Prep notebook: County coach has connection to FSU star QB
by Brandon Miller
bmiller@annistonstar.com
Sep 04, 2013 | 2004 views |  0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jameis Winston may not have been a household name before his debut as Florida State’s quarterback Monday night, but by now everyone knows at least a little bit about the redshirt freshman.

Winston threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns on 25-of-27 passing and rushed for a touchdown as the Seminoles hammered Pitt 41-13. While the country watched the 18-year-old tear up the field, there was one person in Calhoun County who knows the quarterback personally: Wellborn coach Jeff Smith.

Before Smith returned to his alma mater to coach the Panthers in 2009, he spent the previous six seasons at Hueytown, which included the rise of Winston, who started at quarterback as a freshman for Smith during the 2008 season.

“I knew he was special the first time I saw him in youth league football,” Smith said. “He was the quarterback for the eighth-grade team for two years before he came up to us on varsity. When he came up, we had a really good football team that had just graduated a bunch of seniors. But after that and once practice started, Jameis was obviously the best QB so he started the 2008 season against Shades Valley.

“When his ninth-grade football season ended, everyone in America offered him. I’m talking Texas to Ohio State to Alabama, everybody.”

Winston’s debut Monday simply showed why everybody wanted him.

TOUGH PIEDMONT: To put it simply, you don’t want to play Piedmont in the first game of the season.

The Bulldogs’ manhandling of Cherokee County 57-13 last week was just the most recent on a fairly long list of blowout victories open the season.

Since Piedmont last lost a season opener in 2009, the Bulldogs have won by an average of 29.3 points a game in the first contest of each season. The last loss in Week 1 came at the hands of Cherokee County 42-13 in 2009. For those who need to be reminded, Cherokee County won the Class 4A state championship that season.

Not to forget, Piedmont won the 3A title that year.

INJURY REPORT: After Oxford star tailback Roc Thomas suffered what coach Ryan Herring called a “slight concussion” in the Yellow Jackets’ season opener, the five-star running back recruit has returned to the practice field this week, not missing any time.

Herring said the Auburn commitment is “fine” and added Thomas will play Friday against second-ranked Clay-Chalkville.

The same, however, cannot be said just yet for Cleburne County quarterback Brady Padgett.

The junior missed the season opener with mononucleosis, but coach Michael Shortt sounded optimistic about Padgett’s return for the start of 4A, Region 5 play Friday, as the Tigers travel to Anniston.

“He’s feeling better, but we’re waiting to hear from the doctor before he fully practices,” Shortt said. “Hopefully, we’ll know if he can play by the middle of the week, but right now we’re just playing it by ear.”

UPSET LOSSES: Eyebrows were raised last Friday when Class 2A fourth-ranked Wellborn and 10th-ranked Woodland both dropped their season openers after the Region 6 foes entered the seasons with such high expectations.

Woodland fell to Bowdon (Ga.) 69-20, while Wellborn lost 37-14 to Saks.

The last time both the Panthers and Bobcats lose the same week of the regular season happened in 2009.

On Oct. 30 of that year, Wellborn lost at Jacksonville 26-12, while Woodland lost to Piedmont 28-0. Both dropped back-to-back games that season, as well, which was the last. They did not play each other in 2009 because they were in different regions.

Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star.
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