The following quotes are from Greg Bedard's interesting look at Winston for Sports Illustrated. The defensive coordinator is Don Brown, a coach who has had some incredible chess matches with Jimbo Fisher, both at BC, and back when he was the coordinator at Maryland. Brown's defenses are both confusing and aggressive, and while they sometimes lack athleticism, they play very smart.
Winston's numbers against Boston College this year were pedestrian, but his play might have been his best game ever (his receivers played terribly with a number of bad drops). He threw bullets on target in the rain and put passes over backers and in front of safeties with deft touch.
Brown cues up the first third down of the game, third-and-four from the Seminoles' 31-yard line in the first quarter. Three down linemen rush, as do the two inside linebackers. To Winston's left the secondary is playing match man, with three defenders against three receivers. To his right three defenders are playing two receivers, including standout tight end Nick O'Leary.
"This I think bugged him because we're doing some stuff that nobody else is really doing," Brown says. "This is a trap coverage."
That means exactly what it says. The coverage has the appearance of man-to-man, but in reality it's much looser; one defender could drop off another to jump a route and trap the quarterback into a mistake.
Two Eagles come free on the blitz, and Winston senses the pressure (again, that skill of his). He begins to throw before O'Leary is out of his break just beyond the first-down marker. Winston gets blasted, but O'Leary makes a great one-handed, seven-yard catch to move the chains.
"Look at this throw," Brown says. "He's going to get hit. He knows it, and watch when he releases it. [O'Leary] doesn't even have his head around. At the college level you'll see that occasionally, but [Winston] does that a lot."
It's not a highlight-reel play, but it is an example of the high efficiency with which Winston operates. So is the next play, when BC drops into another trap coverage, this time with Cover Two principles, that basically eliminates the deep part of the field. Winston quickly takes the checkdown for 12 yards.
"He took the Cover Two beater," Brown says. "We were in great shape down the field, so he took the checkdown. Good recognition on his part."
"He's been trained very well by Jimbo," says Brown. "It's not like we were sitting there in one or two coverages. We played man free, Cover Two, a trap scheme, two high step to one high, played [Cover] zero and max blitzed him; we rushed six, played three deep, two under. I would bet we challenged him as much as anybody. When you evaluate his performance, there's not a whole lot of mistakes."
Asked if he sees Winston succeeding in the NFL, Brown says, "I do. He can make all the throws. I think he's cerebral. Jimbo Fisher has a pretty good pro-oriented system. [Winston's] competitive nature is off the charts. I watched a bunch of games where they're behind 21 points, and he just kind of keeps rolling. That's a hard demeanor to keep, when s- ain't going right."