March 24, 2015 - Dave Miller
Battle to replace Winston underway at Florida State
Follow @Miller_Dave It's not easy to replace a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. Not even at Florida State, where head coach Jimbo Fisher has been able to re-stock the talent cupboard each February on National Signing Day. Jameis Winston has a chance to be the top overall player selected in this spring's NFL Draft, leaving a gaping hole at the quarterback position for the Seminoles. With spring practice less than a week old in Tallahassee, rising junior Sean Maguire (who was last year's top backup) is considered the frontrunner to earn the starting job for the start of the 2015 season. Maguire, of course, was in the starting lineup for one game last season while Winston served a suspension. In that contest against Clemson, Maguire completed 21 of 39 passes for 304 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, a solid effort under tough circumstances. The highlight was his 74-yard touchdown pass to Rashad Greene that tied the game in the fourth quarter. Maguire has seen action in a big-time game and knows the offensive system better than any other signal-caller on the roster. Still, the fourth-year quarterback has played only sparingly the last two seasons. However, with an inexperienced offensive line and younger playmakers needing to step up, Maguire's leadership should be a valuable asset to the unit in 2015. Behind Maguire is redshirt freshman J.J. Cosentino and redshirt sophomore John Franklin III. Cosentino has very good arm strength and ideal size, and I have heard more than one rave review about him coming out of 'Noles country. Franklin, meanwhile, is very athletic, and FSU used him as the scout team quarterback in the past to serve as stand-ins for opponents like Nick Marshall and Marcus Mariota. The coaching staff will try to determine this spring just how much pressure Cosentino and Franklin can apply to Maguire and whether they can put together strong enough efforts to make the depth chart very interesting in preseason camp. Early enrollee true freshman De’Andre Johnson has not been overwhelmed by this competition either. While he wasn't considered a real factor in the QB race entering spring, Johnson has shown off his talented skill set to the coaching staff this spring. The 6-foot, 173-pounder from Jacksonville’s First Coast High School is a dual-threat that may not have ideal size or arm strength, but he is considered savvy with good mechanics for someone who is stepping onto a college campus early. Fisher’s pro-style offense is very complex, however, so it would be very surprising to see Johnson ultimately win the starting gig. The same goes for Deondre Francois, who will join the program this summer as yet another athletic talent at the position. FSU, which is trying to win its fourth consecutive ACC title in 2015, will conclude spring drills when it holds its spring game on April 11. While Maguire is the odds-on favorite to initially replace Winston, Fisher certainly has some intriguing options both this fall and over the next couple of seasons, especially considering that one of the nation's best quarterbacks in the Class of 2016, Malik Henry, has already committed to the 'Noles. It's yet another case of the rich getting richer. But before FSU arrives at future quarterback battles, the 'Noles have to settle the one underway right now. And while there are several options for Fisher and his offensive staff, it's tough to see someone other than Maguire leading the offense onto the field in the season opener. Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.