Preview 2016

Breaking Down The Florida State Quarterback Battle

Who’ll be the Florida State starting quarterback? The choice might be the difference between getting into the College Football Playoff and once again missing out on the ACC championship.

Even with the inconsistencies last season, it’s been a nice run of big-time talent at quarterback for Florida State.

Jameis Winston was the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and two years earlier, E.J. Manuel was the first quarterback off the board, going in the first round to Buffalo.

Dog him all you want, but Christian Ponder made a ton of dough as the 12th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

How good have the FSU starters been? A future national championship starting quarterback – Jake Coker – couldn’t win a job.

Until last season you had to go back to 2007, when Drew Weatherford was under center, for the last time the Seminoles didn’t start a first round talent at quarterback.

Ponder did a nice job during his time in Tallahassee, while Manuel got the Noles to an Orange Bowl. Of course, Winston won a national title, a Heisman, and guided them to a College Football Playoff appearance.

The quarterback play last year wasn’t all that bad, and even with Everett Golson and Sean Maguire having their issues, the team still got to a New Year’s Six bowl and had a decent season overall.

But being decent isn’t what Florida State is about at this point. Jimbo Fisher has loaded the team up with great recruiting class after great recruiting class, and the rebuilding job is done after what was supposed to be a wee bit of a dip last season. For the most part, everything is in place to take back the ACC title – except for the No. 1 quarterback.

Maguire is most famous for stepping in for a suspended Winston in 2014 and pulling off the key win over Clemson. Last season he had to wait for a while behind Everett Golson, took the gig over in the second half of the year, and never let it go.

A broken ankle in the Peach Bowl against Houston kept Maguire out of the hunt this spring, but he’s got the 6-3, 223-pound NFL frame, the arm, and the experience after completing 59% of his throws for 1,520 yards and 11 touchdowns last year.

While he’s expected to be all systems go come fall, he’s the safe choice but not necessarily the shot for the stars. Maguire is nowhere near the most talented option, but he might be the right one – the 2016 team doesn’t need special, it needs consistent.

It’ll take something special for 6-4, 239-pound sophomore J.J. Cosentino to push for the starting job after struggling in the spring game. He’s a big passer with the right look and the right pro-style tools, but he’s the No. 4 guy in a four-man race.

Freshman Malik Henry was a key get in the 2016 recruiting class, and he showed off the skill-set and the maturity right away this offseason. The 6-2, 185-pounder is the dual-threat option with a nice, accurate arm and the quickness to add something a bit different to the attack.

And then there’s the wild card.

6-1, 214-pound redshirt freshman Deondre Francois didn’t generate the same buzz during his time on the scout team that Jameis did in his redshirt season, but he looked like the future of Florida State football.

Francois is a do-it-all playmaker with the talent to take the team on his back and be the reason it wins the ACC title – and maybe more. Now he just needs to keep the mistakes to a minimum.

The talent is undeniable, but every time he makes something special happen in practice, there seems to be a major malfunction a few plays later – and vice versa.

Who’ll Be The Florida State Stating Quarterback?

Again, Maguire’s ankle is supposed to be fine, but if it’s not, or if he struggles, then it’s sink-or-swim time with Francois.

With Ole Miss to start the season, and with a veteran team returning, Maguire will have to fall flat on his face – or Francois will have to be lights out – to not get the Week One call. Right now it all depends on fall camp and who takes a job that’s still wide open.

Right now, assuming Maguire is back, it’s probably Maguire, then Francois, then Henry, then Cosentino.

One or two practices in late August might quickly change that order.