"What happened with Eric took the wind out of the coaches' sails and the team's sails that day," Miami coach Larry Coker said. "We were pretty down as a staff and as a football team for quite a while. ... No doubt, we struggled offensively without him. With Eric, things might have been different."
With him, they were 4-0 and ranked No. 4 in the nation. Without him, they went 5-3, each loss coming by a touchdown or less - and in games in which they certainly could have benefited from having their best lineman, and perhaps their best leader, on the field instead of the sideline.
Inability to run the ball was a consistent thread in each of Miami's losses a year ago. The Hurricanes averaged just 2.8 yards per carry in defeats to Clemson, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. In the games in which Winston was in the lineup, Miami averaged 4.2 yards per carry.
"He's such a physical player. ... He makes those backs a lot better when he's in the ball game," said Mickey Andrews, Florida State's longtime defensive coordinator. "You can't let him get his hands on you. He's a great leader on top of it. That might be the most significant contribution to the team."