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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Fab freshman Winston named FSU’s staring QB; Tech center still hurting

Jameis Winston won the job, in the eyes of the fans, during spring when he was dynamite in the Garnet and Gold Game with two touchdowns on 12 of 15 passing. He was named the starting QB on Friday by FSU coach Jimbo Fisher. (File photo)

Jameis Winston won the job, in the eyes of the fans, during spring when he was dynamite in the Garnet and Gold Game with two touchdowns on 12 of 15 passing. He was named the starting QB on Friday by FSU coach Jimbo Fisher. (File photo)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In a move that surprised virtually no one, Florida State coach Jim Fisher announced Friday that Jameis Winston has won the quarterback competition and will be the Seminoles’ starter in their season-opener against Pittsburgh on Labor Day.

Winston succeeds last year’s starter EJ Manuel, who is now a member of the Buffalo Bills and the only quarterback taken in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft.

Winston had been given the majority of the snaps with the first-team offense throughout training camp as he competed for the starting job with Jacob Coker. Winston will become the first FSU freshman signal caller to start a season-opener since Drew Weatherford in 2005.

“It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to go through. I say this – this is not ‘Coach Talk.’ This is not anything else. We truly have two very good quarterbacks and guys I feel very comfortable with either one of them in the game starting … making plays. It’s going to take both guys for us to have the season we (want to) have,” Fisher said. “We named the starter. It will be Jameis (Winston). Jameis will be the starter. We are very comfortable about that. But (we are) also very comfortable with Jake’s performance, too. Like I said, it was a tough decision.”

The transfer of Clint Trickett to West Virginia reduced what had been a three-player quarterback competition down to two. But Winston seemed to take control of the job in spring practice after he went 12 for 15 in the Garnet and Gold spring game for 205 yards and two touchdowns, including a 58-yard laser for a score on his first pass in an FSU uniform.

Winston is a redshirt freshman who has never played in a college game, but he was a highly rated dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school. Winston is also a talented baseball player, spending time last spring as a relief pitcher and outfielder on the Florida State baseball team.

Fisher said Winston showed important quality that seperated himself from Coker, although he won’t rule out playing both of them.

“Just a little more consistency for a longer period of time. Like I said, Jake is ready to play, too,” Fisher said. “Jameis, I thought, as we talked about it as a staff, did some different things. Both of them really started to take command of things as camp wore on. I thought Jameis did a little better job in the beginning. You’re splitting hairs when you really get down to it. That’s not ‘Coach Talk’ or anything else. That’s the truth. That was a great competition and I loved the way they handled it between each other, and how the team handled it.

“There’s a chance (they both will play). If it’s conducive to winning and what we think we have to do, we’ll do that. I would feel very comfortable doing that.”

FSU opens the season Labor Day night at 8 p.m. on national television at ACC newcomer Pitt.

GEORGIA GETS DAY OFF AFTER GOOD PRACTICES FRIDAY, SATURDAY: The fifth-ranked Georgia football team logged a 90-minute practice in shorts on Saturday morning as preparations continue for the Bulldogs’ 2013 season opener.

The Bulldogs will open the season Saturday at No. 8 Clemson. The game will kick off at 8 p.m. and will be televised nationally by ABC. The Georgia-Clemson game is 2013’s only season-opening top-10 matchup.

“It was a good day today, especially considering the short turnaround from practicing Friday afternoon in the heat,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “We caught good weather again, so that helped. The scout teamers are really starting to know what to do and they are giving us good looks, so we will be able to simulate things next week.”

Richt said the Bulldogs will take Sunday off, will practice in full pads on Monday, will go in shells on Tuesday, and will have “dress rehearsals” in shorts Wednesday and Thursday. Said Richt, “We’re tapering it down to get their legs fresh and ready for the game.”

Richt noted after practice the efforts of receiver Chris Conley.

“He’s a guy who’s been doing it right since he got here,” Richt said. “But today I noticed it even more than normal. Every snap, that guy goes full speed. He practices with effort and intensity.”

JACKETS STAR CENTER STILL AILING: Georgia Tech center Jay Finch’s injury status is “day-to-day,” coach Paul Johnson said Friday. Finch, who returned to practice last week after missing spring practice with shoulder surgery, suffered an unspecified injury that has left him unable to practice since Monday.

“I think that he may play (this weekend), he may be out there Monday,” Johnson said. “It’s just kind of day-to-day. We’ll see.”

Johnson spoke at a kickoff luncheon at the Cobb Galleria. Johnson has said he can’t disclose the injury. Given that Finch was seen walking back from practice Wednesday without problem, it would appear to be an upper-body injury. The Yellow Jackets were to scrimmage Friday afternoon and then take the weekend off before beginning game-week preparations for the season opener against Elon Aug. 31 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

“I know Jay wants to play,” Johnson said. “I know he wants to be out there badly, so just as soon as he can get out there, I’m sure he will be.”

Injuries to Finch and left tackle Ray Beno, as well as a surgical procedure that has kept right tackle Morgan Bailey out, have prevented the five projected starters on the line — which Johnson has said is “hands down” the best he has coached at Tech if it stays healthy — from practicing together this preseason.

“We’ve played in different positions, played on different sides of the line,” left guard Will Jackson said. “There really won’t be that big of an adjustment.”

If Finch can’t play against Elon or other upcoming opponents, Tech’s options at center are either offensive tackle Ray Beno or lineman Thomas O’Reilly, a transfer from Auburn. O’Reilly began training at center at the start of preseason camp with Finch out. Johnson said he thought that center was O’Reilly’s natural position and that he has played better than he has elsewhere.

ATL WANTS MORE KICKOFF GAMES: Atlanta is looking to continue hosting kickoff games involving prominent teams in 2015 and beyond.

CBSSports.com reported that the Chick-Fil-A Bowl has talked with several teams, including Michigan, Notre Dame, UCLA and USC.

Bowl president/CEO Gary Stokan said that no matchups have been finalized. Ohio State has also been involved in talks but a scenario including the Buckeyes is not likely.

While talks are in the preliminary stage, Stokan did say that Michigan might be interested, depending on the opponent.

Chick-Fil-A wants to have at least one ACC or SEC team as part of the billing. Alabama and Virginia Tech meet in Atlanta on Aug. 31. Next year’s kickoff game is an Alabama-West Virginia matchup.

Stokan said Atlanta looks to be a major player in the yearly kickoff-game trend. He estimated that there could be seven to 10 such matchups per year in the future.

“My vision is for Atlanta to be the college football capital of the world,” Stokan said.