TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The news has seemed all but certain for months, but Jimbo Fisher finally made it official Friday: Jameis Winston will be Florida State's starting quarterback when it opens the season against Pittsburgh on Sept. 2, with the redshirt freshman edging sophomore Jacob Coker in what Fisher called an agonizingly close competition.
"The starter will be Jameis," Fisher said. "I'm very comfortable about that. It was a tough decision, and that doesn't take away from Jameis. The consistency level, the things he did, he played extremely well. They raised each other's performance every day. They kept pushing each other and did it in a great way. It made us better as a football team."
The news comes after months of careful ambiguity from Fisher, but the public was universally behind Winston early on.
The hype surrounding Winston built steadily since he arrived as one of the nation's top quarterback recruits in 2012, but it reached a tipping point in Florida State's spring game when the redshirt freshman turned in a superb performance, completing 12 of 15 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Within a week, veteran Clint Trickett transferred, and fans quickly anointed Winston the next big thing.
As much as anything Winston has done on the practice field, the buzz from the fan base has been the story of the summer at Florida State. He was a key contributor on the Seminoles baseball team, which reached the NCAA Super Regional, and numerous pundits have dangled his name as a dark-horse Heisman contender, following in the footsteps of Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.
Fisher has worked to dim the enthusiasm whenever possible, but Winston's gregarious personality has only added fuel to the fire, in spite of his limited time in front of the cameras.
"I don't find anything embarrassing," Winston said earlier this fall. "I'm not the type of person that gets embarrassed. I like that. I accept that. It's a blessing that I'm getting all that publicity. At the end of the day, we're looking at big-picture things."
Winston was not made available to media Friday.
Regardless of assumptions made by the overwhelming majority of the fan base, Fisher had been reluctant to officially name a starter, insisting that Winston and Coker were on equal footing entering fall camp.
The two quarterbacks split reps with the first team throughout the past three weeks, but as Florida State turns its attention toward Pitt, Fisher finally relented and tabbed Winston as his starter.
"It's one of the toughest decisions I've had to go through," Fisher said. "It's not coach-talk. We truly have two good quarterbacks, guys I feel very confident with either one making plays."
In the wake of Trickett's transfer to West Virginia in April, questions swirled over whether Coker might leave, too. A far less accomplished recruit than Winston, Coker still has one of the strongest arms Fisher said he's seen on a quarterback. For his part, Coker said he never considered a transfer and was assured by Fisher throughout the summer that the competition wasn't over.
Even with Coker waiting in the wings now, Winston figures to have a relatively long leash to start the season thanks to the immense fan support, but Fisher said he's confident his freshman quarterback can handle the job of replacing EJ Manuel, who was the first quarterback taken in this year's NFL draft by Buffalo.
"He's competitive, he's instinctive, and he takes coaching," Fisher said. "He's not afraid to say, 'I'm wrong, I missed it.' The first thing in correcting mistakes is you have to admit them. Then you have to learn from them and don't repeat them. He does that very well. I think he prepares, and I think he has poise and presence."