NEWTON, Mass. -- In a way, Florida State’s redshirt freshman sensation reminds Steve Addazio of a player he used to coach.
A very famous player, one who until the end of NFL training camp was attempting to latch on with the New England Patriots.
“He’s big, strong, he can run and he can throw it,” Addazio said of FSU QB Jameis Winston. “He’s a real dual-threat guy. You’ve got to tackle that guy. That guy will break tackles and keep the chains moving and then give ’em another loaded set of downs.
“It’s hard to get off the field against a guy like that. I remember at Florida we had [Tim] Tebow, it was hard to get off the field for defenses with Tebow. He could find a way on third-and-4 to move the chains and then you get another set of downs.”
Though his career is still in its infancy, Winston could do worse than be compared to Tebow, a Heisman winner and two-time national champion at Florida under Urban Meyer.
Addazio was on Meyer’s staff with the Gators, and since taking over at BC has often been asked about his former signal-caller. On Monday, though, the comparison came unprompted.
Winston, a 6-foot-4, 228-pound Alabama native, had an incredible collegiate debut as FSU demolished Pitt 41-13 in the season opener, Winston completing 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns and adding eight carries for 25 yards and another touchdown.
And while he hasn’t been quite as dominant in his past two starts, it’s safe to say Winston has hit the ground running (and throwing) as he takes over for EJ Manuel, a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills.
So when the eighth-ranked Seminoles take the field in Alumni Stadium on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN2), the Eagles will be focused on containing the redshirt freshman.
“He’s a strong, fast kid,” junior linebacker Josh Keyes said. “He’s only a freshman, though, so if we get in his face and get on him he might be able to hold off a little bit and make some mistakes and we might be able to get some picks or some sacks.”
Kasim Edebali doesn’t care what year Winston is in. He just wants to make things hard on him this weekend.
“You’ve got to prepare for everybody the same,” the fifth-year senior co-captain said. “You can’t say ‘Oh, he’s a freshman, he’s a senior’ and all that. It’s just really important that we see his strengths and try to see his weaknesses and try to get after him.
“We’re going to keep playing aggressive, we’re not going to play any softer. So we’ve just got to get after him.”
After his first three games, Winston ranks first in the ACC in passer rating (210.39), completion percentage (78.1) and yards per attempt (11.2), second in passing touchdowns (eight), tied for third with just one interception and fourth in passing yards per game (239.3). With Winston under center and Devonta Freeman, James Wilder and Karlos Williams all running the ball effectively, the Seminoles rank first in the ACC in scoring average (52.3 PPG) and total offense (547.3 yards per game).
“They’re very productive on offense,” Addazio said. “You get a lot of productivity, that quarterback is playing at a high level. And he’s playing at a high level. They’re rolling in here with a lot of confidence, ranked No. 8 in the country. It’ll be a great challenge for us. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Add everything up, and one can’t help but be impressed by Winston’s performance to date. Addazio clearly is.
“Extremely,” he said. “I’m telling you, the guy is a really good football player. He throws it, he sees it, he can break tackles, he’s a competitor, he seems completely unfazed by whatever stage he’s on. I’m very impressed by him.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.