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Think Florida State's Sean Maguire will be a game manager? Think again

Why Sean Maguire's boom/bust nature will yield an explosive offense, yet frustrate fans.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Maguire is not Jameis Winston. But FSU fans knew this before Saturday's spring game at Doak in front of a rain soaked crowd of 17,500.

Winston was largely accurate to every corner of the field, using virtually every passing concept in Jimbo Fisher's playbook. With good accuracy, Winston could hit a deep out, a short crosser, a post, a curl, etc. all with consistent ball placement that allowed his playmaking receivers and backs to get yards after catch.

Maguire won't. It's likely not a single quarterback in college football in 2015 will. Maybe for a couple years. You can't base expectations on the most talented QB since Andrew Luck.

So what does Sean Maguire do well? What are his strengths? What passing concepts does he enjoy? What are his weaknesses?

Known Knowns

Maguire has four different samples of sustained game action available for consumption: spring games in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and the 2014 Clemson game. Garbage time against Oregon or other teams is largely irrelevant due to game states and small samples.

These are four opportunities to understand more about who Maguire is stylistically, what his skillset is, and how that will translate to how he plays at the helm of FSU's 2015 offense.

Big Arm, Lower Completion Rates

It appears to be a common misconception that Sean Maguire will be a game manager -- someone who will make the safe throws, not turn the ball over, etc. If you expect Maguire to take check downs, be overcautious with the ball, and let the run game drive the offense down the field - be prepared to be disappointed. This will not be a McCarron-led Sabanite offense.

Maguire has a big arm. He has the velocity to make every throw Jimbo Fisher will require of him.

And he is not afraid to use that big arm. He's willing to work back shoulder throws from the opposite hash. He's willing to throw deep fades down the sidelines. He's willing to fit it in tight windows deep down the middle of the field and up the seams.

And he's pretty good at it. Explosive plays will happen. Yards per attempt should remain firmly north of 7.0, well within range for Jimbo Fisher's last three starting quarterbacks at Florida State.

But he also struggles in the types of throws that sustain drives: underneath passes like shallow crosses and drag routes that allow playmakers to get upfield. Maguire's ball placement and decision making on these throws leave much to be desired. He routinely is late to anticipate the crossers coming open and struggles to lead the receiver. The pattern? These are all routes going horizontally, not vertically down the field. Arm strength matters very little with these. These short middle of the field passes appear to be where most "double clutching" seems to occur.

Maguire will likely be the most "boom/bust" type quarterback starter Jimbo Fisher has had at FSU.

Favored Concepts

Jimbo Fisher's offense has shown it can be successful with both a wide open playbook under Jameis Winston and with a limited number of passing concepts under E.J. Manuel. While Winston had a large number of concepts available to him, EJ Manuel's offense was largely limited to 7-8 core concepts: Slants, Curl/Flat, Switch, Houston, Smash, Stick, Waggle, and Screens.

Maguire's skillset profiles similarly to Manuel's with regards to the passing concepts the pair are comfortable with. Winston was comfortable with more underneath concepts such as Levels, Shallow Cross, and Mesh.

In addition to those core concepts, Maguire has shown strong ability in the rollout passing game. As far back as the 2013 spring game and continuing through more recent performances, Maguire shows good decision making in the rollout/waggle series of concepts, despite the fact that he is the least mobile FSU QB since Drew Weatherford. The decision making on the designed rollouts is superior to Winston, whose rollout decision making was bad - often resulting in poor decisions to run rather than take easy dump off. Maguire also does a very good job changing arm angles for these types of throws - crucial to beating defenders and helping his receivers get the ball upfield. He effectively threw the ball sidearm a few times in the spring game to get around defenders.

These rollout areas will be crucial to FSU's success, as they will be (in addition to screens) areas where Maguire can successfully and consistently put the ball in the hands of playmaking running backs in space.

Maguire throws well on vertical routes in general, specifically outside the hashes. He's shown the ability to drop balls in the buckets on vertical throws outside the hashes. That makes sense because there are less defenders outside the hashes and he gets to use his arm strength there.

It appears that a Maguire playbook will feature All Curls, Curl/Flat, Screens, Stick, Snag, Smash, Houston, Waggle/Rollouts, 3 Verts. It's not quite as open as 2013-14, but because of his big arm, expect Maguire to push the ball downfield more than Manuel did with a similar set of concepts.

Just don't expect game managing, methodical drives. That doesn't appear to be his skillset.

Favored Areas of Field

While reticent to throw underneath to the middle of the field, Maguire has shown he enjoys throwing to virtually every other part of the field.

The intermediate and deep middle is an area Maguire appears to favor. Whether the post in 3 Verticals, or the post or option routes in the Houston concepts, Maguire's decision making in the deep middle is strong.

A couple notable examples:

- 2015 spring game: 3 Verticals pass concept, Maguire hits Jesus Wilson with a well placed ball beneath the deep defender and out of reach of the linebacker in coverage underneath.

- 2014 Clemson game, 4th quarter: Houston pass concept, Maguire throws to Jesus Wilson, open in the deep/intermediate area, but sails the throw. This is the interception just before time expires in regulation. The result is horrible, but the decision is perfect. Nothing wrong with it, even from a game awareness perspective - the ball just sometimes sails on you, as it did to even Winston.

Maguire also enjoys throwing outside the hashes. There are multiple examples of back shoulder throws in the 2015 spring game, and Maguire had success with standard curls in wide areas against Clemson. He projects to continue doing well with these curls, making Fisher continue to feature staples Curl/Flat and All Curls.

Mechanical Issues

Some of Maguire's struggles with underneath throws like slants and crossers, while confidence related, are mechanics related.

Maguire is not quick to set up to throw, and additionally sometimes over-strides, leaving him with a very wide base. This can leave him unbalanced, which while not necessarily dooming these throws, can affect his timing on these short throws. Working on a more consistent base could yield better throws here.

Known Unknowns

While four samples of game action give a good picture of what Sean Maguire projects to do stylistically, there is much to be learned as he takes the next step from a spot starter on short notice to a full time starter for Jimbo Fisher.


The staccato nature of spring games, played against your own team in a scrimmage environment, don't offer opportunities for consistency. Neither does a single spot start, especially with the caveat of an 11th hour change from one half of play to a full game of play, against arguably the nation's best defense, and with poor offensive line play.

We don't know how Maguire will handle being a starter. How he will handle leading a team with inexperienced receivers and offensive line.

Summer Job

Maguire has not had a full summer as a starter. In recent interviews, he suggested he would be working with his receivers four times a week before fall camp.

We don't know how successful Maguire will be in wrangling up his young receiver corps to work on timing and understanding - which will be crucial in improving his confidence in the shorter throws he currently struggles with.

Supporting Cast

While known talents Travis Rudolph and Dalvin Cook will make plays for FSU, the consistency of the other 8 players around Maguire is yet to be seen. Ermon Lane was inconsistent in his debut season and was passed up by Javon "Pig" Harrison for first team reps in the 2015 spring game, and Bobo Wilson had a sharp decline at the end of 2014. The offensive line returns just one starter, and center play in particular can disrupt the success of any quarterback. Replacing consistent targets like Rashad Greene and Nick O'Leary isn't easy.

We don't know how young players and first time starters around Maguire will step up to fill the shoes of players departed to the NFL.

History tells us that this level of inexperience, even if it is supremely talented, will yield frustrating inconsistency.

Expect Boom/Bust

The 2015 FSU offense will not equal its 2013 record scoring output. It will not equal the 2014 squad's top 10 passing offense. It won't be as methodical as either of those two units.

And it shouldn't be expected to.

Sean Maguire is a quarterback with a big arm who can and will create explosive plays and drives for this year's FSU offense. Maguire will also frustrate fans when he makes mistakes with the "little things", the underneath passes and dump offs that sustain drives.

Don't expect a "game manager" in Sean Maguire. Expect boom/bust.