The Daily Nole

Is the Sean Maguire Era Over at Florida State?

Michael Schwarz/FSU athletics

As the Florida State Seminoles head in to 2016, the clamor begins to arise on the eventual quarterback competition that is bound to take place.

This one will have a different feel from the previous battles. As an example, everyone remembers the Jameis Winston-Jacob Coker competition, but at the same time fail to remember that the stakes were not as high back then. Few expected the Seminoles to have the legendary year that they did in 2013. The emergence of the eventual Heisman winner Winston was largely unseen.

But with the amount of starters returning in 2016, the importance of finding the best quarterback on the roster will be essential. It is not radical to say that next year’s team could compete for a national championship. A young and talented squad that went 10-3 this season now has more experience at every position except kicker. But without the right quarterback, it could be meaningless.

After getting beat out by Everett Golson for the first half of the season, redshirt junior Sean Maguire entered in place of the injured transfer and only briefly relinquished the starting job.

After three first half turnovers by Golson against N.C. State on Nov. 14, Maguire became the mainstay under center. For a while, it seemed like Maguire was finally the answer for an eclectic FSU offense.

Unfortunately, Maguire’s bowl game certainly did not inspire confidence for the future. It is important to understand that the bowl game is not indicative of Maguire as a quarterback. But it is indicative of the ceiling for FSU as long as he is the starter.

There were many passes from Maguire that were obviously affected by his foot injury. On one of his four interceptions, he underthrew a streaking Jesus Wilson who would have almost certainly scored a touchdown.

Usually, he makes that throw. But others (like throwing into double coverage on Kermit Whitfield) are the same types of passes seen earlier in the year that also got knocked away or picked off. Maguire still does his double-pump throw that almost always gets intercepted, still has an issue throwing it away, and still seems to have trouble with short passes over the middle.

So what happens now?

To be clear: Maguire is not a bad quarterback. He has obvious strengths and has had great moments. But there needs to be a serious discussion about whether or not he can get any better. Next season is his last and it’s not apparent if he can improve on his current deficiencies.

Enter the 2016 quarterback battle.

All the hype seems to be around Deondre Francois, the redshirt freshman, who was a 4-star recruit ranked as the third best pro-style quarterback by 247Sports. Readers can judge for themselves how much they want to buy into his stock, but the fact remains that he seems to be the top competitor for Maguire’s job.

Behind him stands J.J. Cosentino and incoming freshman Malik Henry. These two have much less of a chance than the pair mentioned above. Henry is a highly-touted early enrollee, but head coach Jimbo Fisher playing a true freshman at quarterback is not likely in a situation where he has an experienced veteran and another highly rated quarterback with a year in the system already.

Cosentino will almost certainly not get the nod unless he completely turns a corner. While that might be possible, it is hard to see him getting chosen as the starter with the current level of competition on the roster.

As of now it’s a two horse race for the foreseeable future.

Hence why this is probably the last time we will see Sean Maguire as the entrenched starter for Florida State. Frankly, there is an amount of talent on this team that cannot be recognized without better quarterback play. When a team has someone like Francois on the roster (who has now spent a year learning the playbook) it is hard to choose a player that is ultimately a stop-gap option.

Nobody is denying that other factors made an impact on Maguire’s play throughout the year. The wide receivers this year were very volatile and made plenty of mistakes that cannot be pinned on the quarterback. Meanwhile, an improving offensive line still had issues with inferior opponents, and its lack of discipline in certain games meant that offensive drives often stalled or were forced to make up large chunks of yardage. Neither situation is conducive to good quarterback play.

But 2016 should have some of those question marks cleared up. The entire receiving corps returns with players like Wilson, Whitfield, and Travis Rudolph all having showed clear signs of progress. Likewise, the entire offensive line is staying as well. With a healthy Dalvin Cook in the backfield, there will not be many excuses for a quarterback unable to run a productive offense.

Now obviously that is a bit far-sighted and things can change drastically for various reasons. The bad part is that the decision will need to be made before one can even see how the rest of the team plays out.

So perhaps this prediction is wrong. Perhaps Maguire keeps his job and improves, or injuries strike again, or any number of scenarios. But only Fisher and his staff can make the right decision for the Seminoles to reach their potential in 2016. After looking at the present situation, this decision will probably lead to someone else being the starter for Florida State.

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