Auburn Focused On Pressuring Winston

Auburn is putting a big emphasis on pressuring Jameis Winston when the Tigers take on Florida State for the BCS title on Jan. 6 in the Rose Bowl.

Newport Beach, Cal.--When you look at what redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston has done this season at Florida State you have to marvel at his success for such a young guy. The Heisman winner, Winston is averaging 293.8 yards passing game game and has a passer efficiency rating of 190.1 after throwing for 38 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. With a wealth of talent at his disposal and the poise of a veteran, Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said there is something different about this young guy and he's going to be tough to stop on Monday night.

"When you think about their football team, it's skill, speed and balance, and when you think about Jameis Winston, there's not one thing," Johnson said. "He can make any throw on the field. I think he's a great leader and a tremendous leader for a young player. He's obviously been, I think, handled things extremely well. The pressure of going undefeated, if you've never done it before it's different, and each game it mounts, and some people can't handle it. The recent weeks have shown that.

"But he's been their leader, even as a redshirt freshman. And the other thing is, his mobility, when he doesn't make that throw, his mobility just puts you in a very tough situation when he gets out of the pocket. He can run the ball and he's got great vision downfield."

Winston and the Seminoles will present a huge challenge for an Auburn defense that has been the definition of bend but don't break this year. Allowing 423.5 yards of total offense per contest and 24 points per game, the Tigers have played their best football in the second half of games and particularly in the fourth quarter because of the defensive rotation used in the front seven. Staying fresh has been a big key all season long and it will be once again on Monday night as the Tigers must get pressure on the talented Winston.

"I don't see anything on film where you say, well, that was a weakness," Johnson said. "There is none. What the key is going to be is can we get pressure, and we need to get pressure before, we need to get pressure with pressure. It's going to be a big factor. The play in the box, they have tremendous skill out on the edges, but the pressure in the box is going to be one of the biggest keys to any defensive success that we have. There will be some other things in the game we can't control, kicking game, offense, all are going to contribute. But as far as us performing defensively and giving our football team a chance to win, there's got to be pressure on the quarterback."

Handling pressure is something Winston has thrived at this season as he was the subject of an off-the-field investigation. Continuing to play at a high level despite all the hoopla surrounding him, the Hueytown native said with everything behind him now he's just focused on playing football and trying to beat one of his home state schools in the biggest game of the year.

"I mean, I can't control people's motives, but what I can control is what I do on the football field every single day and how I react around my teammates," Winston said. "That's what we really focus on because it's not over yet. Obviously we've got a great Auburn team that we've got to face, and it's an actual rivalry game for me because I'm playing the home state team. I mean, we just look forward to this game.

"What people think outside of this and what people are trying to do, I can't control none of that. I just go out there and play football because I enjoy it and I love it and it's my passion, and I've got these boys around me, and that's what we love to do, go out there and play Florida State football."

Jameis Winston

Nobody knows they've got to get pressure on Winston better than Auburn's defensive linemen. Working with Coach Rodney Garner all season long to get more proficient at rushing the quarterback, the Tigers come into teh game with 28 sacks this season. Just as important are the 110 quarterback hurries they have forced in 13 games. While they may not get Winston on the Rose Bowl turf 10 times in the BCS National Championship Game, senior Nosa Eguae said they've got to make the young guy feel their presence from the opening kick until the final whistle.

"It's all about affecting the quarterback," Eguae said. "That's what it's all about. You know, up front, that's our job is to go out there and make it hard for him, and we're going to go out there and do that to the best of our ability. We've been working, Coach Garner has been working us day in, day out, focusing on the little things, focusing on the technique. We know that's our job, and we're going to go out there and get it done.

"He's a heady guy," Eguae added. "He's a great quarterback. He makes great decisions. For us up front it's just going out there and making those decisions, hurry up a little bit, make quicker decisions, make him do things that he doesn't really want to do, but we force him to do. It's all about affecting the quarterback, and we know that, and that's something that's our job and we embrace it, and we're looking forward to making the most of it come Monday."


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