown passes through four season-opening victories is a school freshman record. He has completed 73.6 percent of his attempts.
"He is a special player. It's a great challenge for us," said Maryland defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, whose 25th-ranked team is also undefeated (4-0) and will try to win in Tallahassee for the first time Saturday.
"[Winston] is a great athlete, and to get him down, I think you're going to have to tackle him low," Stewart continued. "I think he ducks or he's too big to tackle him high. You're going to have to tackle him like you'd tackle somebody like a big Ben Roethlisberger-type guy."
Winston, whom coaches praise for his high sports IQ, seems to understand there is a risk of losing focus if he assumes too many roles at once.
He practices with the football team while playing baseball in the spring. But he said he is single-minded this fall. "I'm a season guy. During football season, it's all football," he said.
Winston took over this year for EJ Manuel, a first-round pick of the Buffalo Bills. Maryland junior linebacker Cole Farrand noted that Winston "looks a lot like EJ," who is also a big quarterback, standing 6-5 and weighing 240 pounds.
In his highlight-reel play Saturday at Boston College, Winston scooted laterally to avoid one defender, then evaded another rusher before planting and throwing a 55-yard touchdown pass to end the first half.
"Wasn't that something?" Stewart said with a smile when asked about the play. "That's what I think about it — wasn't that something?"
The Seminoles defeated the Eagles, 48-34. They play undefeated teams in their next two games, hosting Maryland before traveling to Clemson (4-0).
Maryland's defense ranks fifth in the nation in takeaways, and sixth in total defense. Stewart noted that the Terps have already faced Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who won the 2012 Walter Payton Award as the top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision. The Terps held Heinicke in check, but it's hard to compare an FCS school to Florida State.
"You've just got to practice simulating [Winston] with our backup quarterbacks this week," Stewart said. "We go back and forth — it's Shane Cockerille and sometimes it's Perry Hills."
Winston seems to play with a childlike exuberance. "I just like playing," he said Wednesday. "We could be in a Walmart parking lot. I just like to play."
One of his best-known throws — at least to Seminoles fans — was the one he heaved across the courtyard and over the roof of the Pi Kappa Alpha house.
On the video — which has been viewed more than 104,000 times on YouTube — he winds up and bounces on his heels in celebration after the ball disappears over the roof.
"They told me I couldn't ... do it," Winston said. "That's why I did it."