To begin this preview of Florida State Seminoles spring football at the QB position, one thing needs to be understood.
No matter who wins the starting job, Florida State fans should expect a severe dropoff in the quality of quarterback play in the 2015 season. This isn't about hitting or missing on recruits, or coaching, but rather trying to replace the best QB in FSU's history, a generational talent likely headed for the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft come late April.
Jameis Winston was an incredible leader, and while he was credited with 18 interceptions, knowledgeable observers realize he made so many more big plays than big blunders, overcoming spotty pass protection early in the year and freshman receiver mistakes late. This year, FSU fans are likely to be reminded what having a regular college QB is like.
Oh, and it's very unlikely that Jimbo Fisher will name a starter for the season before fall camp.
With that disclaimer, let's take a look at the candidates.
Can Sean Maguire lock up the job in spring?
There are many reasons to believe Sean Maguire, the No. 2 in 2014, will leave spring with the job. The 6'2, 220-pounder certainly enters spring as the presumptive starter. The redshirt junior has a few things going for him -- notably a strong arm and two years in the system more than any other legit QB candidate.
But there also some downsides: Maguire is not mobile, and his passer rating in 2014 was a lousy 108 (of course, 80 percent of that limited sample set came against Clemson, which had the best defense in the country, and against Oregon when the Seminoles were down big). Because that sample is so limited, it's hard to make definitive judgments on his play, but he certainly did not show anticipation or trust in his reads.
Is a year in the system enough for J.J. Cosentino to pick up the system?
The 6'4, 234-pound Cosentino redshirted in 2014. Out of Pittsburgh's famed Central Catholic High School, Cosentino is very athletic for his size and has a strong arm. The question is: can he achieve the level of system understanding in just a year to get close enough to Maguire's so that Cosentino's superior size and athleticism can factor into the discussion?
During the 2014 season, my sources said that Cosentino had a long way to go to master the offense. That's not entirely unsurprising for a first year player, and few redshirt freshmen are prepared to step in like Jameis Winston did. But Cosentino can learn and grow during the spring, he may have a real shot to win the job come fall in what likely projects to be a bit of a rebuilding season.
Does true freshman De'Andre Johnson have a shot at the job?
The 6', 180-pound freshman from Jacksonville First Coast enrolled early. Enrolling early is an advantage over the standard July entrance date, but it's awful hard to see Johnson winning the job as a true freshman. He'll need to hit the weight room hard and work on his motion to increase his arm strength, but he does have a very quick release and is plenty mobile. Here's Florida State's bio of Johnson:
2014 Florida Dairy Farmers Mr. Football and one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the nation enrolled at Florida State this January and is expected to participate in spring practice...rated a four-star prospect and the nation's No. 7 dual-threat quarterback by ESPN...captured a four-star rating from Rivals and was rated the nation's No. 12 quarterback and the 35th-best player in Florida...grabbed a three-star ranking from 247Sports and was rated the nation's No. 13 quarterback and No. 46 prospect in Florida...nabbed a three-star ranking from Scout...passed for 3,710 yards and 47 touchdowns to go along with 398 yards and nine scores on the ground to lead First Coast High School to a 12-1 record and the Class 8A regional finals...earned Class 8A Player of the Year honors in addition to Mr. Football...four-year starter in high school who finished with 11,697 career passing yards, 131 career touchdown passes, 23 career rushing touchdowns, 1,091 career rushing yards and a career record of 46-5...completed 686 of 1,105 pass attempts for a 62 percent completion percentage for his prep career...played in the Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 2 where he led Team Armour with 71 yards of total offense...8A All-State First Team selection in 2013 and 2014...committed to Florida State in 2012 and never wavered despite offers from Auburn, Clemson, Ohio State and Tennessee among others.
Is John Franklin III playing QB full time?
Florida State still listed John Franklin III as a QB in its media guide, but the speedster was taking reps at receiver throughout the season and worked as the mobile QB when FSU faced option-based attacks. Franklin has great athleticism, but would need to show major improvement as a passer and with his mastery of the system to be seriously considered for the job.
Deondre Francois, the four-star recruit from IMG Academy in Bradenton, is set to enroll this summer with the other signees. Francois has the playbook and told me that he has been studying it, but we'll save the discussion of Francois for the fall preview.